Archive for Monday, August 8, 2005

Lawmakers to hear regents requests

August 8, 2005


— A maintenance backlog at the state's public universities threatens to reach crisis proportions, the head of the Kansas Board of Regents says.

Lawmakers from both houses of the Legislature will hear about that and other issues this week, in special joint committee hearings in Topeka and Atchison.

Reginald Robinson, the Board of Regents' president and chief executive officer, said the backlog will require $585 million to clear - a figure, he said, that could reach $800 million in less than a decade if the state does not address the problem soon.

"Heating, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems - if they have not already been replaced - are either worn out or are about to wear out," Robinson said. "This isn't because they haven't been maintained. It is simply because the systems have reached the end of their useful life."

Representatives of the schools will meet this week with the joint building reconstruction committee, which will conduct hearings Tuesday and Wednesday and present its findings to the full Legislature when it reconvenes in January.

Hearings on child welfare, including health care, are set for Wednesday and Thursday in Topeka. On Thursday and Friday, another joint committee will hold hearings in Atchison on the juvenile justice system.

Sen. Laura Kelly, R-Topeka, said the HealthWave program, which provides health insurance to needy children, would be discussed at the children's committee hearings - but also said she was concerned that the hearings could be dominated by calls for a law banning adoption by gays and lesbians.

"I hope we keep the focus on the kids," Kelly said. "We have a lot of kids who spend way too much time in the foster care system."

The Atchison hearings will likely focus on financial issues facing agencies working with juvenile offenders, said Don Gordon, acting commissioner of the state Juvenile Justice Authority.

"Most of their issues are having enough money," he said.


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