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Archive for Monday, February 20, 2006

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

February 20, 2006

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Hangin' with coach

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said her office received a lot of interest from the public after she announced former Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder agreed to lead a program that will help coordinate mentoring programs for young people. She said many of the callers don't know much about the program, but they say, "I'd like to hang out with Coach Snyder."

Barnett changes position

The Kansas Democratic Party was quick to point out that Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is running for governor, voted in 2004 against legislation to allow Kansans to carry concealed handguns. This year he voted for the measure.

If Barnett wins the Republican primary, he will face Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who has vetoed concealed carry.

Asked about switching on the issue, Barnett said he changed his mind after hearing from constituents and studying the measure carefully.

"I suppose it indicates that we're all human," Barnett said about changing his mind. He noted that more than 30 House members voted this year for a bill requiring booster child seats, who had voted against the measure last year.

Higher ed reforms

In 1999, after numerous studies and failed attempts, lawmakers adopted higher education reforms, referred to in the Capitol as Senate Bill 345.

The bill restructured higher education governance, changed the way universities were funded and promised increases for faculty salaries.

The results have been mixed, Dick Bond told legislators last week. Bond was president of the Senate when SB 345 passed, and currently serves on the Kansas Board of Regents, and is a former chairman of the regents.

Budget problems have undermined some of the promised funding increases, Bond said, which "tarnished the glow of this legislation." Still, he said, SB 345 helped unify governance of higher education.

Reginald Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the regents, said efforts are starting to compose the next set of reforms.

Deadline looming

Saturday is this year's "turnaround" date. That is when most bills must clear their house of origin to stay alive in the current session. Certain measures, such as budget and tax bills, are exempt from the turnaround deadline, but lawmakers will be working furiously to push through other measures. And since they don't want to work Saturday, they will probably focus on trying to beat the deadline on Friday.

Quote of the week:

I guess I'll be firing up the printer to file something with the court."

- Alan Rupe, lead attorney for plaintiff school districts, expressing frustration with state lawmakers for voting for tax cuts while under court order to increase school funding.

Things to watch:

1:30 p.m. today: Hearing on HCR 5026, constitutional amendment preventing Kansas Supreme Court from closing schools, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, room 313-South in Capitol.

3:30 p.m. today: Final action on HCR 5033, constitutional amendment requiring Senate confirmation of state Supreme Court justices, and HB 2725, increasing penalties for animal cruelty.

8:30 a.m. Tuesday: Hearings on HB 2611, which requires child booster safety seats, and HB 2732, which prohibits leaving children alone in vehicles, before Senate Transportation Committee, Room 527-South in Capitol.

10:30 a.m. Tuesday: Hearing on SB 519, restricting sexually-oriented signs from state highways, before Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 231-North in Capitol.

1 p.m. Tuesday: Briefing on stem cell research by Dr. Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor and dean of Kansas University Medical Center, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

1:30 p.m. Tuesday: Hearing on SB 508, requiring human sexuality education programs, before Senate Education Committee, Room 123-South in Capitol.

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