Archive for Saturday, January 8, 2005

Hot topics may re-emerge in 2005

Lawmakers likely to discuss gun control, same-sex marriage, gambling

January 8, 2005


— Guns, gays and gambling -- three hot-button topics of Kansas politics -- promise to have prominent roles in the 2005 legislative session that starts Monday.

All three issues are likely to go through the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which will be led by a new chairman, Rep. John Edmonds, a Great Bend Republican.

"It has the possibility of being entertaining," Edmonds, a 10-year legislative veteran, said of the upcoming debates.

The committee, which normally meets at 1:30 p.m., "will probably be the best game in the Capitol at that hour," Edmonds said.

Another gun proposal?

Last year, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed legislation that would have allowed Kansans to carry concealed handguns.

The bill would have authorized any Kansan 21 years old or older, who completed eight hours of training and had no history of mental illness or substance addiction, to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Sebelius said the bill would have been a danger to law enforcement officers because they would have had to assume that every person they stopped was armed.

Major business owners opposed the measure because they feared it would increase workplace violence, she said.

A move to overturn Sebelius' veto that would have required a two-thirds vote failed in the House by seven votes.

Kansas is one of only a handful of states that doesn't allow its residents to carry concealed guns.

Rep. Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin, a sponsor of last year's proposal, said he didn't know whether there had been enough change in the Legislature from the November election to override a gubernatorial veto.

"We can pass them. We just can't get governors to sign them," he said.

In 1997, then-Gov. Bill Graves also vetoed concealed-carry legislation.

Same-sex marriage

State law already prohibits same-sex marriage, but some Christian ministers are pushing to have the prohibition in the Kansas Constitution. That would require two-thirds approval in the House and Senate and majority in a statewide election.

A push to put it on last November's ballot failed last year to get the necessary two-thirds majorities in the Legislature.

Now those ministers want the Legislature to approve the measure quickly so voters can decide the issue during the April 5 city and school board elections. But some supporters of the measure said they would rather have it voted on the November 2006 ballot.

Supporters and opponents of the issue will be on hand Monday for rallies at the Statehouse.

Gambling odds

The annual recurrence of debating whether to expand gambling in Kansas is a sure bet.

Last year, Sebelius negotiated a compact with Kickapoo and Sac and Fox Indian tribes to build a high-class casino and resort in Wyandotte County that would have guaranteed the state $50 million or more annually.

She asked legislative leaders to use their legal authority to approve the deal before the session started.

But they refused and now the issue is before the entire Legislature, where proposals to expand gambling are notorious for tying lawmakers in knots and then failing.

Edmonds said he would favor an expansion of gambling that allowed slot machines at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls and similar venues.

But the gambling debate always goes down in flames because too many selfish interests are fighting each other, he said.

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