Monthly Archives: May 2009

Westar gets third rate hike this year

TOPEKA — The Kansas Corporation Commission on Friday approved a $33.7 million rate hike for Westar Energy customers statewide.

The latest rate increase is to pay for environmental upgrades to the company’s fossil-fuel powered plants.

The hike falls most squarely on customers in Westar’s northern division, formerly the KPL power system.

Northern customers receive much more of their power from the coal-fired Jeffrey Energy Center, where most of the environmental upgrades took place. Southern customers in the former KGE service territory get the bulk of their power from the cleaner Wolf Creek nuclear plant, with some coal and gas power added to the mix.

The rate increase should add about $2.95 — about 4.6 percent — to the bill of the average northern Kansas customer. 

The average southern customer will pay an extra 88 cents, about 1.2 percent, according to calculations by the Corporation Commission staff.

The increase is the third for Westar this year.

In January, the company got a $130 million a year increase in a regular rate case.

That was followed in March with an additional $32 million a year to pay for power transmission upgrades.

The company is expected to file soon for an additional $15 to $20 million a year for expenses related to the building of an Emporia power plant and increased wind power.

Two area lawmakers back Kobach secretary of state candidacy

WICHITA — Two prominent Wichita-area state legislators on Wednesday endorsed the fledgling secretary of state candidacy of former Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita, spoke up for Kobach during a campaign kickoff event that drew about 30 people to a windy and chilly Old Town farmers market square.

“He’s a lifelong Republican; he believes in our cause,” said Watkins. “He’s not somebody that has traveled around and helped the dark side, if you will, and then come home to Kansas and said ‘I’m a Republican,’ because he thinks that’s the only way he’s going to get elected.”

Both Watkins and Masterson spoke enthusiastically about voter-fraud prevention, which Kobach has made the keystone of his campaign.

Kobach is proposing a series of changes in election law including:

– Requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

– Requiring new voter registrants to prove citizenship by showing a birth certificate, passport or naturalization card.

– Purging the voter rolls to eliminate any noncitizens and voters who have moved or died.

– Creating a unit in the secretary of state’s office to investigate election fraud and assist district and county attorneys with prosecutions.

Masterson said he personally witnessed a case of election fraud recently.

“The guy who stood in front of me in line in the last election I was at, they put him aside because they said he’d already voted,” Masterson said. “This man had had … an absentee vote cast in his name, which he didn’t cast.” Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, also a Republican, has said that voter fraud is not the problem Kobach claims it to be.

His spokeswoman said there have been only eight convictions in 10 years, mostly involving people who lived near the Missouri and Colorado borders and voted in two states.

Kobach’s opponent in the race, business advocate and international election observer J.R. Claeys, of Salina, has also made vote fraud prevention a centerpiece of his campaign.

Kobach has been making a series of whistlestops around the state since formally announcing his candidacy on Tuesday.

He’s scheduled to speak Thursday in Salina, Garden City and Lakin. Claeys recently concluded a 15-county speaking tour.

Pompeo picks representative cousin as campaign manager

Republican National Committeeman Mike Pompeo has announced that his cousin, state Rep. Aaron Jack, will serve as campaign manager in Pompeo’s bid to replace U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt in the Kansas Fourth District. “As someone who has run his own race successfully, I know the day-to-day operations of the campaign will be in good hands,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Jack, R-Andover, was elected to represent the 99th House District last year. “It will be very satisfying to be able to work with a family member who I know shares my conservative values,” Pompeo added.

Pompeo also named Goddard native Kelly Reynolds as deputy campaign manager and organizational director.

Reynolds is a former intern to Tiahrt who more recently worked on the presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

State Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, is also seeking the congressional seat being vacated by Tiahrt, who is running against U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran for the Senate seat being vacated by Sam Brownback, who is running for governor.

Kansans For Life’s response to Parkinson’s veto of provision blocking funds for Planned Parenthood

TOPEKA – Below is a written response by Kansans For Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, on Friday line-item vetoed from the wrap-up budget bill a provision aimed at blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving money for family planning services.

The money, a federal grant disseminated by the state, cannot be used for abortion services and helps fund Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Hays and Wichita.

Below is the response:

“Any hopes that Governor Parkinson was better than Sebelius on life issues just flew out the window with this veto in which he gives Planned Parenthood priority over public health clinics without him even having the guts to mention the nation’s single largest abortion provider, by name.

The Governor purposely gave the wrong impression when saying the budget went against the rules. This budget didn’t ban Planned Parenthood from getting one dime–they would remain on the list to receive funds. It simply re-prioritized the order of which entities got funds first.

When a private organization like Planned Parenthood gets tax dollars it frees up their private funds to pay lobbyists to troll for more tax funds, not to mention lobby against state abortion regulations. And even if the money goes to their clinics that don’t do abortions, again, it frees up the private money they have available for their clinics that do. In addition, even those clinics that don’t do abortions, refer for them.

By the Governor putting Planned Parenthood at the top, rather than the bottom of the list, he is saying he doesn’t care that they perform abortions, doesn’t care that they lobby to keep all abortions, even partial-birth abortions, legal, and doesn’t care that they are in trouble across the country for breaking state laws, including our own. But his veto does likely show that like Sebelius, Governor Parkinson appreciates that, unlike public health clinics, Planned Parenthood has a political arm that works to influence elections. .

There is no reason to give Planned Parenthood tax funding priority when the same services can be provided just as easily, and much less politically, by our public health clinics.”

Governor vetoes provision blocking funds to Planned Parenthood

TOPEKA – Gov. Mark Parkinson excised a provision in the state’s wrap up budget that would have prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving money for non-abortion family planning services.

He approved the remaining majority of the Senate substitute House Bill 2373.

Planned Parenthood last year received about $300,000 of the money, which are federal funds that the state administers.

“Regardless of one’s views on whether abortion should be allowed in this country, hopefully we can all agree that we should make every effort to prevent unplanned pregnancies,” wrote the governor in his veto message. “Access to affordable family planning services and contraceptives is critical if we are to continue reducing the number of abortions that occur in this state.”

State Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, inserted the provision into the omnibus budget bill during the Legislature’s wrap-up session earlier this month. Both chambers passed the bill including the provision.

While the money cannot be used for abortions, Huelskamp proposed blocking the funds because the Planned Parenthood does offer abortion services, he said in a release when the budget bill passed.

Parkinson, a Democrat, noted in his veto message that the group was eligible under the federal grant to receive the money, so the state could not block the funds.

For more details on the veto and the budget, read Saturday’s Wichita Eagle.

Below is the full veto message from Parkinson:

Section 89 has been line-item vetoed in its entirety:

“Regardless of one’s views on whether abortion should be allowed in this country, hopefully we can all agree that we should make every effort to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Access to affordable family planning services and contraceptives is critical if we are to continue reducing the number of abortions that occur in this state.

“This section would prohibit distribution of Title X moneys to private family planning providers unless they are either a hospital or provide comprehensive primary and preventative care in addition to family planning services. This proviso would prevent funding for two facilities of other eligible family planning providers. These facilities do not perform abortions, and by law, Title X funding cannot be used for abortion services.

“Both of these facilities provide affordable access to contraceptives and family planning services for women who are significantly below the poverty level. These women are most at risk for unplanned pregnancies. The family planning services provided by these facilities help lower the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy, and thus reduce abortions. Eliminating funding for programs intended to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies does nothing to help reduce abortions in Kansas.

“I am also concerned this proviso violates Title X of the Public Service Act. The facilities ineligible for funding under this proviso are, by law, eligible under Title X to receive the grants. The Public Service Act is clear that states are not permitted to refuse the award of Title X funding to entities that meet the statutory requirements for the grants. I therefore find it necessary to line-item veto this proviso.”

Kansas universities propose tuition, fee increases

TOPEKA – Kansas students at Wichita State University could see their tuition and fees for a semester of school increase by 5.5 percent in the fall.

A semester at WSU would cost $2,681.75 — or $139.50 more than the current rate of $2,542.25 — under a proposal presented to the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday.

The regents, who oversee the state’s colleges and universities, listened to the heads of the six universities pitch their proposed increases; the board will likely vote on the proposals during its June meeting.

Other fee and tuition increases for Kansas students ranged between a $101 jump for Emporia State University students to $206.25 for Kansas University students who enter the compact system where they pay a fixed tuition rate for four years.

For more, read Friday’s Wichita Eagle.

Here are the initial proposals for instate undergraduates:

Wichita State University Current tuition and fees: $2,542.25 Proposed tuition and fees: $2,681.75 Dollar difference: $139.50 Percent increase: 5.5 percent

University of Kansas – standard Current tuition and fees: $3,520.85 Proposed tuition and fees: $3,644.60 Dollar difference: $123.75 Percent increase: 3.5 percent

University of Kansas – compact Current tuition and fees: $3,862.10 Proposed tuition and fees: $4,068.35 Dollar difference: $206.25 Percent increase: 5.3 percent

Kansas State University Current tuition and fees: $3,313.65 Proposed tuition and fees: $3,434.75 Dollar difference: $121.10 Percent increase: 3.7 percent

Emporia State University Current tuition and fees: $2,068 Proposed tuition and fees: $2,169 Dollar difference: $101 Percent increase: 4.9 percent

Pittsburgh State University Current tuition and fees: $2,161 Proposed tuition and fees: $$2,296 Dollar difference: $135 Percent increase: 6.2

Fort Hays State University Current tuition and fees: $1,770 Proposed tuition and fees: $1,881 Dollar difference: $111 Percent increase: 6.3 percent

Drivers will have to yield to peds in crosswalk under new law

crosswalkThis just in from the common sense department: Drivers should yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Believe it or not, Wichita — and apparently Kansas — did not have a law allowing police to ticket folks who buzz by people walking in crosswalks. The state changed its law, and now Wichita plans to codify that in the local books at the city council meeting Tuesday.

An average of four people a week are hit by vehicles, an Eagle analysis from 2006 found. More than a quarter of those people were hit in crosswalks.

Friday is ‘bike to work’ day

bicycleGood for your health (less you crash) and for the environment. Two reasonable reasons to participate in the annual Bike to Work Day Friday. (More on that.)

You might bring a raincoat if you peddle. Here’s what the National Weather Service shows for Friday:

Friday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 82. South southwest wind between 11 and 17 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.

Friday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 57. North northwest wind between 9 and 14 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Bob Weeks joins Sedgwick County zoning board

Bob Weeks, a longtime local government observer, will serve on the Sedgwick County board of zoning appeals.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn appointed him to the board today.

Weeks blogs daily on his Web site, www.wichitaliberty.org, and regularly attends both county and city government meetings.

Weeks was one of several appointments approved by the board today. The others are:

Emile McGill to the juvenile corrections advisory board.

Glen Davidson to the access advisory board.

In addition, several people were reappointed to boards:

Sanford Alexander to the access advisory board.

Susan Robinson to the access advisory board.

Nick Taylor to the access advisory board.

Craig Perbeck to the access advisory board.

Former ag secretary endorses Moran for Senate

By Steve Kraske

Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns, a former U.S. agriculture secretary, today endorsed Jerry Moran for the U.S. Senate.

The endorsement comes one day after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert endorsed Moran’s opponent for the Republican nomination, Todd Tiahrt.

“A leader both in Kansas and nationally, I look forward to having Jerry Moran as part of the United States Senate,” said Johanns said. “Jerry has established himself as a principled conservative who listens to the people he represents.

“Among the few national leaders in agriculture, Jerry has been a driving force in agriculture policy throughout his time in Congress, but has never lost sight of the people for whom he works. As it is in Nebraska, Kansans need to have someone that represents their interests and not the powers of Washington, D.C.

As ag secretary, Johanns said he often talked to Moran, a senior House Agriculture Committee member. Secretary Johanns also worked with Moran on opening additional markets for American farmers and ranchers and how best to serve family farmers across the country.