Daily Archives: Jan. 21, 2010

Senate passes ban on synthetic drugs

TOPEKA – The Senate on Thursday sent a bill to the House which would ban two synthetic drugs which replicate the effects of marijuana and Ecstasy.

The measure, Senate Bill 348, passed 36-1 with Kansas City Democrat David Haley as the lone vote against the proposal.

“As our youth and others continue to search for legal ways to expand their flights of fancy I fear they will encounter more dangerous ways that what we ban here,” said Haley.

He noted that the move to ban two synthetic cannabinoids found in K2, which replicates the effect of marijuana comes as many states are expanding legal access to the plant itself.

The measure would also ban BZP which replicate the hallucinogen Ecstasy.

Kansas law enforcement officials have said high school students are using the new synthetic drugs.

Most lawmakers did not agree with Haley.

Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is also a physician, said he was voting for the ban after seeing first-hand the impact drugs could have on people’s lives.

“Even though it is an imitation drug it is still a drug,” he said.

School superintendents urge no more cuts

TOPEKA – After-school tutoring, new textbooks, buses and summer school have all been cut by districts during the recent budget shortfalls, school officials said Thursday.

The Wichita School District added about 900 students this year, but didn’t have the money to add more staff to accommodate the numbers, Superintendent John Allison told the Senate Education Committee.

“Our ability to serve those student and to react… have definitely been impacted,” he said.

With the district’s growing student population and potentially decreasing funds from the state, the per pupil base state aid will be equivalent to what it was in 1999, Allison said.

Allison was one of five superintendents from districts of varying sizes who testified Thursday to tell lawmakers how budget cuts have affected public education.

Previous rounds of cuts have already been absorbed by vacant positions and putting off large purchases, Augusta School District Superintendent Jim Lentz told lawmakers.

Any further cuts will mean the district will have to cut positions, he said.

“We can’t cut enough other stuff to keep from getting into personnel,” Lentz said.

The other superintendents were Craig Wilford of Derby, Tom Trigg of Blue Valley and Jim Karleskint of Holton.

All of the superintendents predicted that further cuts would negatively affect students in the classroom.

On Monday, the committee is going to hear presentations on education funding from Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute president and Mark Tallman lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Groups testify in support of sales tax increase

TOPEKA — Groups representing schools, state workers, the disabled and the elderly told a panel of House lawmakers they support Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson’s plan to boost the state sales tax by 1 percent.

Advocates told the House tax committee that new budget cuts would cripple public education, social services for the elderly and disabled, mental health programs and transportation infrastructure.

“We urge you, please, no more waiting lists for vulnerable Kansans,” said Tom Laing, director of InterHab, a statewide coalition of groups serving the developmentally disabled. “No more community workers in poverty. No more closed schools and crowded classrooms, and no more abandoned senior citizens.”

Even some private individuals showed up to encourage lawmakers to look at raising taxes to stop more budget reductions.

“If raising the sales tax is what we have to do … then please do it,” said Megan Greene, a Lawrence woman concerned about cuts to her daughter’s public school. “In other words, I’m asking you to raise my taxes.”

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Victims’ families urge senators not to put a price on death penalty

deathpenaltytestimonyTOPEKA – The state’s death penalty should be retained as justice for the deaths of those killed by likes of the Carr brothers or Justin Thurber, lawmakers heard Thursday.

The penalty shouldn’t be weighed in terms of cost, victims’ family members said.

“You cannot put a price tag on my sisters’ life,” Jennifer Sanderholm told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That is ultimately what you will do if you abolish the death penalty”

Justin Thurber raped, sodomized and murdered 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm of Arkansas City in January 2007. In March 2009, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection by a Cowley County judge.

Thurber feared the death penalty and, the night before his trial, tried to plea bargain to take capital punishment off the table, Jennifer Sanderholm told lawmakers, her voice wracked with emotion.

“He was scared and he didn’t want to die,” she said, surrounded by her mother Cindy and father Brian who also testified.

The parents of Heather Muller and Brad Heyka also testified against eliminating capital punishment. The two were raped and murdered in 2000 by the Carr brothers, along with two of their friends.

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Victims’ families to testify against abolishing death penalty

TOPEKA – The Senate Judiciary Committee is heading into its third day of hearings on proposals to abolish the state’s death penalty.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, who chairs the committee, warned that the hearings my extend into Friday.

Included in the written testimony for Thursday are statements from Lois Muller, mother of Heather Muller, who was murdered by Jonathan and Reginald Carr in December 2000, and Larry Heyka, father of Brad Heyka, who was also killed by the Carr brothers.

There is also written testimony from Jen Sanderholm, sister of Jodi Sanderholm, who was raped, sodomized and murdered by Justin Thurber in January 2007.

The victims’ families all oppose abolishing the state’s death penalty.

The committee is considering two bills that would eliminate Kansas’ capital punishment law. Kansas reestablished the death penalty in 1994. The state has 10 people on death row; it has not  executed anyone since the 1960s.

Kansas City Democrat Sen. Chris Steineger announces run for secretary of state

chrissteinegerTOPEKA – Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, announced his bid for secretary of state on Thursday.

Steineger, 48, has served in the state Senate for 13 years. His district encompasses southern Wyandotte County.

“I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression and World War II,” Steineger said. “Many of the lessons that they passed on to me are once again applicable today. Hard work, thrift and living within our means are more sustainable than excessive spending and debt. I plan to incorporate these lessons into the operation of the secretary of state’s office.”

Steineger served on numerous legislative committees, including the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, where he learned the laws and procedures governing Kansas elections. He currently serves on the Financial Institutions and Insurance, Education and Assessment and Taxation Committees.

Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs also is seeking the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, former Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach has announced his bid for the position, as have Elizabeth Ensley, the Shawnee County election commissioner, and J.R. Claeys of Salina, a former CEO of the National Association of Government Contractors.

Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, a Republican, has announced he will not seek reelection.