Daily Archives: Feb. 10, 2011

Bikers seek permission to bypass “dead red” lights; police say no way

TOPEKA — It sounds like the plot of a ’50s B movie — bearded, leather-clad bikers clashing with police.

But today, words were the weapons as motorcycle riders came before a House committee seeking legal relief from red lights that never change.

The issue before the House Transportation Committee was House Bill 2058, better known as the “Dead Red” bill.

Cyclists representing the motorcycle organization ABATE — A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments — testified that they could wait forever at traffic signals, because their bikes often lack the mass to trigger sensors embedded in the pavement that cause the lights to change from red to green.

Rider Tim Farr said that late at night or when there’s a lull in traffic, “you either sit there forever or you just run the light. There’s no way around it.”

The Dead Red bill would change state law to allow cyclists to ride through a red light after waiting a reasonable length of time for the light to change, provided they proceed in a safe manner.

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Kansas Senate confirms new securities commissioner

The Kansas Senate has confirmed Aaron Jack, an Andover resident, as securities commissioner for the state.

Jack, a Republican, is a former state representative.

He received his master’s degree in business administration from Friends University in 2007 and his law degree from Washburn Law School in 2009.

Jack and his wife, Ann, have two daughters, Kate and Claire.

Sedgwick County opens up budget suggestions to public

Sedgwick County is asking the public for suggestions about ways to more cost-effectively deliver services.

Its website, www.sedgwickcounty.org, includes a new public hearing link where people can leave suggestions about how to deliver services more efficiently.

The move comes as the county starts discussions about next year’s budget. The county expects to use about $14 million of its reserves this year. County Manager William Buchanan has told staff and commissioners that the gap between revenue and spending can’t continue.

“The residents and visitors of Sedgwick County deserve quality public services,” Buchanan said in a news release. “When you call 9-1-1, our firefighters, sheriff officers and EMS crews respond; when you are in need of physical or mental health assistance, our health department and COMCARE services are there; when you want affordable, quality local entertainment, you visit our parks, Sedgwick County Zoo and Exploration Place. Our goal is not to simply eliminate the services that contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in Sedgwick County, but to potentially change the way we deliver these services.”

Anti- “Obamacare” amendment clears House

TOPEKA — The Health Care Freedom Amendment is halfway to the ballot.

The proposed state constitutional amendment is designed to prevent the federal government from mandating that individuals buy health insurance, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and President Obama last year.

Most proponents of the bill argued that the measure would uphold states’ rights under US Constitution.

Freshman Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, carried the measure on the House floor. He said it would “preserve the right and freedom of Kansans to to provide for their own health care.”

He said the federal government had exceeded its authority and that the state amendment is “nothing less than a referendum on the continued viability of the 10th Amendment.”

Other proponents acknowledged the opposition arguments that a state amendment could not trump federal law, but they said it still sends a message of opposition on “Obamacare.”

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, a lawyer and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, conceded the amendment would not “automatically opt us out of Obamacare” and Kansas will have to comply with decisions of the US Supreme Court.

“But that doesn’t mean what we’re doing is futile in any sense,” he said, adding that it’s valuable to assert the state’s right to limit federal authority.

Opponents argued that the measure is dishonest with Kansas voters because it implies their votes can shield them from tax penalties if they don’t obtain insurance.

“You’re going to tell people that if they vote for it, they’re going to be protected,” said Rep. Ed. Trimmer, D-Winfield. “We can’t nullify federal law with the state Constitution … I think we’re misleading people.”

Proponents of the bill positioned themselves as defenders of the values of the founding fathers of the nation, including quotations from the Federalist Papers.

Opponents tried to paint the bill’s backers as more like the founding fathers of the Confederacy, who also cited states’ rights and the 10th Amendment as their justification to leave the union.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence defended the Affordable Care Act, citing more popular portions of the legislation, such as its ban on using pre-existing conditions to deny coverage and a new benefit allowing parents to keep their children on their insurance to the age of 26.

She predicted the system it sets up will one day be as accepted as Social Security, which was highly controversial when it was first passed.

“We’ve always had to fight for something that’s new and challenging,” she said.

For the amendment to become a part of the state Constitution, both the House and Senate must pass it by a two-thirds margin, followed by a majority vote of the electorate in the 2012 election.

The House was widely expected to approve the measure, which passed the 125-member body by a vote of 93-26.

House votes to shut down KTEC, move functions to Commerce and colleges

TOPEKA — Following Gov. Sam Brownback’s lead, the House has approved a bill to abolish the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation.

The agency, better known as KTEC, is a state-owned corporation created in 1986 to help incubate high-tech industries by providing business assistance and in some cases, direct financial investment, to emerging companies .

As a budget-cutting measure, Brownback proposed to abolish the stand-alone agency and merge its functions into the Department of Commerce and the Board of Regents.

The move is expected to save about $1.7 million a year.

Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, made the case for keeping KTEC, saying its efforts had generated $1.15 billion in business sales and 2,043 high-paying jobs in the last three years.

He said he’s concerned that KTEC’s specific portfolio, high-tech startups, would get lost in the larger Commerce Department.

“In my opinion, KTEC needs to be a stand-alone agency,” Gatewood said. “Kansas will truly suffer if we pass this and merge this.”

Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, who carried the bill on the House floor, said KTEC was a good idea in 1986, when he was in junior high.

But now, he said, “today every business we look at has technology consequences … Business is technology.”

“Any of us who have seen KTEC work in our districts know some wonderful things have come from it,” said Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City. But she added, “I have great respect for what Gov. Brownback is trying to do.”

The bill, House Bill 2054, passed on a voice vote.