Archive for Monday, February 19, 2007

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

February 19, 2007


Smoking ban snuffed

It appears a proposed statewide smoking ban may be dead for the 2007 legislative session, and Lawrence bar and restaurant owners may have helped snuff it out.

As introduced, the bill would have prohibited smoking in public places such as restaurants and bars.

But the measure ran into a wall of opposition, including several Lawrence business owners who have been unhappy with the city's indoor ban on smoking.

Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewing Co., was one of those who testified against the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, attached a provision that would have allowed counties to opt out. Supporters of the ban didn't like that, and now their strategy seems to be to let the issue smolder and come back with an all-out ban again next year.

Business-friendly tax cuts debated

Democrats have been complaining that Republicans are on a tax-cutting spree for businesses while ignoring the tax burden of everyday Kansans.

To prove their point, they put out a list of 67 tax cuts supported by businesses that were adopted by the Legislature from 1995 to 2005.

Meanwhile, Republicans are bringing in economists from the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation who will testify that the state should repeal the business franchise tax to stay competitive with businesses in bordering states.

Task force to study state prison system

Legislative leaders have put together a task force to be smarter when it comes to the state prison system.

The panel will look at ways to reduce the rate of criminals who reoffend once they get out of prison.

"We must find ways to keep our most heinous offenders in prison while reducing the rate of reincarceration," House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said.

Annual spending on corrections has increased from $60 million to $240 million in the last 20 years. Two-thirds of offenders released from Kansas prisons are incarcerated again within three years.

The chairman of the task force will be Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and the vice chairman will be Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg.

Other members are Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, Sen. Greta Goodwin, D-Winfield, Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, and Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson.

On deadline

Saturday is the "turnaround" for the 2007 legislative session. That is when most bills must clear their house of origin to stay alive in the current session. Budget and tax bills are exempt from the deadline, but lawmakers will be working long hours to push through their measures Friday because they won't want to work Saturday.

Quote of the week

"This is the clunker bill of elections."

- Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, on Senate Bill 169, which would require photo identification to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote

What's next

9:30 a.m. today: Hearing on SB 128, which would require utilities to provide energy conservation information to consumers, before Senate Utilities Committee, room 526-South, Capitol.

11 a.m. today: Consideration of House Bill 2140, which would make English the official language of Kansas, before full House.

1:30 p.m. today: Hearing on SB 168, which would place a two-year restriction on state officers before becoming lobbyists, and SB 343, which would require reporting of campaign contributions in the last 11 days before elections.


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