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Archive for Monday, March 29, 2004

The Capitol Report

News and views from the Kansas Statehouse

March 29, 2004

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Under the dome

Hide and seek

Rep. Mike Burgess, R-Topeka, was the House member missing last week during a key roll call vote on school finance, which prompted a "call of the House" that lasted nearly an hour. During a call of the House, the vote tally remains open, the doors to the chamber are shut, and no legislator may leave without permission from the House speaker.

According to sources, Burgess was found by a Kansas Highway Patrol officer hiding under a desk in another office in the Capitol. Asked if he was found under a desk, Burgess said that wasn't accurate, but wouldn't say where he had been. "I was out," he said.

The intrigue continued when House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, accused Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' staff of interfering with House business by using the police to break into an office and track down Burgess. Sebelius' office said the officer used a key to get inside the office where the officer found Burgess. House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, conceded Burgess' absence was planned to give House leaders more time to rally support for the school-finance measure, which eventually failed.

Adkins minibuster

There were few light moments during Sen. David Adkins' 4 1/2-hour effort to kill the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, but one came when he and Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, got into a discussion. Because some senators wanted to ban gay marriages, Adkins introduced an amendment to make homosexual acts illegal. Journey said that behavior can't be made illegal, just like stupidity or brilliance can't be criminalized. Adkins said if brilliance was made illegal, Kansas would build a private prison. "I'd welcome the opportunity to visit many of my colleagues there," Adkins said.

Illegal immigrants

Businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants would face penalties under proposals by Reps. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin, and Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, that they added to another bill. Earlier, Holland had said he was "sandbagged" by big business interests that had worked behind the scenes to kill his version of the bill. The measure still faces Senate scrutiny. The Kansas AFL-CIO and several small businesses support the proposal, saying a growing number of unscrupulous businesses are exploiting workers and undercutting competition by hiring illegal immigrants.

Animal ID

Spurred by the recent outbreak of mad cow disease, lawmakers have agonized over a bill that deals with cataloging and tracking the nation's cattle. Some are complaining of the cost of such a program, but others are saying consumer confidence would increase if such a program were put in place.

Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said the federal government would probably take the lead on any kind of animal identification program. He described the state legislation as "window dressing."

"A federal ID program is coming, and it will be mandatory," he said.

It's only rock 'n' roll

Five years ago, when reports surfaced the Sprint telephone company took dozens of legislators, other elected officials and staff to a Rolling Stones concert during the legislative session, the ball started rolling for ethics reform. A bill was passed the next session requiring more reporting on what lobbyists were spending on what legislator.

Now that other issues are more dominant, some lawmakers are working on relaxing those reporting requirements. The House has passed a bill that would significantly weaken the reforms put into law in 2000. The lobbyist exemptions were added to a bill that allows lawmakers to transfer their campaign contributions if they run for higher office. The measure is now in a House-Senate conference committee.

Schedule

Things to watch:

The House and Senate will not be in session today and Tuesday, but House-Senate conference committees will be working those days.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m.

  • Hearing on SCR 1622, which is a proposed constitutional amendment on expanded gambling, in Senate Federal and State Affairs at 10:30 a.m. or first recess of the Senate on Wednesday and Thursday.

The tentative schedule is for the House and Senate to adjourn either Friday or Saturday, then reconvene April 28 for the so-called veto session.

Sine die, the Latin term that roughly means "without day" and used for the final adjournment of the Legislature, is set for May 27.

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