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Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

Capitol Report

News from the Kansas Statehouse

March 19, 2007

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Domestic violence funds

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, got one of the few Democratic amendments on the House budget last week.

Ballard added $2 million for domestic violence and sexual assault services to the proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year. She said most of the money would go toward helping women in less populated areas of the state.

"Those women deserve to have services. Domestic violence is not going to go away, and we have to do something to let them know that help is there. Don't deny these women the opportunity to get help and live in a safe environment," Ballard said.

Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, spoke against the amendment, saying it would be better to wait until later in the legislative session to decide on funding.

In a nonrecorded vote, the House adopted Ballard's amendment 64-41.

But Ballard was not successful in adding $4.3 million to guarantee health coverage to uninsured children from birth to 5 years old. That failed on a recorded vote, 55-67.

Area legislators voting for the health care proposal were Ballard, Paul Davis, of Lawrence, and Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, all Democrats. Republicans Anthony Brown, of Eudora, Lee Tafanelli, of Ozawkie, and Tom Sloan, of Lawrence, voted against it.

Sudan divestment

The Senate has sent the House a bill that would require the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System divest its holdings in companies that invest in Sudan, whose government has been blamed for atrocities in an ethnic conflict in the Darfur region.

KPERS estimates it has about $38 million of its $12 billion in assets linked to companies with some ties in Sudan.

Sonny Scroggins, of Topeka, has been urging divestment in Sudan and has been marching around the Capitol building daily as a demonstration to urge lawmakers to adopt Senate Bill 335.

Driver's license renewal

The AAA office in Lawrence continues to be targeted by the insurance industry for its contract with the state to handle driver's license renewals.

Kansas Department of Revenue officials say the deal saves the state from the expense of having to open a new motor vehicle office.

But insurance industry lobbyists say it gives AAA an unfair advantage in marketing and selling insurance - an allegation that AAA denies.

The conflict spilled onto the House floor last week when Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, offered an amendment that would have prohibited AAA from doing license renewals. The amendment was sent to a committee for further consideration.

Quote of the week

Generally speaking, bills that don't actually do anything have a high rate of passage."

- Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, on chances the Senate will approve a bill designating English as the official language of the state.

What's next

10:30 a.m. Wednesday - Hearing on Senate Bill 377, providing funds for repairs at universities, before Senate Ways and Means Committee in Room 123-South, Capitol.

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