Monthly Archives: January 2011

House debate begins on Kobach voter ID and proof-of-citizenship bill



TOPEKA — The secretary of state and the ranking Democrat on the House Elections Committee traded jabs today in the opening round of hearings on a bill to force new voter registrants to prove their citizenship and require all Kansans to provide photo identification when they vote in person or by mail.

Several proponents of the proposed voter ID law, House Bill 2067, addressed the committee Monday in what will be at least two days of hearings.

Among them were the election commissioners of both Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, and a woman who served as a Sedgwick County poll worker, who testified she had witnessed numerous irregularities involving provisional ballots.

The bill is the centerpiece of newly elected Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s quest to secure the election process against what he believes to be widespread fraud and voting by noncitizens.

The bill would require that all voters — at the polls or absentee — provide election officials with government-issued photo ID to cast their ballots every time they vote.

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Next leg of East Kellogg to feature artistic elements

Wichita City Council members will be asked Tuesday to sign off on some new design features for the next phase of construction, which will convert Kellogg from an expressway to a freeway from Cypress to 159th Street East. It’s a $430 million project.

Below is a glimpse of the design features. This is also viewable starting on page 49 of the council’s agenda here.

Maize USD, Cessna and WDM Architects win 2010 clean air and sustainability awards

Maize School District’s clean diesel lawn equipment, Cessna Aircraft Company’s energy saving audits and WDM Architects’ diligent recycling will be recognized as some of Wichita’s top environmental moves on Friday, the city announced.

Mayor Carl Brewer will award the groups with 2010 Clean Air and Sustainability Awards at the Energy Summit and Fair this Friday.

The winners were selected by the city and the Metro Air Quality Improvement Task Force for “efforts to improve and preserve air quality in the four-county metro area (Butler, Harvey, Sedgwick, and Sumner Counties) and for incorporating sustainability measures in their organizational structure,” according to a media release.

Here’s how the city described the groups’ efforts: Read More »

Abortion bill hearing underway

TOPEKA — A hearing on a bill to place major new restrictions on abortion is underway right now in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, the chief author of House Bill 2035, argued that the bill is necessary to close loopholes that allowed slain Dr. George Tiller to provide late-term abortions at his clinic in Wichita.

Kinzer said the existing state law made Kansas into a “destination spot for performance of abortion.”

Main provisions of the bill include:

– requiring that both parents give their consent for a minor to have an abortion.

– abolishing the “mental health exception,” which allows doctors to justify performing an abortion if carrying the pregnancy to term would damage the mother’s mental health.

– changes the term “fetus” to “unborn child” in state law

– Requires doctors to report a detailed medical diagnosis to the state to justify performing a late-term abortion.

– allow parents of minors to file a civil suit against a doctor if they believe an abortion was performed in violation of the law.

– raise violation of abortion law from a level 10 person felony to a level eight.

Amber Versola, of the National Organization for Women, argued against the changes, saying they would fall hardest on poor and abused women and girls.

Sedgwick County to take over 911 in Derby and Haysville

Sedgwick County commissioners voted this morning to take over 911 services from Derby and Haysville.

The county will have to hire two people to serve the expanded area. The expansion requires five people, but the county will adjust staff to only hire two people.

Commissioners said they supported the consolidation as an issue of equity because the cities pay fees and taxes for the county’s emergency communications system.

Read more in Thursday’s Eagle.

Mayor Brewer delivers State of the City Address

6:48 p.m. — Mayor Carl Brewer’s State of the City Address is over. This year, he didn’t unveil any major plans or break any big news about new developments. Instead, he focused on the difficult economic times, the city’s effort to streamline its services and the need to help the hungry and homeless.

“While we may from time to time not see eye to eye on every issue, on this, we can agree: we must keep our children safe and sound in neighborhoods that protect the investments we make in our homes and our quality of life,” he said.

Perhaps the closest thing to a surprise was the announcement of the long-awaited customer service line, which aims to give Wichitans a way to voice concerns by calling one phone number.

“All you have to do is dial: W-I-C-H-I-T-A. That’s 942-4482,” he said to applause and a bit of laughter.

Brewer outlined the economic incentives the city, county and state used to create and retain jobs — particularly in Wichita’s cornerstone aviation industry. And he said the city would continue to fight to get Southwest Airlines to provide service at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport.

“We were ready for Southwest in 2010 with funding in hand – and must be ready in 2011,” he said.

See the bottom of this post for a copy of Mayor Carl Brewer’s State of the City Address.

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Derby, Haysville want county to take over 911 services

Derby and Haysville want Sedgwick County to take over 911 services for the cities, a change county commissioners will consider Wednesday.

The county would need to hire about five more full-time dispatchers to accommodate the request, which would cost about $185,000 a year.

Derby and Haysville leaders say that their residents pay a 911 tax on home and cell phone bills and that the cities should not have to provide 911 service separately.

Read more about the proposal to merge operations in Tuesday’s Eagle.

Governor signs order terminating Parole Board, appoints El Dorado warden to head Corrections Department

Gov. Sam Brownback today signed an order abolishing the state Parole Board and appointed Raymond Roberts, warden of the El Dorado Correctional Facility, to head the Department of Corrections.

In a move projected to save about $495,000, a three-person committee drawn from existing Corrections Department staff will take over responsibility for making parole decisions for the approximately 500 inmates who remain incarcerated with sentences allowing for the possibility of parole, Brownback said.

The new group will also take over the Parole Board’s responsibility to conduct hearings and decide whether to re-incarcerate ex-convicts accused of violating conditions of their parole.

Last year, the board conducted 507 parole eligibility hearings and 582 hearings for alleged parole violations, and reviewed 654 cases in which parolees admitted to violations, board member Patricia Biggs said.

Biggs has expressed concern that abolition of the Parole Board could lead to decisions by Corrections Department officials to release prisoners to ease overcrowding, or, alternatively, to keep people in prison longer to justify expansion of staff or prisons.

In addition, she said the plan raises constitutional issues of due process of law for alleged parole violators, because the same agency responsible for bringing the accusation would also be responsible for deciding the defendant’s guilt and punishment.

Brownback said today that the need for parole oversight is dwindling because the state has moved to a system in which new convicts are given exact sentences that are not open to parole review.

He said it has not been decided whether the new group, to be called the “Prisoner Review Board,” will hold public parole hearings and/or take testimony from crime victims as part of the process, as the current Parole Board does.

Although the Parole Board was created by state law, Brownback’s executive order to do away with it will automatically take effect unless the House or Senate votes to challenge the decision in the next 60 days.

Roberts has had a lengthy career in prison systems of both Kansas and his native Mississippi. He has served as warden at El Dorado since 2003.

Before that, he held positions as warden and deputy warden at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility.

Roberts is known for encouraging Christian evangelism as part of the corrections system.

At El Dorado, he worked with Central Kansas Prison Ministry to establish a Spiritual Life Center, a building used for Bible study, religious observances, computer instruction and “other wholesome activities,” Roberts said. He said the center is open to inmates of all faiths.

He said he also helped establish a nonprofit corporation to build a similar center at Ellsworth.

He is a former director of the Inner Change Prison Ministry and was correctional consultant to the Soli Deo Gloria Foundation, a group that provides grants to Christian mission activities.

Brownback said Roberts’ focus on ministry as part of the corrections process “gives men and women serving their time the opportunity to change their lives.”

Brownback also signed an executive order formally establishing his “Office of the Repealer,” to comb state laws and regulations for “out-of-date, unreasonable and burdensome” requirements.

“Laws and regulations shouldn’t hinder opportunities for Kansans and Kansas businesses,” Brownback said in a statement.

Kansas Department of Administration Secretary Dennis Taylor will serve as the repealer.

Stevens announces candidacy; takes stance against ‘corporate welfare’

District 2 map

Charlie Stevens stood at a podium in the front of an east Wichita big box building Thursday and said he wants to create a environment in Wichita where more businesses like the building’s new tenants, DTYdirect, can flourish.

Stevens, a 41-year-old real estate manager and investor, said his company bought and renovated the building that it is now leasing to DTYdirect, an online marketplace. There was no government subsidy involved — just free market business, he said. He wants city hall to focus on core services.

“Police, fire, water and sewer, streets,  parks and arts,” he said. “Those are the types of things city hall should be focused on and let our industrious citizens decide for themselves what to do with the rest of their money.”

Stevens’ comments came as he announced his bid for the District 2 Wichita City Council seat, which represents east and northeast portions of the city. Its current representative, Sue Schlapp, can’t run again because of term limits. Stevens will face Om Chauhan, Steve Harris and Paul Savage in the March 1 primary. The top two candidates will face off in the April 5 general election. The deadline to file for local city council and school board positions is noon on Jan. 25. Read More »

Wichita charity clinic executive recommended for a seat on a possibly dying state board

GraceMed CEO Dave Sanford with Health and Human Services Secretary and former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

TOPEKA — Congratulations on becoming an officer, welcome to the Titanic.

That could be the situation that Dave Sanford, chief executive officer of the GraceMed Clinic in Wichita, is facing with state government.

At a confirmation hearing Wednesday, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee unanimously and enthusiastically recommended Sanford for a position on the board of the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

Just one problem. The authority is one of eight state agencies that Gov. Sam Brownback is targeting to eliminate in his budget proposal.

If the governor gets his way, the authority will shut down less than six months from now and its functions of overseeing publicly funded health care programs will transfer to the Department of Health and Environment.

“We have been told, through the public anyway and the governor’s State of the State (speech), that the Kansas Health Policy Authority as we now know it is not forecast to continue in that role,” said Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, who chaired the meeting. “Do you know anything about that?”

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