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Archive for Sunday, January 9, 2011

Legislature convening outside of Topeka has precedent

January 9, 2011

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— A proposal to get the Kansas Legislature to conduct a one-day session in Lecompton as part of the state’s 150th anniversary of statehood is getting a boost from history.

In 1961, the Legislature made a similar trip to Kansas’ first territorial capital at Fort Riley to celebrate Kansas’ 100th anniversary.

Lawrence attorney Glee Smith, who was a state senator from Larned at the time, remembers that trip.

“We had buses that took us out there. The whole Legislature went out,” Smith said.

Paul Bahnmaier, president of Lecompton Historical Society, wants legislators to convene in Lecompton on Kansas Day this year to recognize the town’s historical significance.

Located between Topeka and Lawrence, Lecompton has been called the “Birthplace of the Civil War — Where Slavery Began to Die.” The pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution written there was rejected by Congress and led to a split in the Democratic Party, which allowed Republican Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency with 39 percent of the vote.

But Bahnmaier’s request is in limbo because the Kansas Constitution requires the Legislature to meet only in the state capital.

Smith, the former legislator, said he doesn’t know if that question came up 50 years ago.

“I think we just went ahead and did it,” he said.

According to a news report of the Feb. 22, 1961, event, the Legislature met at the old Pawnee Capital at Fort Riley and adopted a resolution pertaining to Kansas that read: “May its citizens and their elected officials have the will and desire to continue onward and upward along the path to better and more considerate living, always with due regard for the rights of others, that Kansas’ rate of achievement may even exceed in the next century that which was accomplished in the first.”

In July 1855, the site was where the so-called “bogus” Legislature convened the first legislative session in Kansas. The legislators camped in tents and did their own cooking. At the 1961 event, state Sen. Paul Wunsch, R-Kingman, joked: “Oh, where were the lobbyists.”

After the 1961 celebration, the legislators went to Manhattan for dinner and then attended the Kansas University-Kansas State basketball game. K-State won 81-63 to leap into a tie with KU for the lead in the Big 8.

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