Daily Archives: Feb. 27, 2009

Under the dome next week

Here’s a sampling of what will be going on under the dome next week.

The House and Senate each publish daily calendars listing the hearings scheduled for the week and what bills might be debated in the chambers. The calendars are posted daily on the Kansas Legislature website.

For March 2-6

Monday

House Education Sub-Committee, 9 a.m., Docking Room 711: hearing on HB 2199, concerning school districts and students with dyslexia.

Tuesday

Senate Commerce, 8:30 a.m., Room 545-N: hearing on SB 258, which would increase the cap set for worker compensation settlements and have the amount increase annually based on the Midwest cost of living index.

House Energy and Utilities, 9 a.m., Docking Room 783: hearing on HB 2328 which would make the first Thursday through Sunday in August a sales tax holidays for most clothing, equipment, school supplies and personal computers.

Senate Federal and State Affairs, 10:30 a.m., Room 136-N: continued hearing on SB 179 which redefines racial profiling and require law enforcement agencies to submit an annual report to the state Attorney General’s office on the number of complaints received.

Wednesday

House Education, 9 a.m., Docking Room 711: hearing on SB 84, which would incorporate personal financial literacy into state tests.

Thursday

Senate Transportation, 8:30 a.m., Room 136-N: a hearing and possible vote on multiple specialty license plates including support for Kansas arts, disabled veterans and a bill exempting “In God We Trust” plates from a startup fee.

House Commerce and Labor, 9 a.m., Docking Room 784: hearing on SB 160, which would increase the state minimum wage to the federal level.

Senate Federal and State Affairs, 10:30 a.m., Room 136-N: possible vote on SB 212, which would allow people to shipments from wineries at their homes and SB 213 which would allow liquor to be served at special events.

Coal bill clears the House

TOPEKA – The Kansas House this morning passed legislation that, among other things, seeks to resurrect plans for two western Kansas coal plants.

The vote was 79-44 – short of the 84 votes needed to override a promised veto by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

But the Republicans pushing the legislation – HB 2014 – say not to read too much into that. They’ve got weeks, probably, to shore up votes, and there are a lot of variables in play. Here are two:

1) Will Sebelius even be around to veto the bill? If she departs for Washington, will her successor, Mark Parkinson, be able to hold plant opponents together?

2) Will the bill get caught up with other measures, like it did last year, with lawmakers offering support for the coal plants in exchange for help on other bills?

The Senate, meanwhile, has similar legislation. Passage in the Senate is all but assured, and it’s likely the voters are there for an override attempt (they were last year anyway).

The debate, recall, centers on whether the state’s top regulator had the authority to block Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s plans for two coal-fired power plants when the plants meet all existing environmental rules. The legislation would strip the discretion KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby used when he rejected the plants. He cited the plants’ carbon emissions as the reason.

The bill also contains provisions designed to make it easier for citizens to use their own solar panels and wind turbines to generate power, mandates renewable energy percentages for utilities, and calls for stricter state building energy codes.

Stay tuned. The debate over these coal plants dominated last year’s session, and it’s not going away this year.

– David Klepper, The Kansas City Star

Don’t put a price on justice, death penalty supporters say

The death penalty should not be evaluated based on its cost, opponents to a bill that would abolish the punishment in Kansas argued on Friday.

“You can’t put a price on justice,” assistant solicitor general Kristafer Ailslieger told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a second day of hearings.

Ailslieger, speaking for the Kansas Attorney General’s office, also said that the savings supporters of Senate Bill 208tout are based on estimates not hard numbers.

The bill would abolish the death penalty as of July 1, although people sentenced before that date could still be sent to death row.

The proposal is the brain child of Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who has said that with the state in a budget crunch all cost saving measures must be considered.

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, since then 12 men have been sentenced to death. Currently, 10 men are on death row and no one has been executed in the state since 1965.

Supporters of the bill argued on Thursday, that the death penalty did not deter crime and was costly. The money could be better spent preventing crimes or improving public safety, they argued.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said he planned for the committee to vote Wednesday if it would send the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate committee to resume death penalty discussion, vote possible

A Senate committee is scheduled to resume hearing testimony on a bill that would abolish Kansas’ death penalty.

The measure, Senate Bill 208, is an effort by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, to do away with the sentence. She and other supporters of the bill say the death penalty is expensive to defend and prosecute, and point out no one has been executed since the law was reinstated in 1994.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will likely hear from opponents to the measure today. Those include Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston.

The committee could vote Friday on whether or not to send the bill to the full Senate.