Daily Archives: March 24, 2010

A Republican proposing a tax increase? It’s not what it seems

TOPEKA – You know an amendment is unpopular when everyone votes against it – including the sponsor. Or maybe it’s just opposite day under the dome.

After 5 p.m. Wednesday, on the last bill of the evening, Rep. Anthony Brown tried to insert into Senate Bill 255 the governor’s proposed three-year, 1 cent sales tax increase. In its original form, SB 255  would authorize sales tax increases in Pottawatomie and Kingman counties for various projects.

Brown is a conservative Republican from Eudora and the proposal most likely was an attempt to get House Democrats on record voting against the increase.

And vote against it they did. The amendment failed 0-115. Republicans asked that the vote be a roll call vote, meaning it was recorded.

Watching the board where House members’ votes show up either red for no or green for yes, one Republican lawmaker joked: “That is the reddest board I’ve ever seen.”

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Governor signs bills to boost passenger rail service

heartlandflyer.hutTOPEKA — Passenger rail service between Kansas City and Dallas-Fort Worth got a boost on Wednesday when the governor signed into law two bills that could facilitate the project.

“Passenger rail service in Kansas would create economic opportunities for the future, but the planning must begin now,” said Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, in a written statement. “A strong public infrastructure system helps attract businesses and jobs to our state, and a high speed rail service is another piece in furthering our economic recovery.”

One measure would create the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact, which would allow Kansas to work with other Midwestern states to develop high speed rail service.

The second would allow the state transportation secretary to enter into agreements with Amtrak to expand passenger rail service in Kansas.

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Senate panel endorses slots bill but cuts Wichita

012909casino_br05.JPGFrom staff and wire reports

TOPEKA — A Kansas Senate committee endorsed a bill designed to bring slot machines to racetracks in two communities but eliminated a chance for a Sedgwick County revote on slots.

The measure approved Wednesday by the Federal and State Affairs Committee rewrites a 3-year-old gambling law. The 5-4 vote sends it to the Senate for debate, which is likely to happen next week.

The bill had included a provision that would have allowed a second vote on slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park. That was eliminated. An amendment to reinsert the option is likely when the measure is debated on the floor, said committee Chairman Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina.

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High schoolers: line up here to get your share of anti-government angst

Marcus McNeil makes a speech for mayor during the Mayor's Youth Council elections at City Hall in February.

Marcus McNeil makes a speech for mayor during the Mayor's Youth Council elections at City Hall in February.

City Hall is trying to recruit 40 Wichita-area high school students to be on the Mayor’s Youth Council, the city announced today.

The recruiting started in February and runs through April for all those students who want a closer look at the gears of local government.

Students mostly focus on community volunteer projects, such as their shoe drive last year. But they also are occasionally asked to informally weigh in on issues that impact their age group.

The council positions are open to students in Wichita high schools and in a few other nearby schools, including Maize, Valley Center and Andover. Applicants must have at least a 2.5 grade point average. Applications are available on the right side of this page.

Hire a prostitute, buy a spot on the Kansas sex offender list

Thinking of hiring a lady of the evening in Kansas? Might want to think again.

The Kansas House today endorsed legislation to target human traffickers, but not before amending the bill to put those convicted of hiring a prostitute on the state’s sex offender registry for 10 years.

The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Slattery, an Mission Democrat, said the idea is to go after the demand for prostitutes, which he noted are often the victims of human trafficking.

“As the father of a young daughter it is the most atrocious thing I can think about,” he said of the practice of forcing young women into the sex trade.

But to account for youthful indiscretions, Slattery wouldn’t make the Scarlet Letter for prostitution permanent.

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House tries again, and fails, to block federal health care reform

Supporters of a proposed Constitutional Amendment designed to block a federal insurance mandate tried again today in the Kansas House.

And, again, the vote failed to get the all-important two-thirds majority needed to pass the legislation.

Wednesday’s vote was 75-47 – the same outcome as Tuesday’s vote. To be added to the state Constitution, amendments must be passed by both chambers with a two-thirds vote (84 votes in the House) and then be approved by the voters.

The proposed amendment would attempt to prohibit the federal government from requiring nearly all Kansans to buy insurance. That’s one of the cornerstones of the health care reform bill passed Sunday night by the U.S. House.

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House endorses Flint Hills burning resolution

flinthillsburningTOPEKA – The House gave preliminary approval to a non-binding resolution asking that Flint Hills prairie burns be exempted from federal air quality regulations.

Large sections of the Flint Hills are burned annually to help keep trees and woody plants from encroaching on the prairie and to provide richer fodder for cattle.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1623 would send a letter to the federal government urging that new, stricter air quality rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempt air quality violations when they coincide with rangeland burns.

Cities such as Wichita and Kansas City, Kan., fear that smoke from the burns, combined with the stricter regulations, could bump them out of federal air quality compliance.

The resolution asks the EPA to recognize the Flint Hills as a “unique ecosystem of historic significance.”

The resolution has already passed the Senate and is awaiting final action in the House.

Sedgwick County: Shoot ‘em if you got ‘em

fireworksSedgwick County commissioners today approved the use — but not the sale — of fireworks in unincorporated areas.

The vote to repeal the county’s ban on fireworks use came after months of discussion, a large public hearing at the county zoo and a survey showing 77 percent of residents in favor.

County Fire Marshal Tim Millspaugh also favored legalizing fireworks use, saying it “will not cause any significant increase in fireworks-related fires or injuries.”

Fireworks are readily available in cities throughout Sedgwick County in the days leading up to the Fourth of July and widely used in incorporated and unincorporated areas.

The new rules will allow revelers to use any consumer-grade commercially available fireworks in the unincorporated county from July 1 to July 4 every year, and on the fifth when it is the legal holiday, as it is this year.

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