Topeka High school students would choose the winning design for the state's commemorative quarter under a bill advanced Tuesday by a Senate committee.
Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, the measure provides for a panel of legislators, historians and artists to select five finalists from designs submitted by Kansas artists. High school students would vote for their favorite in spring 2004.
"I think it's a good education program," Hensley said, explaining that the program would teach students about voting and civic responsibility.
The Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs Committee made some changes in Hensley's bill, chiefly to conform to the U.S. Mint's requirements, before endorsing it on a voice vote and sending it to the full Senate for debate.
As approved by the committee, the bill would give Kansas artists a deadline of June 30 of this year to submit designs to the proposed Kansas Commemorative Coin Design Concept Commission. Submissions would have to include a written statement about what the design represents to the state.
In spring 2004, the state's high schoolers would vote -- possibly via the Internet -- from five designs chosen by the commission. The U.S. Mint would evaluate the finalists before voting began, to make sure the design could be coined and was historically accurate.
The State Budget Division estimates Hensley's proposal would cost about $14,000, to cover mailing ballots to students. However, Hensley said costs could be reduced with online voting.
The coin would begin circulating in 2005. Hensley said he would not venture to guess possible designs for the coin.
Under the Mint's 50 State Quarter Program, five states' commemorative quarters are being placed in circulation each year, in the order of their admission to the Union.
Kansas became the nation's 34th state in 1861. Delaware, as the first state, had its quarter released in 1999.
No one testified against Hensley's bill Tuesday. But Wichita attorney Eric Engstrom, a coin collector, said in a telephone interview he believes no single group should be allowed to pick the Kansas design.
Engstrom -- who testified against a similar measure two years ago -- said he would rather see the design commission make the ultimate decision or have voting open to all Kansans.
No provision is made in the bill for a coin collector to serve on the commission, which would include three members of the public appointed by the governor. Some Senate committee members said at least one of the public spots should go to a coin collector.
Whatever the winning Kansas design looks like and no matter how it is chosen, the U.S. Mint -- not the state -- will have the final say on it. The law gives the Mint ultimate authority over each quarter.
Missouri's quarter, unveiled late last year, drew protests from some residents as well as the winning artist because of changes made by the Mint. Engravers at the Mint erased trees from the banks of the Mississippi River and added a person to a canoe carrying explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.