Daily Archives: April 29, 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 Annie Tietze, D-Topeka, who carried the bill on the floor, argued that the more than century-old provision is outdated because of improvement in the treatment and understanding of mental illness.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 »