Monthly Archives: January 2011

Secretary of State Kobach unveils voter-ID bill

Getting an early start on his No. 1 campaign pledge, Secretary of State Kris Kobach unveiled a bill today requiring all voters to show photo identification at the polls and proof of U.S. citizenship to register for the first time.

If the Secure and Fair Elections – SAFE — Act passes, Kobach said Kansas would “stand head and shoulders above the other 49 states in securing the integrity of elections.”

Kobach said his hope “is that Kansas will be to stopping election fraud what Arizona is to stopping illegal immigration.”

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Candidates lining up for Wichita City Council races

As the deadline to file approaches, the field of candidates running for a seat on the Wichita City Council is widening. Here’s a look at who has filed, appointed a treasurer or said they plan to file before the deadline at noon on Jan. 25. Read More »

Brownback unveils budget, cuts per-pupil base state aid to schools

Brownback

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget would decrease the amount the state spends on base state aid per student.

While the amount, which is typically used when discussing the amount the state spends on schools, would decrease overall, state k-12 spending would increase, the administration said Thursday.

Brownback’s office unveiled his budget proposal in presentations to the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Per pupil base state aid would decrease to $3,780 from the current $4,012 per student. But, the administration argued, overall public school spending would increase $129 million.

By including all money the state sends to schools – such as money for bond payments and teacher retirements – Brownback’s proposal calculates that state spending per student would increase to $4,743 from $4,549 in the current budget.

“We want to get away from talking about a small amount of money that goes to our schools,” Brownback’s Director of Policy Landon Fulmer told the House Appropriations Committee.

Money going to bonded indebtedness and teachers’ retirement payments were taking away from money going into the classroom, he said.

The budget also trims $9.2 million by eliminating eight state agencies. Most of the duties of those agencies are simply shifted into other departments. The cost savings come from eliminating administrative duties.

Among the agencies being eliminated are the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which was created by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The agency will be merged into the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Programs that the authority currently administers, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and State Employee Health Benefits Program will become part of the Division of Health for a savings of $1 million.

The responsibility of promoting Kansas tourism will shift from the Department of Commerce to the state Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Overall, the budget proposal increased spending from the state general fund to $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, from $5.7 billion in the current budget.

The all-funds budget — which includes money from the federal government — would increase from the $13.7 billion approved last spring by lawmakers to $13.9 billion.

For more, read Thursday’s Wichita Eagle.

Wichitan Dave Dennis wins contentious vote to become state school board chairman

Dave Dennis

After six deadlocked votes, five by paper ballot, the state Board of Education has selected Wichita member Dave Dennis as chairman.

On its seventh try, the board voted 6-4 to hand the gavel to Dennis, who replaces Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kan., as chairperson.

Dennis was the only candidate for the job nominated on the final ballot.

The board had deadlocked 5-5 on a series of votes between Dennis and board member Sally Cauble of Liberal. Three deadlocked votes were held Tuesday and the item had been deferred until this morning.

On the sixth paper ballot, board member Carolyn Wims-Campbell changed her vote to favor Dennis’ selection.

Dennis voted for himself, along with fellow Wichita member Walt Chappell, John Bacon of Olathe, Kathy Martin of Clay Center, and Kenneth Willard of Hutchinson.

Voting against Dennis were Cauble, Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kan., Jana Shaver of Independence and Sue Storm of Overland Park.

The board also deadlocked twice on the selection of its vice chairperson before electing Wims-Campbell on a 6-4 vote. The members’ individual votes, on paper ballots, were not immediately disclosed.

The board had earlier tied 5-5 deciding between board members Shaver and Willard.

A vote matching Willard and Cauble also deadlocked 5-5.

Sedgwick County honors Patriot Guard

The Patriot Guard was awarded the Sedgwick County commission’s chairman’s award this morning for its work honoring fallen military members and law enforcement officers.

New commissioner Richard Ranzau said the Patriot Guard does good work to correct a wrong, alluding to military funeral protests by members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.

New commissioner Jim Skelton called the protests by the Fred Phelps family “disgusting.”

Chairman Karl Peterjohn gave the group a plaque recognizing its service.

Members of the Patriot Guard escort fallen military and law enforcement at funerals and form a barrier between protesters and loves ones’ families.

The group plans to attend the funeral of Army Sgt. Eric Nettleton, 26, a Wichita native who died last week in Afghanistan.

Dave Unruh to lead Sedgwick County commission

Sedgwick County commissioners elected Dave Unruh, who is in his third term on the board, as chairman of the commission for the next year.

Commissioner Tim Norton moved to make Unruh the chairman. The board unanimously agreed.

For the vice chair, or chair pro tem, new commissioner Richard Ranzau suggested outgoing chairman Karl Peterjohn. Unruh suggested Norton.

The board voted individually for pro-tem, explaining why they supported that person, and Norton will be pro-tem.

Derby mayor pressures new commissioner to reconsider street closing

Derby Mayor Dion Avello is asking new Sedgwick County commissioner Jim Skelton to reconsider a decision made before he joined the board about closing a portion of 71st Street South.

The county closed the road at the request of the owners of Cook Airfield, who plan to expand the runway at the airport and develop the area with homes that have hangars for planes.

The vote to close a part of the road was controversial and not unanimous. Chairman Karl Peterjohn and former commissioners Kelly Parks and Gwen Welshimer voted to close it. Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh voted against the closure.

Derby sued the county after the decision.

“As you know,” Avello wrote to Skelton, “the city of Derby opposed the closure of this county section line road for the benefit of one small business and to the detriment of Derby’s future growth potential.”

He said the lawsuit could be put to rest — “at substantial savings in attorneys’ fees to both city and county taxpayers” — if the board were to reverse its decision.

Skelton mentioned the letter at a meeting with county staff Tuesday. County attorney Richard Euson suggested talking about the matter during an executive session at Wednesday’s commission meeting.


Read the full letter here

Wichita council allows hot dog vendors in Old Town

Sidewalk vendors will be allowed to sell food items in Old Town, after the Wichita City Council this morning approved an ordinance change.

Previously, only the central downtown area was allowed to have sidewalk vendors. Two individuals who operate sidewalk hot dog carts requested the change.

Inauguration as it happens

11:05 a.m.:

With eight or more inches of snow on the ground outside, the inauguration of Gov. Sam Brownback has been moved inside to the House Chamber in the Capitol building.

The affair is traditionally held on the Capitol steps; Mother Nature had other plans.

Among the dignitaries introduced so far: former Gov. Bill Graves, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, and U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Second District and Kevin Yoder, Third District, former US Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Former Govs. Mike Hayden and John Carlin, along with Sen. Jerry Moran, were expected to attend but unable to because of the weather.

A message was read from Brownback thanking outgoing Gov. Mark Parkinson for making it “one of the most seamless transitions in recent history.”

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Farewell reception set for Sedgwick County commissioner Kelly Parks

Sedgwick County commissioner Kelly Parks will attend his last meeting Wednesday, after which his colleagues will bid farewell to him at an 11 a.m. reception.

The reception will be in the basement meeting room at the courthouse, 525 N. Main.

Parks, a Republican, did not seek re-election to his seat representing the northern part of the county, including Valley Center and Park City.

Richard Ranzau, a Republican, will be sworn in as the District 4 commissioner on Sunday.