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Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Legislative notebook

March 21, 2007

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Primary funding

The Senate and House have taken different positions on whether Kansas should have a presidential primary in February 2008.

On a voice vote Tuesday night, senators rejected a proposal to strip $2 million for the special election from the budget of the secretary of state's office for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The money would cover costs counties incur because of the primary.

The House last week voted 85-34 to remove the money.

That means the issue will be settled by House and Senate negotiators as they draft a final, compromise version of budget legislation for the next fiscal year.

Drunken driving

A warning to those caught driving while really drunk: It's going to cost you more - a lot more - if the House has its way.

The chamber gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill doubling penalties and fines for those convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more. In Kansas, a person is considered legally drunk at 0.08 percent.

A final vote of approval today would send the bill to the Senate.

Under the bill, the first time people are caught with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or more, they would lose their driver's licenses for a year, then have to use a vehicle with an ignition interlock device for another year.

A first-time offender also would face from 96 hours to six months in jail or 200 hours of public service, and a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000. The same penalties apply for refusing to take a sobriety test given by law enforcement officers.

The fines would increase with subsequent convictions. For the fourth and subsequent convictions, a person would face up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. On the fifth conviction, a driver's license would be permanently revoked.

Official English

The Senate approved a bill designating English as the state's official language.

Under the bill, which was approved Tuesday on a 32-8 vote, no state or local government agency would have to provide documents or hold meetings in any language other than English. But nothing would prevent an agency from offering documents in another language or having interpreters at its meetings.

The House approved the bill last month, but its version included $500,000 for English classes for adults. The Senate's version doesn't include the money but still requires the state Board of Regents to set up education programs in communities.

House members will have to decide whether to accept the Senate's changes and send the bill to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius or to demand negotiations over a final version.

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