Archive for Monday, May 10, 2004

The Capitol report

News and views from the Kansas Statehouse

May 10, 2004


Under the dome

Same-sex marriage foes to leave Legislature

The two lawmakers who were the main proponents of a ban on same-sex marriage are retiring from the Legislature but will continue working on the issue.

State Rep. Bill Mason, a Republican from El Dorado who has served in the Legislature 12 years, said in a farewell speech to the House that he would be part of efforts to place before voters a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. The proposal this year died in the House after failing to receive the required two-thirds vote.

State Rep. Dan Williams, a Republican from Olathe, who has served in the House since 2000, is moving to Florida, where he will work as director of development for the Liberty Counsel, a group that litigates for social conservative causes.

Massachusetts inquiry

A Massachusetts court has ruled unconstitutional that commonwealth's policy that marriage is between one man and one woman. But pending a vote of the people there on a constitutional amendment that seeks to reverse that ruling, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's office sent letters to all governors, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, telling them that Massachusetts would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples from other states "unless we receive an authoritative statement to the contrary from either you or your representative."

Sebelius' chief counsel, Matthew All, sent an e-mail to Romney's office, that said: "KSA 23-101 provides as follows: The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract between two parties who are of the opposite sex. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void. I believe that should answer your question. Clearly, Kansas law does not recognize same-sex marriages."

Economic forecast

Total state tax collections for the current fiscal year -- July 1, 2003 through the end of April -- are running nearly 7 percent higher than for the same period in 2003. The state has taken in $3,615,207 for the current fiscal year, 6.8 percent more than the $3,385,952 from the same period in 2003. State budget experts have said the Kansas economy is slowly pulling out of recession, but is still fragile and nowhere near the robustness of the mid-1990s.

Late-night mistakes

Every legislative session has horror stories about a last-minute bill slipped through in the middle of the night that comes back to haunt everyone. Last year, lawmakers approved a tax bill during an all-night session, and found out later they had given businesses, with no warning, about six weeks to comply with an overhaul of the state sales tax collection system.

At 2 a.m. Saturday, the Senate started debating a school-finance bill that did not represent agreements made in a conference committee. The Republican conference committee members signed the wrong bill.

Despite the error, Senate Republican leaders pushed on to have a debate on the bill.

"This is the most egregious thing I've ever seen in the 30 years I've been here -- trying to run a report that wasn't agreed to," Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said. After Hensley protested, Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, adjourned the meeting.

Outsourcing ban

Kansans calling for information about food stamps will no longer be connected with workers in India, under a proposal by state Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin.

Holland and many other lawmakers were upset when they found out that the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services' contract with Arizona-based eFunds Corp. to administer the food stamp program allowed eFunds to outsource the work to call centers in India.

Opponents of the outsourcing ban said it would increase the cost of the $1.7 million contract.

But Holland said the proposal may provide more jobs in the United States, including Kansas. The measure was included in the final budget bill of the session.

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