Sebelius: Legislators are doing ‘nothing’

Focus on coal plants distracting leaders from major issues, she says

? Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday said the Legislature has failed on a number of major issues because of efforts to push through legislation that would require the construction of two coal-fired power plants.

Two-thirds of the way through the 90-day session, Sebelius said health care reforms have gone backward, funds for disaster victims have been put on hold and there has been no movement on early childhood and higher education funding.

She harkened back to President Truman 60 years ago when he criticized the “Do Nothing Congress.”

Sebelius said “It was appropriate in 1948, it is equally appropriate today with regards to the Kansas Legislature.”

But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, defended the work of the session, saying that next week the House and Senate will have debates on the state budget and immigration.

“The big stuff is moving,” Neufeld said.

The major impasse of the legislative session is over a proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two 700-megawatt coal-fired units in southwest Kansas. Most of the power would be for out-of-state customers.

The Sebelius administration denied permits for the plants, citing the project’s annual emissions of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and its effect on climate change and the environment.

Supporters of the project have sent Sebelius a bill that would essentially require construction of the plants and strip the state environmental agency of much of its authority.

Sebelius has vowed to veto the bill next week. She said supporters of the project are trying to hold up action on numerous important issues as a way to trade up to the necessary two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to override her veto.

“Tying up everything ends up being a way to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ ” she said.