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Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas government”

School finance ruling pushed back 30-45 days

A long-awaited court decision about whether Kansas is adequately funding its public schools has been pushed back until around the first of the year.

Shawnee County District Judge Frank Theis, who presides over the three-judge panel hearing the case, sent an email to attorneys in the case late Friday saying the decision will likely come within the next 30-45 days.

The decision will weigh heavily in the upcoming legislative session, even though the opinion is certain to be appealed, because the latest revenue estimates show the state is already facing a $715 million budget shortfall over the next year and a half.

The trial court first ruled in January 2013 that the state was underfunding schools to the tune of about $450 million a year. It also said the funding system in place was inequitable, and it ordered the state to increase so-called "equalization funding" for less wealthy districts.

In March of this year, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the panel on the equity issue, but it overturned the verdict on adequacy and remanded that issue back to the three-judge panel with instructions to reconsider that issue using a different standard.

Many court watchers had expected a decision earlier, possibly even this week, after being told the judges had already begun drafting the opinion.

Given that the Supreme Court has already heard the case once, some observers think it may not take as long to consider a second appeal. Depending on when the three-judge panel issues its opinion, some believe it's conceivable, but by no means certain, that the Supreme Court could take briefs, hear oral arguments and render a final decision before the end of the 2015 legislative session.

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Three huge cases pending before one Shawnee County judge

It's been a busy month of court watching in Kansas as cases dealing with same-sex marriage have rushed their way to both the U.S. and Kansas Supreme courts. But while waiting for final decisions on those cases, it's worth noting that three other cases of monumental importance to Kansans are still pending before a single judge in Shawnee County.

Not only does Judge Frank Theis have another case dealing with same-sex marriage — one that could decide whether Kansas has to recognize marriages legally performed in other states — but he also has a case that could decide the future of the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration and, lest we forget, the major unresolved portion of a school finance lawsuit that could dominate the upcoming legislative session.

Here is a quick rundown of those cases:

Gay marriage: Nelson et al. v. Kansas Department of Revenue. This case was filed by Lawrence attorney David Brown on behalf of two gay couples, one from Lawrence and another from Alma, who were legally married in California. It challenges the state's policy of requiring them to file separate state income tax returns despite the fact that they can file joint federal returns.

The case is different from the other higher-profile cases in that it challenges the state's refusal to recognize legally performed same-sex marriages. The others pending before the state and federal high courts challenge the state's refusal to grant licenses for couples to be married in Kansas.

The Nelson case had been set for hearing on Friday, but there's a strong chance Theis will postpone that hearing and wait for the dust to settle from the higher courts, by which time the case may become moot.

Voting rights: Belenky et al. v. Kobach We wrote about this case Monday, but here's a recap. We now have a situation in which Kansas holds "dual elections" in which different voters are treated differently, depending on how they registered.

Those who register using a federal form, which does not ask for proof of citizenship, may vote only in federal races, those for president, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. To vote in state and local elections, voters registering for the first time in their county must show documentary proof of citizenship.

In the Nov. 4 elections, more than 20,000 would-be voters were barred from voting because they used the state form but did not provide proof of citizenship. An analysis by the Journal-World showed a disproportionate number of those voters were under age 25 or resided in low-income neighborhoods.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office had sued in federal court, trying to get the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to provide Kansas with a federal form that asks for proof of citizenship. Last week, the 10th Circuit said the EAC doesn't have to. Kobach says he plans to appeal that ruling. But in the meantime, there's the question of whether "dual elections" are constitutional.

Equality Kansas, a gay rights and civil rights advocacy group, is challenging the constitutionality of that setup. If they prevail, it could provide a pathway for voters to circumvent the proof-of-citizenship requirement simply by registering to vote using the federal form, basically eviscerating the law passed in 2012 by the Kansas Legislature, at Kobach's urging.

Judge Theis had put that case on hold pending the decision by the 10th Circuit. But now that the appellate court has ruled, the case could be reset for hearing at any time.

School Finance: Gannon v. Kansas. Many people might have thought this case was dispensed with earlier this year when the Legislature agreed to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order to spend more money on "equalization aid" targeting less wealthy districts. But that was only part of the case — and a relatively small part at that.

The bigger part of the case challenges the overall adequacy of state funding for public schools. The Supreme Court remanded that portion back to a three-judge panel (of which Theis is the presiding judge) to decide based on a different standard than had been used in the past.

The panel held a hearing on that issue in August, and court watchers have been waiting ever since for a decision.

In the panel's original ruling in 2013, it said the state was short-changing public schools to the tune of about $450 million a year.

If the panel comes back and says the state is still below the mark, that could throw the Kansas Legislature into chaos this session. Because remember, state revenue estimators just said Monday that the state is now projected to have a $715 million budget gap over the next 18 months.

There is no deadline for the panel to render its decision, but most people expect one before the start of the 2015 session.

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Lawrence man suggests ‘crowdfunding’ to fill Kansas budget gap

While Kansas lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback try to figure out how to trim $715 million out of the state budget over the next year and a half, one Lawrence resident is offering a novel idea: crowdfunding.

In a tongue-in-cheek appeal, Lawrence resident Will Averill launched a campaign Wednesday on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo.com to raise money to bail out the state of Kansas.

“Whoops! We didn't plan very well,” Averill wrote. “But hey, when you run out of money, ask people who have it!”

Indiegogo is a San Francisco-based web company that offers a platform for crowdfunding - the practice of raising money for a project or venture in small donations from large numbers of people.

The campaign, which Averill admits is “mostly a joke,” is a response to new budget figures announced Monday that show the state facing a $278.7 million revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and a $435.7 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Cautioning "don't actually donate money to this campaign," Averill also satirizes the typical crowdfunding incentives, offering “a hearty Thanks from the State of Kansas” for a $1 gift; “a monkey from the Wichita Zoo” for $100; and “a state senator” for $10,000.

State officials say the shortfall is mainly the result of sweeping tax cuts the Legislature approved in 2012 and 2013, which Brownback and the Republican leadership in the Legislature said would stimulate the Kansas economy.

“This is mostly a joke to highlight the precariousness of the situation we've put ourselves in,” Averill wrote on the website. “Everyone has made our state a laughingstock for a long time, and we're not doing much right now to help that.”

Averill did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Reply 21 comments from Randy Leonard Eileen Jones Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Shane Garrett Taran Johnson Tom Weiss John Middleton Larry Sturm Cheryl Nelsen Ted Vincent and 4 others

Children’s advocate says `politics’ killed bill that would have helped public health

A leading state children's advocate says that a bill that would have saved children's lives and cost nothing died because of "politics."

"Politics got in the way, and Kansas kids will die needlessly as a result," said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children. Key state officials denied Cotsoradis' allegation.

One of those, Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, said the bill got caught up in legislative deadlines.

The dispute is over Senate Bill 259, which would have allowed health researchers to extract information from the State Child Death Review Board for the purpose of public health research. The bill would have prohibited disclosure of information that could be used to identify a child.

Supporters of the bill say it will help the state identify trends and risk factors that may contribute to the death of a child.

Cotsoradis said identifying those public health trends is crucial because the Kansas child death rate exceeds the national rate.

A bill similar to SB 259 passed the House without opposition.

SB 259 was approved in March by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it failed to advance and died at the end of the session.

When pressed what she meant by "politics" getting in the way, Cotsoradis said that Kansas Action for Children has a long-running legal dispute with Attorney General Derek Schmidt in which the child advocacy group seeks the release of information about tobacco settlement revenues that fund children's programs.

"We don't have the best relationship with the attorney general's office. That may have factored into the equation," Cotsoradis said. Schmidt's office denied that Schmidt had anything to do with the bill's demise. Schmidt's spokesman, Clint Blaes, noted that the Child Death Review Board, which is part of the attorney general's office, testified in support of the bill.

King, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, "There is nothing nefarious going on." King added that he supported the bill and will try to pass it next year. As far as the charge that children will die as a result of the measure not being passed, King said, "I have not seen one iota of evidence" to support that.

Cotsoradis said a bill that passed the House without opposition, and drew no opponents who testified, should have passed the Legislature.

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Sebelius part of joke at White House Correspondents dinner

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was sharply criticized for problems with the rollout of Healthcare.gov, got big laughs Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, when she came on stage as part of a joke to fix a technical glitch during President Barack Obama's speech.

Obama introduced a video, but when it failed to load properly. Obama asked, "Does anybody know how to fix this?"

Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, stepped out and said, "I got this. I see it all the time."

Sebelius announced last month that she will be stepping down from her post.

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Davis bids farewell to House chamber

TOPEKA — House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, on Friday gave a farewell speech to the chamber he has been working in for the past 12 years.

"Thank you for the friendships that I will cherish forever, for the memories that will never leave me, and the opportunity to simply serve," Davis said.

Davis is giving up his seat to run for governor against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

He told House members that next year he will be working in the governor's office or in his law office in Lawrence.

Davis said it has been an honor to serve the 46th House District. For the past six years, he has also been minority leader.

Davis thanked his wife, Stephanie, daughter, Caroline, and parents, who were all present, and each member of the Douglas County delegation, saying he learned from all of them.

He also thanked his staff and House Republican leaders.

Reply 8 comments from Merrill Ludus Lynn Grant MerriAnnie Smith Gregdivilbiss Scott Quenette John Kyle

In new ad, group backing Brownback praises governor for school bill but doesn’t mention repeal of teacher tenure

A group backing Gov. Sam Brownback churned out a commercial praising Brownback for the new school finance bill, but the ad doesn't mention controversial parts of the bill, including a repeal of job protections for teachers.

The spot sponsored by Road Map Solutions Inc., led by Brownback's longtime political adviser David Kensinger, was running this weekend and cites the bill approved April 6 in the Legislature.

The measure, approved with only Republican votes, was passed after a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the Legislature must increase funding to poor schools. But the bill also includes measures opposed by Democrats and some Republicans that would repeal teacher tenure and provide corporate tax breaks for private school scholarships for low-income children.

Brownback is expected to sign the bill into law.

"We got it done," says the announcer on the new ad. The ad says the bill will provide $73 million more for schools and $78 million in property tax relief.

But the ad doesn't mention those education policy changes that have generated criticism.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic challenger to Brownback, said the repeal of teacher tenure represented "a clear attack" on teachers.

Reply 30 comments from Merrill Leslie Swearingen Steve King Bob Reinsch James Howlette Sam Crow Fred_mertz Bob Forer Floyd Craig Luckenbach and 2 others

Poll: Governor’s race tight; Medicaid expansion will be an issue

A new poll shows the race for Kansas governor remains tight.

The poll showed Democrat Paul Davis of Lawrence leading Republican Gov. Sam Brownback 45 percent to 41 percent, with 14 percent unsure. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. It was conducted April 1-3, before the contentious last weekend of the legislative session.

The poll, commissioned by the left-leaning MoveOn.org's political action committee, also shows that 52 percent of Kansans want the state to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage while 35 percent oppose it and 13 percent are unsure.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can increase income eligibility to allow more people to receive health care coverage under Medicaid.

Medicaid provides coverage for the needy and disabled. Under the ACA, federal funds would pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for three years and no less than 90 percent after that.

Supporters of expansion of Medicaid say it would help thousands of Kansans who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid or to receive premium tax credit assistance under the ACA to purchase private insurance.

There are 182,000 Kansans within that gap, according to a study by the Kansas Health Institute. Of that number, 78,400 have no insurance, the study said.

Brownback and the Republican-led Kansas Legislature have refused to expand coverage. Brownback has said he fears the federal government won't keep its funding promise.

A bill approved by the Legislature and awaiting consideration by Brownback would ban indefinitely expansion of Medicaid.

According to the new poll, when told that Davis wants to expand Medicaid, 39 percent of those polled said that made them more likely to vote for him, while 34 percent said less likely.

When told that Brownback opposes expansion of Medicaid, 33 percent said that made them more likely to vote for him while 41 percent said that it made them less likely.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling surveyed 886 likely voters in Kansas. Fifty-two percent of those polled identified themselves as Republican, 30 percent Democrat, and 18 percent independent.

Reply 6 comments from Steve King Paul R.  Getto Merrill James Howlette Thomas Bryce Clayton Barker

Private health clubs get property tax exemption under Senate amendment

Some Senate Republicans did some heavy lifting on Friday for private gyms by voting to give them a property tax exemption.

State Sen. Jeff Melcher, R-Leawood, said it was unfair that for-profit private health clubs paid property taxes, while non-profit YMCAs and YWCAs were exempt from those taxes.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka, however, said the YMCAs and YWCAs do public service work, while private health clubs don't.

Hensley handed out information that showed many supporters of Melcher's amendment received campaign donations from the owner of Genesis Health Clubs.

"The people who write the checks, end up writing the laws," Hensley said.

Melcher responded, saying, "It's a shame a taxpayer has to expend so many resources to get tax fairness." His amendment giving private health clubs a property tax exemption was approved 21-17. The underlying bill dealt with a long-running dispute over taxes paid by a concrete company.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, tried to exempt Douglas County from the amendment, saying that there were no YMCAs or YWCAs in the county. "I'm not going to let foolish special-interest tax policy unfairly shift the tax burden onto other commercial and residential property owners in my district," he said. But his amendment was rejected.

Reply 14 comments from Bob Reinsch Thomas Bryce Merrill Bob Forer Melinda Black James Howlette Dave Trabert Phillip Chappuie

Davis camp sends inadvertent email to reporters

A spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic candidate for governor, had an "oops" moment today.

Haley Pollock inadvertently sent an email to reporters that was meant for planners of a pro-school funding press conference scheduled for Monday.

In that email, Pollock advises Game On for Kansas Schools on how to write a press release.

"The release should be a mini version of the press conference though. We basically want to write the story that we want to appear in the paper and include the quote we want to appear in the paper from each speaker," she wrote. "That way even if a reporter can't attend, they still have everything they need to write the story."

Pollock sent a follow-up email to reporters noting the accidental email and apologizing for any confusion.

Reply 6 comments from Merrill Doug Weston Melinda Henderson Steve Bunch Larry Moss Realrealname Thomas Bryce Fred_mertz

Law enforcement issues warning against bringing back pot from Colorado

With western neighbor Colorado legalizing marijuana, Kansas officials on Tuesday issued a reminder that the sale, possession or use of pot is still illegal in the Sunflower State.

"Kansas law enforcement has seen and seized marijuana acquired in Colorado and brought illegally to Kansas," the statement said.

The statement was signed by Kansas Attorney Gen. Derek Schmidt, Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ernest Garcia; Kansas Sheriffs Association President and Gray County Sheriff Jim Kramer; and Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police President and Wamego Police Chief Mike Baker.

"We remind Kansans never to bring marijuana into Kansas from Colorado. Doing so is a crime, and Kansas still enforces its law," they said.

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Sea monster invades Statehouse

School children visiting the Statehouse on Thursday quickly gravitated toward the building's newest addition — a 17-foot juvenile mosasaur hanging on the wall in Gov. Sam Brownback's ceremonial office.

"It's kind of like lightning in a bottle, the way I see it," said Alan Detrich, of Lawrence, a fossil hunter who discovered the dinosaur several years ago in Gove County in western Kansas.

"Once you get a kid interested in dinosaurs or fossils, they want to read about it, and on the way to becoming a paleontologist they might accidentally end up being a doctor, or a governor, or a state representative," Detrich said.

Detrich has loaned the mosasaur to the state for an indefinite period of time.

The mosasaur arrived as the Kansas House gave final approval to make the tylosaurus, a type of mosasaur, as the state marine fossil, and pteranodon as the official state flying fossil.

The designation started with petitions from school children in Lecompton Elementary; Liberty Memorial Central Middle School and New York school, both of Lawrence; and Santa Fe Trails Middle School in Olathe.

Amanda Martin-Hamon, the daughter of the late Larry Martin, who had been Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, said her father would have been proud of the designation because it will be used as an educational tool. "He felt like paleontology was a really great way to do that because kids love fossils, they love dinosaurs. It sparks their imagination to think that sea monsters were real," she said.

Martin-Hamon's daughter Teagan, a third-grader at Lecompton school, helped spur the petition effort of having a state fossil.

The mosasaur, coiled up in its "death pose" on display, was a swimming reptile predator common to Kansas when it was under an inland sea millions of years ago.

Mosasaur fossil was brought to the Statehouse on Thursday. It is on loan from fossil hunter Alan Detrich.

Mosasaur fossil was brought to the Statehouse on Thursday. It is on loan from fossil hunter Alan Detrich. by Scott Rothschild

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Repeal of mortgage registration fee approved by committee

A bill that would phase-out the mortgage registration fee over five years has been approved by a Senate committee.

Bankers and real estate agents have been pushing for the end of the fee, saying it hurts their business and consumers.

But county officials statewide, including those in Douglas County, have said the lost revenue would need to be made up some other way.

Senate Bill 298 was recommended by the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee earlier this week.

The fee is equal to $2.60 for each $1,000 borrowed on a home mortgage, or $390 for a $150,000 mortgage. It isn't collected from people who pay cash for real estate.

In Douglas County, the fee generated about $1.8 million last year, and officials estimate a 2-mill rise in property taxes would be needed to replace that money.

The bill approved by the committee would also phase-in over four years a $4-per-page increase in fees for documents handled by county registers of deeds. But county officials say they won't produce nearly enough to replace the mortgage registration fee.

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Dinosaur debate advances, but some oppose

The Kansas House advanced a bill to designate the Tylosaurus and Pteranodon as the official state fossils, but not before a lecture from a state legislator that the action was a waste of time.

"This foolishness has to stop sometime," said state Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe.

He said the proposal would have no benefit and the Legislature should spend its time on school finance and funding services for those with disabilities.

But other legislators said designating a state marine fossil and state flying fossil would expose Kansas schoolchildren to the natural scientific history of Kansas.

And it would spur tourism, they said, especially at the Kansas University Natural History Museum and Sternberg Museum in Hays.

In fact, famous fossil hunter Alan Detrich will bring a juvenile Tylosaurus skeleton to the Statehouse on Thursday for display.

House Bill 2595 gained preliminary approval 93-13.

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Kansas legislators explain their votes on bill dealing with religious beliefs, gay rights

A national uproar has ensued over House approval of a bill that would provide legal protection for those who, because of religious beliefs, refuse to provide services to same-sex married couples.

The 72-49 vote on Wednesday that sent House Bill 2453 to the Senate was accompanied by several written explanations by many legislators on why they voted the way they did. Those are recorded in the House Journal.

Below is the roll call vote on HB 2435 and the written explanations of vote and who signed them.

HB 2453, AN ACT concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage, was considered on final action.

On roll call, the vote was: Yeas 72; Nays 49; Present but not voting: 0; Absent or not voting: 3. Yeas: Anthimides, Boldra, Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Cassidy, Christmann, Claeys, Corbet, Crum, E. Davis, DeGraaf, Dove, Edmonds, Edwards, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Henry, Hibbard, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jones, Kahrs, Kelley, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, McPherson, Meier, Meigs, Merrick, Moxley, O'Brien, Osterman, Pauls, Peck, Petty, Powell, Proehl, Read, Rhoades, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Ryckman Sr., Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thompson, Vickrey.

Nays: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Barker, Becker, Bollier, Bridges, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, P. Davis, Dierks, Doll, Finch, Finney, Frownfelter, Gandhi, Henderson, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Johnson, Kuether, Lane, Lusk, Lusker, Menghini, Perry, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Todd, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore. Present but not voting: None. Absent or not voting: Bruchman, Peterson, Thimesch. The bill passed, as amended.

EXPLANATIONS OF VOTE

Mr. Speaker: It is my deeply held sincere religious belief that the commandment to “Love one another” is contradicted by this legislation. This bill expressly permits discrimination against my neighbor in the name of religious freedom. I vote no on HB 2453. — Sydney Carlin.

Mr. Speaker: I strongly believe in preserving religious liberty. I also believe that between the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 and HB 2203 passed last year, we have accomplished most of the intent expressed in HB 2453. HB 2453 has created perceptions of promoting discrimination. This was quite evident as I listened to the discussions on the floor, and as I read the emails that I received yesterday. However, I firmly believe that HB 2453 does create a fertile ground for lawsuits. I do not think that prohibiting lawsuits as part of the bill is going to stop them. I vote no on HB 2453. — Shanti Gandhi.

Mr. Speaker: I vote no on HB 2453 because: 1. I believe it is unnecessary considering the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 and the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act passed in 2013; 2. The motive of the bill is a fear of a speculative federal appeals court opinion that may or may not find our constitutional amendment unconstitutional; 3. The bill would be personally hurtful to my friends when they are denied services available to everyone else based upon whom they love; 4. I believe the bill is much broader in scope than what was intended. —Tom Sloan, Don Hill, John E. Barker, Steven R. Becker.

Mr. Speaker: I vote no on HB 2453. My closely held religious belief is that God is love. I cannot vote yes for this bill if I am to heed the words of Christ when he said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.” — Don Hineman, Barbara Bollier, Tom Sawyer.

Mr. Speaker: This bill is not discriminatory against any group of people. It only ensures that individuals are not forced to participate in an event that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Questions arise for me on how this bill affects people receiving lawful government services they have the right to receive. I vote no on HB 2453. — James E. Toddd.

Mr. Speaker: I strongly support religious freedom, but this bill is not about religious freedom. In my opinion, this is about legalized discrimination, and I cannot vote in support of this. I vote no on HB 2453. —Patricia M. Sloop.

Mr. Speaker: I vote no on HB 2453. I support freedom of religion, but proponents of this bill concede it addresses issues which Kansans are not currently facing. Kansans are facing the consequences of 2011 education cuts. A study last fall shows only three states have cut education deeper. Adjusted for inflation, per pupil school funding is below 1992 levels. Schools are closing, class sizes are growing, parents are paying higher fees, and our economy is struggling. The next generation of leaders, innovators, and job creators is being molded today in Kansas classrooms. We must invest in them because strong schools are the foundation of a stronger economy. — Carolyn L. Bridges, Roderick Houston, Adam Lusker, Ed Trimmer.

Mr. Speaker: I support religious freedoms, however, I cannot support any legislation that condones or licenses discriminatory behavior against any person. I vote no on HB 2453. Gail Finney, Julie Menghini, Broderick Henderson, Tom Burroughs, Paul Davis.

Mr. Speaker: One of the founding principles of our country, inscribed in the First Amendment, is the right of the people to be led by their conscience and follow their own deeply held religious convictions without fear of penalty or reprisal. Because of that, I vote YES on HB 2453. — Connie O'Brien, Travis Couture-Lovelady, Willie Dove, Ronald Ryckman Sr., Brett Hildabrand, Jerry Lunn, Joe Edwards, Craig McPherson, Randy Garber, Richard Carlson, Leslie Osterman, Will Carpenter, Kevin Jones, Allan Rothlisberg, Joe Swiewert, Sharon Schwartz, Ken Corbet, Ron Highland, Amanda Grosserode.

Mr. Speaker: The Kansas Bill of Rights says, “The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed: ... Nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. ...” The bill's opponents have made false representations about new discrimination. States enacting same sex marriage – from New York to Hawaii – have also enacted specific protections for religious liberties as it relates to same-sex marriage, including Progressive governors like Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley. Kansas is consistent with those states. It maintains the status quo. Nothing more, nothing less. I vote YES on HB 2453. — Charles Macheers, Keith Esau, Mario Goico, Jim Howell

Mr. Speaker: There are substantial legal conflicts surrounding a possible U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion striking down the Kansas marriage amendment. Because of that, it is imperative that we protect individuals from penalty if they choose to decline to participate in a marriage event that conflicts with their religious beliefs. I vote YES on HB 2453. — Kasha Kelley, Dennis Hedke, Kelly Miegs, Bud Estes, John Bradford, Kent Thompson, Reid Petty, Daniel Hawkins, Marvin Kleeb.

Reply 6 comments from Peggy Mcloughlin Paul R.  Getto Shawn House Clark Coan Phillip Chappuie Addie Line Bruce Bertsch

Abortion opponent will have ultrasound done on pregnant woman during committee meeting

Topeka — An ultrasound will be performed on a pregnant woman before a Senate committee today, the chairwoman of the committee said.

The procedure will be performed in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee as hundreds of anti-abortion advocates gather at the Statehouse to coincide with the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Public Health and Welfare Chairwoman State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, is an ardent opponent of abortion.

She said the ultrasound needed to be done for the committee for education purposes. "Because we often consider the life and health of the unborn child in the Senate health committee, it is important that committee members are educated as to the science of the life within the womb," Pilcher-Cook said.

Those opposed to abortion often push for laws that require women who want an abortion to have an ultrasound and have abortion providers place the ultrasound image next to a pregnant woman so she can view it and listen to the heartbeat.

Reply 22 comments from Bob Forer Greg Cooper Rae Hudspeth Barbaragordon Cille_king Frankie8 Thomas Bryce Parkay Larry Sturm Rick Masters and 4 others

GOP Senate candidate Wolf says Republicans shouldn’t make friends with Democrats

In his criticism of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Monday, Dr. Milton Wolf indicated Republicans shouldn't make friends with Democrats and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent controversies have been caused by the media.

Wolf, a tea party-backed challenger to Roberts in the GOP primary, was interrupted several times by applause during his 24-minute talk to about 50 people who attended an event put on by the Douglas County Republican Party at Famous Dave's restaurant.

One of Wolf's major criticisms of Roberts is that Roberts voted in the Senate to confirm President Barack Obama's selection of Kathleen Sebelius in 2009 as secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius has been at the forefront of implementing the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, which is opposed by all Republicans in Congress.

"One of the problems with our party is too often we're the go-along to get-along party," said Wolf. "We try to get people in the media to like us, we try to get the Democrats to like us. It never works. Ask Chris Christie about that. He can walk on the beach every day of the week with Barack Obama, but as soon as he starts looking like a candidate for the presidency, the media is going to stab him in the back," Wolf said.

In 2012, Christie, a Republican, praised the response of President Obama and the federal government to Hurricane Sandy, which battered the Northeast. Christie's appearances with Obama just days before the presidential election was criticized by some Republicans as helping Obama.

Recently, Christie has been embroiled in controversy over an allegation that his aides closed lanes to the George Washington Bridge in political retribution against a New Jersey mayor.

Wolf added, "You cannot make friends with our adversaries, and yet what we have — and this should trouble us all to know — is we have Sen. Roberts who voted to put Kathleen Sebelius in charge of Obamacare," he said.

Sebelius was confirmed as secretary on a 65-31 vote. Nine Republicans voted for her, including Roberts and then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican who is now governor of Kansas. In recent months, Roberts has called for Sebelius to resign after the troubled roll-out of the ACA's enrollment website.

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Bill filed requiring release of names of those applying for position on the Kansas Court of Appeals

Topeka — Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, has pre-filed legislation that would require the governor to make public the names of people who apply for an appointment to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Last year, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his conservative allies pushed through a change in the way Court of Appeals judges were selected.

Now those judges are selected by the governor subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Prior to the change, the governor selected an appeals court judge from a list of nominees provided by a nominating commission.

Brownback selected his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, as the first nominee under the new law.

The new selection process became more controversial when Brownback refused to divulge the names of those applying for the vacancy on the state's second highest court. Under the former system, the nominating commission released the names of those applying, its final recommendation and had even opened up to the public its interview process.

Brownback declined to make the applicants' names public, saying it would hurt the chances of getting qualified individuals to apply.

Under Senate Bill 252, the governor would be required to make each applicant's name and city of residence available to the public once the application process is over. The 2014 legislative session starts Monday.

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Brownback’s former tax consultant criticizes federal minimum wage as ‘black teenage unemployment act’

Art Laffer, the $75,000 consultant who helped shape Gov. Sam Brownback's tax changes, called the federal minimum wage "the black teenage unemployment act."

While on Fox News on Wednesday, Laffer said the minimum wage "makes no sense to me."

He added, "I mean, honestly, it's just the teenage — black teenage unemployment act, and this is the very groups that we need to have jobs and not be put out of work because of the minimum wage."

Laffer argued that more teenagers would be hired if employers could pay them less than the $7.25 federal minimum.

His comments were made during a discussion on the possible extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

In 2012, Laffer, who is considered the father of supply-side economics, was hired by the Brownback administration for $75,000 for consulting work on the governor's tax plan.

Laffer championed Brownback's plans to cut income tax rates, eliminate credits and deductions and rely more heavily on the sales tax.

At the time, Laffer also supported Brownback's plan to end the state portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income, working Kansans. Later, Brownback backed off that proposal.

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Davis promises bipartisan administration; Brownback campaign blasts Davis’ support of Obama

Topeka – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis announced that three former legislators, all Republicans, will lead the campaign's Republicans for Davis group.

“I am deeply committed to restoring the Kansas tradition of bipartisan cooperation in the governor’s office," Davis said Monday.

Davis, from Lawrence, is the House minority leader and likely Democratic challenger in November to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

In response to the announcement, Brownback's campaign spokesman David Kensinger referred to Davis' support of President Barack Obama.

"There are only so many Kansans willing to vote for a guy who doubled down on the Obama agenda as an Obama Delegate in 2008 and 2012," Kensinger said.

And James Echols, chair of Democrats for Brownback, issued a statement, saying that many Democrats appreciate Brownback's leadership. "Sam Brownback has shown the right mix of courage and vision to lead our state," said Echols, president of the board of Economic Opportunity Foundation Inc., of Kansas City, Kan.

Davis said he wanted Republicans and independent voters to be part of his campaign and administration if elected.

The three Republicans who will serve as co-chairs of Republicans for Davis are former House Speaker Wendell Lady of Overland Park and former House members Charlie Roth of Salina and Fred Gatlin of Atwood.

Lady said Brownback's income tax cuts, which included eliminating income taxes for nearly 200,000 business owners, "is the most unfair tax legislation ever enacted in Kansas." Brownback has said the cuts will stimulate the economy.

Roth said the state was going in the wrong direction under Brownback and that Davis has helped engineer bipartisan passage of key legislation. Gatlin said Davis would bring people together.

In Kansas, Republican registered voters outnumber Democrats by more than 341,000 out of the state's 1.7 million voters.

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