Rep. Sandy Praeger has co-sponsored a bill introduced this session that would establish criminal penalties for blocking access to health clinics where abortions are performed.
The bill's key sponsor is Rep. Wanda Fuller, R-Wichita. Fuller's bill is promoted by pro-abortion forces who were upset that access to a health clinic was blocked this summer during abortion protests in Wichita.
"The bill would make it a criminal offense to block access for people who are exercising their right to do something that is within the law," Praeger said.
Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said he didn't know yet when the bill would be considered by the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.
Rep. Betty Jo Charlton said the House Democratic Caucus will meet regularly this year with Gov. Joan Finney.
"Those kinds of things are going to help ease the tensions and the misunderstandings during the session," Charlton said.
Last year the rift between the governor and Democratic lawmakers resulted in failure of a major effort for property tax relief.
Rep. John Solbach, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that will study the corrections budget, said the prison budget has grown faster than any other state agency budget in the last 12 years.
"Twelve years ago, the corrections budget was the same size as Emporia State University's budget," Solbach said. "Now it's equal to about five to six Emporia States in terms of general fund spending. If that doesn't frighten you it should."
Local legislators are using several Kansas University students as interns this year.
Rep. Sandy Praeger's intern is John Noltensmeyer, a junior majoring in political science. Jenifer Dodd, a senior majoring in philosophy, will serve as an intern for Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence. Paul Gage, a senior majoring in political science, will serve as an intern for Rep. Judith Macy, D-DeSoto.
The intern for Rep. John Solbach is Mike Gentry, a second-year law student. Solbach's secretary is Laura Anon, a Lawrence resident.
The intern this year for Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, is Robin Lehman, a KU senior majoring in business communication.
Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said lawmakers had an unusually busy first week of the session.
"It seems like it's been more than a week," Praeger said. "We definitely hit the ground running. . . . I'd forgotten how intense it can be. There was no honeymoon period. We just jumped right in. I do think there is an attitude of working together to try to get these problems solved."
There are now at least three bills that have been introduced this session stemming from drive-by shootings in the Wichita and Kansas City areas, including one signed onto by Rep. Judith Macy, D-DeSoto.
Macy said the legislation would amend the current crime of aggravated battery to include drive-by shootings, which now are classified as a misdemeanor.
Rep. John Solbach, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he has sent one of the bills to the state's Sentencing Commission to determine the state's costs of increasing criminal penalties.
"I suspect one of those bills, the most severe one, could have a fiscal note on the order of $1-2 million a year," Solbach said. He said hearings on the bills will begin within the next two weeks.
David Gottlieb, a KU law professor, testified last week on proposed sentencing guidelines being considered by the Legislature. Gottlieb spoke to a joint meeting of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, said Rep. John Solbach, who chaired the meeting.
"David Gottlieb has commented throughout this process on the sentencing guidelines and made several suggestions which have been implemented in this bill," Solbach said. "David's writings to some extent have been critical of the sentencing commission's work, but his criticism has been constructive."
Sen. Wint Winter Jr. last week distributed a memo to several legislators designed to dismiss critics who say their taxes are too high because the government bureaucracy is too large.
The memo lists 25 state agencies and their budgets, including the Legislature and the offices of governor, attorney general, treasurer and insurance commissioners.
It says that if all of those agencies were closed completely and all of the state employees were fired and facilities eliminated, the savings to the state general fund would be about $101.2 million, or about 4 percent of the authorized expenditures for the current fiscal year.
Rep. Sandy Praeger said she was working on a bill with other legislators that would help local school districts maintain some local control over building decisions this year.
Gov. Joan Finney has called for the state to take over total funding of public education, including taking away a local school district's power to levy property taxes to pay for schools. Finney has called for a statewide 45 mill property tax.
"My concern is, especially where capital improvements are concerned, we need to have some control at the local level," Praeger said.