Archive for Monday, January 23, 2006

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

January 23, 2006

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School finance pre-test

State leaders held individual news conferences Friday, and their message was that the two-week old legislative session was proceeding nicely, a feeling of bipartisanship existed, and proposed tougher punishments on sex offenders had nothing or little to do with 2006 being an election year.

On school finance, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Senate President Steve Morris, House Speaker Doug Mays, and legislative minority leaders Sen. Anthony Hensley and Dennis McKinney said there seem to be some broad agreements in response to a court order and new cost analysis.

Those general agreements call for a multi-year funding plan that injects extra funds for low-income and urban districts, and a "hold harmless" provision to maintain declining rural districts, which the cost study indicated were getting too much funding.

Bush visit

President Bush's visit today at Kansas State University in Manhattan to deliver the Landon Lecture is expected to produce protests.

The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice along with other community-based organizations plan to counter-protest Bush's speech.

Several groups encouraged K-State students to obtain tickets to the lecture, but not attend and leave empty seats as another sign of protest.

Sebelius-Bush

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she may have some time with Bush during the president's quick visit to Kansas State University, and she said she would like to talk with him about problems with implementation of the new federal Medicare drug benefit, and the loss of Kansas National Guard equipment that has been left in Iraq.

She wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the equipment problem on Dec. 30, saying that the guard's ability to respond to disasters in Kansas could be affected by the loss of equipment. Rumsfeld hasn't responded yet, she said.

Sexual predators

State leaders are voicing more concerns about the civil commitment program that can keep sexual offenders in a state hospital after they have completed their prison sentences.

The Kansas law, the first of its kind in the nation, has exploded in costs - increasing 480 percent since 2001. And no one is "graduating" from the program. Only one had progressed to the transitional release phase, 70-year-old Leroy Hendricks. But attempts to place him in Lawrence and then Leavenworth were protested.

So, now lawmakers are simply looking at increasing prison punishments, saying that some sexual offenders can never be rehabilitated.

Asked if the civil commitment program was a failed experiment, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said, "It's certainly an expensive experiment."

Ad astra

T-shirts will be on sale that say "Ad astra per aspera ... Up the stairs through difficulty," to coincide with today's kickoff of tours of the Capitol dome.

The free tours include the 296-step hike up the dome, and a walk out on the dome balcony.

Dome tour times are: 11:45 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 1:45 p.m., and 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, from January to May. A maximum of 30 people at a time can take the tour. Reservations are accepted, and walk-up visitors will be accommodated as space is available.

Quote of the week:

It may be a rotten system, but it's our system."

- Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, referring to the state's system of regulating liquor

Things to watch:

9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday: Hearing on SB 350, which would deregulate AT&T, before Senate Utilities Committee, 526-South in the Capitol.

3:30 p.m. Tuesday: Hearing on HB 2612, establishing evaluations of judges and justices, before House Judiciary Committee, 313-South in the Capitol.

3:30 p.m. Wednesday: Hearing on HB 2611 on child booster seats before House Judiciary Committee, 313 South in the Capitol.

7 p.m. Thursday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., conference on "Take Back Kansas: How we can move Kansas back to the middle and why it matters."

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