Lawrence city commissioners may find themselves engaged in a gun and knife fight of a different type.
City commissioners on Tuesday said they're appalled by state lawmakers who approved a new law taking away the city's authority to regulate a host of gun and knife issues. At their weekly meeting, commissioners — for the time being — refused to repeal a pair of local gun and knife ordinances that the state law is designed to make obsolete.
"The state is going so far overboard so fast that somebody needs to tap on the brakes any chance we get," said City Commissioner Bob Schumm. "The goal up there is to get guns everywhere."
The city's legal department cautioned against keeping the ordinances on the books because the new state law is clear that cities no longer have the authority to regulate issues related to firearms and knives. The two city ordinances in question make it illegal for people to carry certain types of knives within the city limits, and makes it illegal even for people with concealed carry licenses to bring a firearm into a drinking establishment or onto public property adjacent to drinking establishments.
City Manager David Corliss said he had some concern that the city could face a lawsuit if it leaves the laws on the city's books. But some commissioners advocated that the city should send a message to state legislators by refusing to repeal the ordinances. Commissioners directed staff members to contact other cities to see if they have any interest in taking a similar action.
"I hope every city in the state would send the same message to the legislature," City Commissioner Terry Riordan said. "We're disapproving of it in the only way that we can."
Some commissioners also weren't mincing any words to disapprove of the new state law, which was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback last month.
"Raise your hand if you are surprised by the Kansas Legislature enacting policies that are epically ill-thought out and utterly stupid," said City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer.
Corliss said if the local laws do remain on the books, it likely would be as more of a symbolic gesture of opposition. He said the city would not be able to effectively prosecute anyone under the local ordinances due to the state law.
Commissioners did not take an actual vote on whether to repeal the laws. Before a vote could be taken, Mayor Mike Amyx asked for the issue to be deferred to give staff more time to research the issue.
In other news, commissioners:
• Approved water and sewer rate increases for 2015. Commissioners unanimously approved a rate plan that will raise the combined water and sewer bills of typical residential users by about 4.2 percent to 5.4 percent. Commercial and industrial water users both will see rate increases slightly higher than that.
The rate increases include funding for about $5.8 million in improvements to address taste and odor issues that occur in the city's drinking water when algae levels are high at Clinton Lake or the Kansas River. Those projects are expected to be completed by the summer of 2016.
• Unanimously approved an increase in pay for Corliss. His new salary is $145,000, up from $140,000 currently. Corliss recently had received positive reviews as part of his annual evaluation by the City Commission.