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Archive for Saturday, March 23, 2002

Lawmakers work to bolster state security, preparedness

March 23, 2002

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— Several measures addressing the state's security and emergency preparedness are making their way through the Legislature.

Many are products of a legislative Special Committee on Kansas Security created after Sept. 11. Others grew out of a separate, 18-month review of how the state would respond to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, recently appointed an 18-member Select Committee on Kansas Security chaired by Rep. Carl Krehbiel, R-Moundridge, co-chairman of the interim committee. Vice chairman is Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, a colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard. Ranking minority member is Rep. Joe Shriver, D-Arkansas City, who served on the interim committee.

Key pieces of legislation include:

Adjutant General's Office

Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner has requested creation of six staff positions at a cost of $175,000 to the state with matching federal money. The hiring would create six regional planners to help counties develop emergency management plans and to assist with operations in counties struck by disaster.

Gardner also wants to restore the position of an assistant for his office, citing the increased duties as director of emergency management and homeland security coordinator.

Neither funding request has been included in legislative budget recommendations because of the state's revenue shortfall.

Gardner has also requested a bill requiring use of an incident command system in time of disaster to promote efficient use of resources and people.

Agroterrorism

A bill making it a crime to expose plants intentionally to infectious disease has passed the Senate and been endorsed by the House Agriculture Committee. This amends a 2001 law that made it a crime to expose livestock intentionally to foreign animal disease.

Consumer protection

In response to the spike in gasoline prices following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Senate has approved a bill to outlaw profiteering in time of disaster. Violators would be prosecuted under the Consumer Protection Act for artificially increasing prices of staple goods. The bill is in a House committee.

Law enforcement

An omnibus crime bill, awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee, would create the crime of terrorism establish penalties and expand the investigative powers of law enforcement agents. The bill, backed by Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall, would expand wiretapping laws to match federal language and allow for the tracking of suspects who may use multiple or mobile telephones.

The Kansas Bar Assn. and the American Civil Liberties Union oppose the bill, which is expected to be sent to an interim committee for study and perhaps broken into smaller pieces of legislation.

Open records

The House has passed and sent the Senate a bill to let government agencies close records if opening them to the public "may jeopardize the security of systems, facilities or equipment used in the production, transmission or distribution of energy or communications services."

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