Daily Archives: Feb. 18, 2010

Senate to debate abolishing the death penalty Friday

TOPEKA – The full Senate will have the chance to debate a measure that would abolish the death penalty on Friday.

Lawmakers this week have been pushing through a slew of bills this week. Saturday is the deadline for bills non in an exempt committee to pass out of their chamber of origin. After that point the bill is considered dead – although an idea can always be revived via amendment or the bill can be blessed by sending it temporarily to an exempt committee.

There had been some question if Senate Bill 375 would come up for floor debate and a vote in the Senate. The chamber will likely wrap up its work tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who schedules bill debates, told the chamber Thursday that the bill would be up for debate on the floor.

The proposal would abolish the death penalty for crimes committed on or after July 1, 2010 and replace the crime with aggravated murder. The new crime would come with a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Supporters of capital punishment have argued that justice should not come with a price tag and the death penalty acts as a deterrent to violent crime.

Opponents have said that death penalty cases are more costly than other kinds of crimes and does little to deter crime. They have also argued that Kansas no has life without parole sentence which offers a valid alternative without the risk of potentially killing an innocent person.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said Thursday that if the bill made to his desk he would consider it and hasn’t made any forgone conclusions.

Parkinson helped lead the effort to re institute the death penalty in Kansas when he served in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Kansas last executed someone in the 1960s.

Moran changes campaign managers

Jerry Moran’s campaign for the U.S. Senate today confirmed that Aaron Trost is out as campaign manager.

The new captain is Paul Moore, a veteran of John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, a Kansas City native and an Overland Park resident.

Also out is campaign spokesman Dan Lara, who is leaving for family reasons. A new spokesperson has not been named.

A campaign official denied any major staff shakeup. Trost simply decided he wanted to do something different, and had Moran’s support until the end, the official said.

Trost “left us in great shape,” added the official. Moran leads in the polls and has outraised his GOP rival for the nomination, fellow Congressman Todd Tiahrt.

Trost has been unavailable for comment in recent days.

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Kansas Senate sends passenger rail service bill to House

heartlandflyer.croppedTOPEKA – A bill to expand passenger rail service between Kansas City and Texas is on its way to the House.

The Senate today passed Senate Bill 409 on a vote of 37-3.

The proposal would allow the state Department of Transportation to work with groups along the proposed route. It also would allow the state to enter into service agreements with Amtrak.

Groups such as the Northern Flyer Alliance have been advocating for passenger rail service that would connect Kansas City, Wichita and Dallas-Fort Worth. Current passenger rail service stops in Newton.

Senate: 16-year-olds can drive alone to church

steering wheelTOPEKA – Young drivers would be able to drive alone to and from religious services under a measure given initial approval by the Senate today.

The change in Senate Bill 484 would apply to 16-year-old drivers holding a restricted driver’s license or a farm permit. The graduated driver’s license that the state implemented this year currently bars such activity.

Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, who had championed the graduated driver’s license bill, said he supported the change.

“It makes the law a little bit more cognizant of what goes on in the real world,” he said. “I don’t see it adding to the danger element.”

The bill must pass a final vote by the Senate before it goes to the House.

Governor signs first bills of the session

Parkinson speakingFrom an announcement from the governor’s office:

To promote agricultural education and to ensure economic development in Western Kansas, Governor Mark Parkinson signed into the law the first bill of the 2010 Legislative Session today.

“With the first bill reaching my desk, I am pleased to see the Legislative Session beginning to produce results,” Parkinson said. “This legislation will benefit the agricultural education efforts at Fort Hays State and the economic vision for the City of Hays.”

HB 2414 would authorize the State Board of Regents, on behalf of Fort Hays State University, to sell and convey to the City of Hays, all of the rights, title, and interest, except mineral rights, in two tracts of real estate.

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Report: Kansas reluctant to disclose homeland security spending

security cameraJournalists at the Center for Investigative Reporting and The Center for Public Integrity have uncovered some questionable spending of federal homeland security grants. For example, the money bought $3,000 worth of lapel pins in West Virginia.

What did they find in Kansas? Reluctance… and some bomb-disabling robots. Read More »

Study: Kansas public pension system a ‘serious concern’

Calculator and stock chartsThe Pew Center for the States has issued a new report on public pension systems across the country — and Kansas, the center says, faces serious public pension problems.

Kansas was one of 19 states rated with “serious concerns” for the unfunded liability of its pension programs for public employees.  In fact, Kansas was one of just eight states receiving zero points on the center’s four-point pension evaluation scale.

The center says just 59 percent of the state’s pension liabilities are funded.  Most experts say 80 percent is the minimum, although that has slipped a bit in the recession. Read More »

Parkinson: No secretary of state pick for 10 days

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson said it will be at least a week and a half or so before he announces the state’s new secretary of state.PARKINSON_MH6

Parkinson said he’ll consider members of both parties for the job, which opened up Monday with the resignation of Republican Ron Thornburgh.

Many expected Parkinson, a Democrat, to appoint a new secretary this week, but he said he’s taking his time to en-sure he makes the right pick.

“I don’t have a specific date,” he told reporters during an impromtu press conference this morning. “The criteria is quite simple: We have to have someone who is competent and who can run the 2010 election.”

Parkinson also said he’s pleased with the Democrats’ new candidate for governor, state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City. He noted that Holland has experience in elected office — and a background of owning a successful small business.

Parkinson called Holland “a great state senator” who would “make a great governor.”

And he said he thinks it’s “hilarious” that many Republicans still suspect he’ll change his mind and run himself.

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