Some actions either taken or being considered by other governmental units may offer some possibilities for the Kansas Legislature's 2004 agenda.
- First on the list is the action taken by some local governments in Kansas. Several counties or cities, including Lawrence, decided to flout state liquor laws by allowing Sunday liquor sales and, in the case of Leavenworth and Edwardsville, allowing the sale of strong beer in grocery stores. They are acting with the blessing of a Wyandotte County district judge who held that, because the state's liquor laws are not uniform, cities and counties could use their home-rule powers to exempt themselves from some state provisions. These governments are more or less telling the state Legislature that if it hopes to maintain any control over the sale of alcoholic beverages in Kansas, it had better clean up the state's Liquor Control Act. Legislators should get the message and get to work.
Several other possible items for the Kansas legislative agenda are suggested by proposals or new laws enacted in other states.
- How about the Illinois law that took effect Jan. 1 making it illegal to drive in the left lane of an interstate highway except when overtaking and passing a vehicle in the right lane? The Illinois law includes exemptions for such things as preparing to exit a highway on the left, but it spells out the law on what could be the leading cause of road rage on the nation's interstate highways.
- Florida also has a new law requiring drivers over 80 to pass a vision test when renewing their licenses. A vision test already is required for all license renewals in Kansas, but many other factors can affect an elderly person's ability to drive. The increase in our elderly population might suggest the need for increased monitoring of their driving skills.
- On another driving-related issue, a Colorado legislator plans to propose a ban on cell-phone usage by anyone driving under a learner's permit. The bill would apply to learners of any age, but clearly would have the greatest impact on teen drivers. Most people would think this proposal is a good idea not only for new drivers but for millions of other people who seem to believe that driving requires only as much attention as they can give it while they are dialing and talking on the telephone.
- Faced with a budget shortfall for this year, a Nebraska legislator asked the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to get creative on dealing with state aid declines. The idea that has been forwarded, however, doesn't seem like one that Kansas should emulate. A regent has suggested lowering in-state tuition for students in neighboring states in an effort to boost declining enrollment at Nebraska universities. State universities, according to the Nebraska regent, are far from full and could use the student boost. That isn't the problem at Kansas universities, although given recent in-state tuition increases here, enrollment might wane if more Kansas students chose to head to Nebraska to take advantage of lower rates there. Lower tuition isn't a bad idea for Kansas, but if the idea is to increase enrollment, those tuition breaks should go first to Kansas residents.
- And lastly, Kansas legislators certainly could learn something from the redistricting system that has existed in Iowa for more than a decade. A nonpartisan commission is charged with redrawing congressional district lines in Iowa and has successfully completed the task twice now with none of the divisive bickering that occurred in Kansas in 2002. Now, while the next redistricting task is still years away, is the time to consider a change.