Topeka — In a case pitting the beauty of the Flint Hills against mammoth wind turbines, the Flint Hills won the first legal round before the Kansas Supreme Court.
The court ruled Friday in favor of a zoning regulation in Wabaunsee County that prohibits commercial wind farms.
The resolution states that commercial wind farms “would be incompatible with the rural, agricultural, and scenic character of the county.”
Several landowners, who had entered into contracts for wind farm development, sued the Wabaunsee Board of County Commissioners, saying the prohibition was unreasonable.
But the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the commissioners.
The court, however, left open several other issues for further arguments. Those include whether the zoning ordinance represents a “taking” of property rights without just compensation and whether it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A second round of oral arguments is scheduled for Jan. 27.
Gov. Mark Parkinson said Friday the state’s revenue crunch may force him to propose a tax increase.
“We’re getting very close to that point,” he said during a news conference.
He said four rounds of budget cuts this year have been painful. He said further cuts in the 5 percent to 10 percent range would be “crippling,” adding that he doesn’t want to do that.
Parkinson, a Democrat, said sufficient revenue is needed to keep basic state functions operating.
Republican leaders who control the Legislature have said they would oppose tax increases.
Gov. Mark Parkinson on Friday named William Thornton acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce and vigorously defended the departing secretary, Dave Kerr, who has been accused of unethical conduct by Republicans.
Parkinson described Kerr as a person with the highest integrity and ethics.
When asked to respond to GOP criticism, Parkinson, a Democrat, said those critics need to be more civilized.
On Thursday, it was announced that Kerr would be leaving the Kansas Department of Commerce to be director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
House Republicans cried foul, saying the switch comes at a time when Kerr was negotiating on a project that would bring Cerner Corp. and the Kansas City Wizards soccer team from Missouri to Kansas City, Kan.
The GOP lawmakers questioned whether Kerr was doing all he could to make the deal happen.
“This is the most unethical thing I have ever heard of,” said House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell. “While the Legislature is out of session, our Secretary of Commerce is negotiating for his own advancement while holding one of the largest economic development opportunities in Kansas’ history ransom. How can we be sure Kansas has made the best offer to secure the Cerner expansion?”
But Parkinson said the state’s offer to Cerner was put together before the Missouri job offer was made to Kerr. When Kerr was approached about the Missouri job, Parkinson said Kerr asked him if he should abstain from discussions on deals that involved trying to lure Missouri companies, but Parkinson said he told him that would not be necessary.
Parkinson said proof of Kerr’s allegiance to Kansas was that Kerr was the main advocate for trying to lure Cerner to Kansas City, Kan. The state has made an offer, but no word has come yet from Cerner on whether to accept it.
Meanwhile, Thornton, 57, comes to the commerce department after having worked in the private sector for MGP Ingredients and Hallmark Cards. He is also an attorney and member of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Thornton will resign from the regents. Both he and Parkinson said Thornton’s new job as secretary will dominate his time.