State minimum wage
The almost annual battle to increase the state minimum wage, which is the lowest in the nation, returns to the Capitol this week.
The Senate Commerce Committee will have a hearing on a proposal to increase the current state minimum wage of $2.65 per hour to keep track with the federal minimum wage when it increases to $6.55 an hour later this year, and then $7.25 an hour in 2009.
The state minimum wage affects about 19,000 workers, mostly in service or agricultural jobs, who aren't covered by the federal minimum wage law, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Virginia governor to address Democrats
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Kansas native and graduate of Rockhurst High School, will deliver the keynote address at the Kansas Democratic Party's Washington Days banquet.
The event will be Feb. 29 at the Downtown Topeka Ramada Inn. Kaine's parents still live in Overland Park.
Recent Washington Days speakers have included President Clinton, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.
Animal protection laws
All forms of animal fighting would become a felony under legislation championed by the Kansas chapter of The Humane Society of the United States.
"Current Kansas laws on animal fighting are inconsistent and weak," said Mary Prewitt, Kansas state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "This bill will strengthen those laws and place the responsibility for the costs associated with enforcing them on the offenders," she said.
House Bill 2229, introduced in the House Judiciary Committee, amends current statutes to achieve consistency in the treatment of all types of animal fighting, Prewitt said.
It also ensures that offenders pay for the treatment and boarding of seized animals.
Lawmakers divided on rural initiative
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, and House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, and the Kansas Farm Bureau are pushing for a proposal to form a Kansas Commission on Rural Policy.
The nine-member commission would be funded with state funds.
But House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, said he doesn't like the idea. McKinney said the proposal "creates another layer of bureaucracy."
Quote of the week
Coal is the bottleneck. Period."
- House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, when asked why not many bills have been approved so far this session. Much of the session has been devoted to legislation that would allow two coal-fired power plants in western Kansas.
1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday: Hearings on House Bills 2615 and 2736, before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. HB 2736 would make significant changes to the state abortion law that are supported by anti-abortion advocates. HB 2615 would require additional information from doctors who perform abortions. Room 313-South, Capitol.
1:30 p.m. Thursday: Hearing on HCR5031, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require Senate confirmation of selections to the Kansas Supreme Court, before House State Federal and State Affairs Committee. Room 313-South, Capitol.
9 a.m. Thursday: House Appropriations Committee considers higher education budgets. Room 514-South, Capitol.