Archive for Monday, February 18, 2008

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

February 18, 2008


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.

What's next

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.


Frank Smith 9 years, 10 months ago

Before the federal minimum wage was increased to $5.85 an hour last year, 19,000 Kansas workers made less than $5.15 an hour. At the higher, though not "living" wage, the correct number is now 29,000 workers who make less than the federal minimum.

The state minimum wage is the lowest in the entire nation and its territories. This disgrace is almost entirely attributable to the opposition by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce which appears to take its direction from Koch Industries, and the Republican legislative leadership. Why would two of the richest (tied at #33) men in the world, Charles de Ganahl Koch and David Koch, put such a high priority on keeping Kansas workers in abysmal poverty? You might look at the workings of one of their policy instruments, The Club For Growth, or as Mike Huckabee better terms it, "The Club for Greed." Not only do they not want to pay their fair share of taxes, they don't want to pay ANY taxes at all. They don't want to contribute to your kids' K-12 school, they don't want to pay for children's health care, they don't want to pay for police, fire or emergency services, and they certainly don't want to pay for roads.

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