Monthly Archives: April 2010

Senate panel cuts budget proposal, gears up for tax discussion

TOPEKA — A Senate panel cut about $91 million from its budget proposal Thursday in an effort to find a plan lawmakers could agree on.

Lawmakers also restored about $14 million to select programs.

“We were at the point that every cut that we made was devastating to somebody,” said Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “All of them have a lot of merit; the problem that we have is how do we come up with the revenue to put all of this back?”

The proposal still would need millions in new revenue to fill a budget gap. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will discuss a growing list of possibilities this morning.

Read More »

House supports right of people with mental illness to vote

TOPEKA — The House of Representatives has passed a proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee people with mental illness the right to vote.

The approval came on an overwhelming voice vote and would change a provision in the state Constitution, which allows the Legislature to deny the right to vote to persons with mental illness, prisoners, and felons who haven’t had their rights restored.

Rep. Annie Tietze, D-Topeka, who carried the bill on the floor, argued that the more than century-old provision is outdated because of improvement in the treatment and understanding of mental illness.

She also said the existing provision in the Constitution stigmatizes people with mental illness because it lumps them in with felons. “Ninety-five-thousand Kansans are second-class citizens,” Tietze said.

The amendment has already passed the Senate and will now go to voters as a ballot question in November.

The change will be primarily symbolic. Supporters have said they’re unaware of anyone who has actually been barred from voting solely on the grounds of mental illness.

Laid-off aircraft worker warns of consequences of mental-health cuts

TOPEKA — Randy Foster of Wichita had an ominous warning for state legislators today: Restore cuts to state mental health services or deal with a stampede of untreated mentally ill people when unemployment payments run out for thousands of aircraft workers idled by the recession.

Foster has some experience with that, having descended into clinical depression and alcoholism after he lost his job as a precision sheet-metal mechanic at Boeing in 2002 following the 9-11 attacks. Since then, he’s lost his wife, lived on the streets for six months and served a year in jail for DUI offenses.

Randy Foster, right, Debra Corey and her daughter, Desirae, 11, participated in a demonstration seeking funding for people with disabilities.

Randy Foster, right, Debra Corey and her daughter, Desirae, 11, participated in a demonstration seeking funding for people with disabilities.

“Since I’ve experienced it, I see all the warning signs,” said Foster, 45. “All these people I know (who have been laid off recently) are already falling into the alcoholism and stuff. They don’t even realize it until a certain point and when they do, the stuff they’ll need to get help won’t be there.”

Foster spoke at a rally in Topeka, where, for the second time in as many days, people with disabilities marched on the Capitol seeking more money for community-based services. Read More »

Kline ethics hearing postponed until fall

A hearing on a legal ethics complaint filed against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been postponed until Nov. 15.

The hearing had been scheduled for next month. The Supreme Court announced the change Thursday, saying Kline’s team of attorneys wasn’t available until fall.

Kline, who served as Johnson County DA after he left the AG’s office, faces allegations that he disobeyed the Kansas Supreme Court, misled judges and withheld information from a grand jury.

In a formal response released Thursday, Kline denied any wrongdoing. Kline now teaches law at a university in Virginia.

Read More »

New Oklahoma abortion law draws emotional response from patients

By Tim Talley/Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — The requirements of Oklahoma’s new abortion law are drawing some emotional responses from patients, a clinic director said Wednesday, now that women must have an ultrasound  and hear a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure can be done.

The law went into effect a day earlier, when the state Senate overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of that measure and one that prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy.

“It’s been difficult for some of the patients,” said Linda Meek, executive director of Reproductive Services of Tulsa. “We’ve had patients leave the ultrasound room in tears because of what  they had to hear.”

Read More »

Chris Presson resigns from post as GM of Intrust Bank Arena

Bruce Haertl (left) of KWCH News talks to Chris Presson of SMG at the Media Open House for the Intrust Bank Arena in 2009

Bruce Haertl (left) of KWCH News talks to Chris Presson of SMG at the Media Open House for the Intrust Bank Arena in 2009

Chris Presson is resigning from his post as general manager of Intrust Bank Arena on May 7 because of “family reasons,” Sedgwick County and arena management company, SMG, announced this afternoon.

Presson said he made his decision last weekend after thinking about the priorities in his life and how he spends his time.

“I need to renew my energy and think about where I’ve been and where I’m going,” he said in an interview.

Presson, 44, is married and has three girls under age 10. He said he loves his job, but that it is very demanding.

“Opening a new arena is a very tough job and it takes a lot of time, energy and effort,” he said. “And it takes a toll on anyone.”

The abrupt departure comes almost two years after he was named general manager.

SMG will search for a replacement from within the company, according to a statement by Gary Desjardins, SMG general manager, Ford Center, and SMG regional oversight manager.

In an interview, Desjardins declined to discuss details about the resignation, saying that it is something that is “kind of private.”

“There’s not much more to read into it,” he said.

County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said that she and other commissioners were “dumbfounded” when County Manager William Buchanan informed them about Presson’s resignation after an executive session today.

She said there was no indication that he would be leaving. “He’s done a good job so far,” she said. “He’s been responsive to our questions and so on.” Read More »

City wants your help in Arkansas River cleanup

Stacey Groner, front, and Mike Patrick pick up trash along the banks of the Arkansas River in 2002.

Stacey Groner, front, and Mike Patrick pick up trash along the banks of the Arkansas River in 2002.

You usually don’t have to walk far along the Arkansas River downtown to find a plastic bottle, candy wrapper or discarded beer can. But every year, the city tries to get volunteers to come out and help clean it up before Riverfest kicks off.

This year’s River Trash Round Up kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. If you want to help out, just show up at the southeast corner of the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium parking lot at Maple and McLean streets. (See map.)

It can be a dirty job. So the city recommends you wear clothing you don’t mind tarnishing a bit. The city will hand out gloves and plastic bags.

The city also hopes that folks that canoe and kayak will bring their boats down to help pick up litter that can’t be reached from the banks.

The cleanup is sponsored by Cargill, Ducks Unlimited, Waste Management and the city.

Senate narrowly rejects Health Care Amendment

healthcareTOPEKA – The Senate on Wednesday voted down a resolution that sought to amend the Kansas Constitution to bar the federal government from requiring people purchase health insurance.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1626 failed on a vote of 19-21. Because the resolution sought to amend the state constitution, it needed to receive a two-thirds majority in both chambers – or 24 votes in the Senate.

Senate declines new regulations for sexually oriented businesses

Sexually-oriented businessTOPEKA – The Senate sent back to committee Wednesday a bill that would regulate sexually oriented businesses such as adult bookstores and strip clubs.

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, had attempted to have the Senate simply agree with changes the House had made to the measure and send it to the governor. That failed on a tie vote of 20-20.

The measure would have imposed restrictions on where sexually oriented businesses (or SOBs as lawmakers were calling them on the chamber floors) could set up shop and how far dancers needed to remain from their clientele while on stage. The bill would also require such businesses be closed between midnight at 6 a.m. Read More »

Republican state senator to oppose Jenkins in 2nd Congressional District primary

Lynn JenkinsFreshman Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins from Kansas’ 2nd District has picked up a Republican opponent as she seeks re-election this year.

Two-term state Sen. Dennis Pyle of Sabetha , a farmer, cited what he called Jenkins’ “questionable votes” and support from liberal groups.

From a Pyle statement:

“This race will be an issue-oriented one, and we will clearly define the differences between us. Most voters base their choices on the combination of a candidate’s record and rhetoric. With me, they will find no differences.