Monthly Archives: December 2010

Emler elected Senate Republican leader

emlerTOPEKA – Sen. Jay Emler is taking over as the Senate majority leader after running unopposed for the position Monday.

Emler, R-Lindsborg, will replace former Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who was elected to be the state’s attorney general.

In addition to helping manage the Senate caucus, the majority leader also controls the flow of legislation in the chamber and decides when — or if — a bill will be debated on the floor.

Emler said he did not plan to use the position to block legislation he might not agree with or that would be contentious.

“It is not my position to bottleneck anything,” he said after the short election meeting Monday. “If the supporters for the bill can come in and show it is not an exercise in futility I certainly wouldn’t hold it back.”

Emler also said he did not expect the tenor of the Senate would change much. The chamber — which has 40 members compared to 125 in the House — is typically viewed as the more sedate and deliberative chamber.

Elected Sedgwick County officials won’t take pay raise

Sedgwick County commissioners, the sheriff and the register of deeds pledged recently at a meeting that they would forego a raise next year, finding it more important that their staff get pay bumps.

Since then, the county’s other elected officials say they too won’t take a raise.

Commissioners recently approved, with a 4-1 vote, a 2 percent pool for merit raises. Chairman Karl Peterjohn voted against awarding raises, saying the economy is too uncertain.

Linda Kizzire, who will be sworn in in January as county treasurer, said today she won’t take a raise. So did Kelly Arnold, the county clerk.

District attorney Nola Foulston’s salary is set by state statute. Foulston’s salary did not increase in 2009, this year and is not increasing in 2011.

Old Town TIF district may soon end

HOTEL AT OLDTOWNAll of the redevelopment projects financed by property tax money in a special district in Old Town have been paid off. Now city officials recommend closing the tax increment financing district and refunding unspent tax money to USD 259, Sedgwick County and the city.

Tax increment finance districts channel property tax dollars generated by new improvements to flow into accounts that pay for special projects — such as streets, parks, lighting and public art. The money has also been used to acquire land for developers and demolish blighted buildings.

The Old Town TIF district — bounded by Douglas, Second Street, Santa Fe and Washington — generated a lot of new property tax that paid off a long list of projects years ago.

Officials have talked about ending the Old Town TIF district since 2008. But Old Town businesspeople and city council members have kept the district alive to fund extra projects.

On Tuesday, council members will vote to shut the district down and split the roughly $1 million balance in the TIF district account between the school district, county and city.

Brownback names head of the Office of the Repealer, calls for CO2 regulations to be cut

TOPEKA –- Dennis Taylor is Gov.-elect Sam Brownback’s pick to lead the office charged with eliminating regulations deemed unnecessary.

Brownback on Thursday announced Taylor, 61, as his pick for secretary of administration. He will also oversee the newly created Office of the Repealer. Taylor is currently the performance management coordinator for Topeka.

The governor-elect called Taylor “a proven problem solver” who would help pare back government and get the almost 100,000 unemployed Kansans back to work.

“He knows these are tough decisions. We have got to deliver the service and we have got to do so in as compassionate a fashion as we can,” said Brownback, a Republican.

The Office of the Repealer, which would comb through state statutes and regulations to find those that were either outdated or deemed harmful to the state’s economy, was a Brownback campaign pledge.

Taylor, who still needs to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate, said he did not have any immediate regulations he thought should be eliminated.

“It is a process, not a weekly report, and not something that happens immediately or overnight,” he said.

Brownback said that there were regulations he would like to see eliminated, including some educational regulations that had been outlined during the campaign.

“I also believe that the CO2 regulation that was put on, I believe, unconstitutionally and without statute is a clear one,” Brownback said. “This is not in the law, it is not in the statutes and that is a big one that has had a huge impact on the state of Kansas.”

Brownback’s comments come the same day that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is scheduled to announce its decision on permits for a new coal-fired power plant in western Kansas.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is seeking a permit from state to build an 895-megawatt generator in Holcomb, Kansas. The company had originally wanted to build two 700-megawatt plants but those plans were thwarted in 2007 when then KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby blocked the permits citing concerns over the carbon dioxide the plants would emit.

The smaller plant was part of a negotiated compromise engineered by current Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. It was one of his first actions after taking over office from former-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius who had supported Bremby’s actions.

Brownback to announce his pick for the Office of Administration

TOPEKA – Gov.-elect Sen. Sam Brownback will announce his pick for secretary of administration on Thursday morning.

The nominee will also oversee the Office of the Repealer, which Brownback promised to create during his campaign. The office will recommend eliminating statues and regulations that have “out-lived their original function, are in conflict with one another, or simply do not make sense.”

The Kansas Department of Administration oversees the state budget, state buildings — including those under lease — and other activities such as printing, computer services and purchasing.

The nominee must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

KDHE to hold meetings about smoke management plans Thursday

TOPEKA – The Department of Health and Environment will hold a meeting to discuss the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan and answer questions on Thursday in Wichita.

The meeting will be 10 a.m. at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St. North, Wichita. It will include a presentation by KDHE and time for questions.

Nine cities that paid jail fees from start will get refund

The nine cities that paid an hourly fee Sedgwick County began charging in 2008 to house inmates in jail on municipal charges will get an 85 percent refund, commissioners decided today.

Staff had recommended refunding 80 percent of what those cities paid, or about $112,000 altogether. But a majority of commissioners today supported refunding 85 percent of the fees.

The county sued several cities, including Wichita, that refused to pay the fees. Those cities eventually settled to pay back fees from 2008 and 2009 at 26 to 37 percent of what they owed.

All cities have agreed to pay at 100 percent starting this year.

The city of Wichita recently settled at 37 percent, paying what it owed with land it has deeded to the county.

No push for voter approval of tax increases by county

After some confusion about Roberts Rules of Order from the bench, Sedgwick County commissioners have voted for a legislative agenda that does not include pushing for voter approval of any tax increases that raise the mill levy.

Commissioners Tim Norton, Dave Unruh and Gwen Welshimer voted for the platform without the measure. Commissioners Kelly Parks and Karl Peterjohn voted against the legislative agenda without it.

Unruh said voters elect officials to make decisions for them about how to best run the county. Welshimer said she has worked to reduce property taxes but concluded, after voters in her district did not re-elect her, that lower taxes were not important to her constituents. Wichita City Council member Jim Skelton, a Republican, won the District 5 seat, which represents parts of south Wichita and Derby and Mulvane.

Commissioners heard from several speakers who spoke in support of asking for voter approval of tax increases.

Commissioner debating legislative agenda

Sedgwick County commissioners are debating next year’s legislative agenda with some disagreement about whether to push for voter approval of tax increases that would raise the mill levy.

Board members Dave Unruh and Gwen Welshimer have spoken out against including that component in the legislative agenda. Welshimer said she has worked to lower property taxes for residents but concluded, after she lost her re-election bid, that residents in her district don’t feel that’s important.

With motions and subsequent motions, commissioners have gotten tangled up in procedure and are taking a 10-minute break.

Commissioners approve art garden plans

Sedgwick County commissioners this morning approved an art garden at Sedgwick County Park, agreeing to set aside land for the project and giving the go-ahead for the artists’ vision.

The artists plan to raise $250,000 privately for the project, which will feature a solar-lunar astronomical calendar made from about 100 pieces of native limestone.

With commissioners’ vote today, the county agreed to build a path compliant under the Americans with Disabilities Act to the art garden and to maintain the garden.