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Archive for Monday, April 9, 2007

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

April 9, 2007

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Gambling trailer bill

As the first part of the session neared an end last week, rumors flew about whether the Legislature would take up a so-called "trailer bill" to make changes to the casino gambling bill it had passed earlier.

Those changes were to remove Sumner County as a possible destination casino site in south-central Kansas, and provide a revenue-sharing plan for Sumner County and other counties near Wichita should a casino be built in Wichita.

But the trailer bill never appeared, and it seemed like legislative leaders, not wanting to reopen a contentious gambling debate, were backing off trying to get one going in the upcoming wrap-up session.

Cancer center

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said Kansas University Hospital should be at the "center" of KU's efforts to get designation as a national cancer center. He noted the Legislature appropriates $5 million a year to this effort.

But Amy Jordan Wooden, senior director of public affairs at the Kansas University Medical Center, said the National Cancer Institute designation always goes to a medical center.

She said KU Hospital was "embedded" in the KU Cancer Center, adding, "I'm not sure what the concern continues to be."

Five-day wrap-up

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he expects the wrap-up session, which starts April 25, to last five days.

The final budget bill has to be approved by the House and Senate, then put in a conference committee to hammer out differences between the two versions. Once an agreement is made, it takes 8 to 10 hours to put the report together.

"By the time you've done that, you've already used up three or four days," Morris said.

Earlier in the session, Morris had wanted the Legislature to work a while longer before taking its three-week break, so that the wrap-up session would be shorter.

Voter ID

A measure that would have required people to show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, before they could register to vote, and photo identification before they could vote failed on a 61-61 vote in the House last week.

Opponents said that it would set up too many barricades to voting, and that it was designed to address a nonexistent problem.

"The myth of voter fraud is exactly that - a myth," said state Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita.

Supporters conceded they had no evidence of illegal immigrants trying to vote in Kansas, or other forms of voter fraud.

But state Rep. Tom Burgess, R-Topeka, said the bill was "about targeting potential fraud."

The bill, which was sent back to a conference committee, could come back up for a vote during the wrap-up session.

Deferred maintenance

Kansas Board of Regents officials are hoping that a portion of new gambling revenue can be used to help pay for $663 million of identified repairs at public universities.

But Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said it probably wouldn't be a good idea to count on that in the short term.

"Gaming revenue is not going to be here for a couple of years. And we really need to analyze what's coming in and try not to spend that before we get it," he said.

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