Daily Archives: Jan. 26, 2010

Wichita Democrat plans to run for governor

A Wichitan says he plans to run for governor as a Democrat.

Marty Mork, 46, is disabled and living on Social Security. He has not held public office before, though he ran for Congress in 2006 and 2004 and for Wichita mayor in 2003.

But he’s got a catchy eco-devo promise: If elected, Mork promises to work to bring a Disney theme park to Kansas.

“I believe maybe as governor we could convince Disney to bring a park here,” he said. “I believe it would be beneficial to the people of the Midwest.”

Mork describes himself as anti-abortion and supportive of gun rights. He said he thinks the government spends too much and restricts too many liberties. He also thinks marijuana should be legalized and taxed.

Mork joins Herbert West III in the Democratic fray. West, a disabled paramedic and resident of Paola, ran unsuccessfully for Miami County sheriff in 2008.

Major candidates have so far eluded the Dems. Gov. Mark Parkinson insists he’s not running. Party Chairman Larry Gates opted out. And biotech guru Tom Wiggans — who moved back to Kansas a year ago — was in the race for a few weeks before backing out. State Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, says he is thinking about the race.

Liquor tax increase bubbles to the surface

martiniLegislation to double Kansas’ gallonage tax on alcohol was introduced today as another way of raising money to avoid deeper cuts to services.

The increased revenue would be split evenly between mental health services and services for the developmentally disabled, according to Rep. Kay Wolf, a Prairie Village Republican who sponsored the bill today in House tax committee.

The gallonage tax isn’t one that you see on your receipt at the liquor store. It’s a tax that’s levied on the manufacturer or importer, so it’s typically passed along to the consumer as part of the price. (Retailers and bars and restaurants pay a different tax).

The tax rate currently is 18 cents for every gallon of beer, 30 cents for a gallon of wine, and $2.50 for a gallon of liquor. It raises about $20 million a year.

The gallonage tax hasn’t been increased since 1977.

County mental health centers have been cut drastically since the recession prompted lawmakers to reduce state spending. And some 4,300 Kansans living with a developmental disability are currently waiting for services.

It could get worse unless Kansas lawmakers can seek to balance the budget — facing a shortfall of some $400 million — without more spending cuts.

Families ask lawmakers to create a “Gold Star Family” license plate

TOPEKA – Families who have lost loved ones in war are hoping to display their pride and sacrifice with a “Gold Star Family” license plate.

“The Gold Star Family tag would enable us to display our heritage and express our patriotism for our loss and our country,” Antoinette Ortiz-Colon, told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 361.

Ortiz-Colon’s father Staff Sgt. John Ortiz was killed in Vietnam in 1968.

“As the 42 years have gone by, I have lived with the loss of my father but have not been able to put things to rest,” she said.

The plate would allow her and others to honor their military family members killed in action, Ortiz-Colon said.

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, is pushing for this plate this year. Similar legislation stalled last year over concerns about who would pay the $10,000 cost of designing and distributing the plates.

This year, Kelsey has proposed the fee be paid for by private donations.

“All of us certainly want to honor those who have loved ones who have died in battle,” he said.

This year an upgrade to the Department of Revenue’s licensing computer system could delay the plate.

A department representative said with the upgrade going on, the department did not have the resources to put out the new plate – or any new licenses plate. She suggested delaying creating the new plate until July 2012 when the new Department of Motor Vehicles computer system would be up and running.

The Gold Star tradition began shortly after World War I with service banners, usually displayed in an exterior window at the homes of parents of military personnel. The original banners would show a blue star for each child in the service and a gold star for each killed in action. The tradition was cemented in World War II, when the military grew to more than 16 million personnel and 405,000 were killed, touching almost every community in the nation.

For more, read Wednesday’s Wichita Eagle.

Commissioners concerned about paperwork lag for inmates

Sedgwick County commissioners this morning said they were anxious to learn more about why paperwork to move inmates headed to state prison from the jail is taking 60 to 90 days.

The Eagle wrote about the backlog of reports called journal entries in Sunday’s paper. The reports are required to be filed before the jail can transfer an inmate sentenced to state custody. In some cases, the paperwork is taking up to 100 days. The district attorney’s office says their normal turnaround time is six weeks. From the district attorney’s office, the journal entries go to lawyers and a judge for signing and then to a court clerk for filing. In Johnson County, the turnaround time for journal entries averages about 18 days.

Commissioners said they were unaware of the problem, which is contributing to jail overcrowding.

The issue is on the agenda for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Commissioner Dave Unruh said those involved in journal entries need to speed up the process so “we can get off the front page.”

The council meets in the conference room of the county manager’s office on the third floor of the courthouse.

Sedgwick County to give $20,000 to Healthy Options

After learning more about Healthy Options for Kansas Communities’ financial picture, Sedgwick County commissioners today instructed staff to send the non-profit group $20,000.

Commissioners previously had approved the funding, pending more information about the group’s financial status.

Formerly called Health Options of Planeview, the group has been struggling because of funding cuts. Healthy Options provides medical and dental care to low-income patients, many of whom are uninsured.

Healthy Options has laid off some of its staff indefinitely and instituted one-day-a-week furloughs this month to try to continue services while improving its bottom line.

Commissioner Gwen Welshimer has been the group’s biggest supporter on the board. Commissioner Kelly Parks this morning noted that the county gives money for “parties and festivals” and should be willing to support a group that cares for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.