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Archive for Saturday, April 19, 2003

Jobless assistance, tourism bills signed; voter identification legislation vetoed

April 19, 2003

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— Some jobless Kansans will receive two additional weeks of benefits, and local governments will be able to issue bonds for tourism projects, under bills signed into law Friday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

But barring a veto override, Kansas residents won't have to show proof of identity when they vote or request advance ballots.

The unemployment extension means that in the fiscal year that starts July 1, Kansans will be able to claim two more weeks of benefits after exhausting their 26 weeks of state aid and 13 weeks of federal benefits.

An estimated 17,000 Kansans are expected to receive the additional benefits.

The extension will cost an estimated $10.2 million in the upcoming fiscal year, to come from a $78 million federal grant the state received last year to bolster its unemployment compensation fund.

Sebelius said Kansas was being more aggressive than most other states in using the federal grant to help workers.

The new law also halts the state's practice of reducing Kansans' unemployment benefits by 50 percent of any Social Security payments or railroad pensions they receive. The change means jobless Kansans will receive an additional $1.2 million in unemployment aid, Sebelius said.

Sebelius said the bond bill would also help Kansans by creating jobs and improving the tourism industry.

The new law will let local governments issue bonds for tourism projects worth at least $50 million each in investments and projected sales revenues. Money from the bonds would help build infrastructure -- not the actual retail or tourism sites.

Potential projects would have to be unique or important to the state or region. Casinos would not be eligible.

The bonds would be repaid with sales tax revenues generated by the tourism projects, within 20 years.

The voting bill would have helped the state comply with recent federal election reforms and secure up to $32 million in federal funds to improve voting equipment and systems.

Opponents contended that fewer people would vote if they had to provide a driver's license, a nondriver's identification card or other proof of identity. The state's current law requires only that Kansans sign a list of registered voters at a polling place.

Sebelius called the bill's identity requirements "needless" and said they would create mistrust among voters. She urged legislators to craft a new bill when they reconvene April 30.

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