Daily Archives: Feb. 21, 2011

Parole Board gets no reprieve from House committee

TOPEKA — There was no parole for the Parole Board today at a meeting of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

After a hearing, none of the committee members offered a resolution opposing Gov. Sam Brownback’s order to disband the independent board and replace it with a new Prisoner Review Board, to be staffed by Corrections Department employees.

Brownback directed the change last month in an executive reorganization order, or ERO, which will automatically take effect unless at least one chamber of the Legislature passes a resolution against it within 60 days of when the governor presents it.

House rules say the committee has 30 days to pass such a resolution and send it to the House floor. But it was unclear exactly when that deadline is.

Committee Chairwoman Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said the ERO came to the committee on Jan. 24, but the House rules weren’t passed until Feb. 7. Colloton said she scheduled today’s hearing as a just-in-case measure to make sure members got a chance if they wanted to propose a resolution.

In the hearing, Parole Board member Patricia Biggs took a softer line than in previous statements. She said the board has adopted “a position of neutrality” and recognizes the ERO as a policy issue for the governor and Legislature.

Biggs

“The members of the Parole Board are committed to facilitating any and all action necessary to accomplish the transition of its powers, duties and functions to the prison review board under the ERO in an manner that is as seamless as possible,” her written testimony read.

Later, she said the testimony wasn’t a surrender, but “a recognition that our place in the pecking order is to be policy followers.”

In the hearing, however, she did question whether Department of Corrections staffers could meet a standard, set by the Supreme Court, that decisions on whether to send alleged parole violators back to prison have to be made by a “neutral and detached hearing body.”

Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts said he thinks his employees could meet that standard.

Roberts

He said he would pick the members but exercise only a “very limited role” after that.

“Our focus is to absolutely handle it just as the parole board does,” he said.

Brownback’s office has said eliminating the Parole Board would save slightly less than $500,000.

But Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, questioned Roberts on where he’d find the personnel in his department to staff the board.

“We cut the budget last year by $14 million,” he said. “You still have three people that don’t have anything to do? ‘Cause that’s what you’re saying.”

Replied Roberts: “No sir, Rep. Moxley, our staff is very busy … I would not say we have staff sitting around with nothing to do.”

He said the department is working to streamline internal procedures to free up time for executives to serve on the review board and for prison staff members to provide case support.

Campaign finance reports begin rolling in

Several candidates for Wichita City Council filed their campaign expense reports ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

District 2 candidate Charlie Stevens is leading the cash pack thus far by raising $21,950 during the most recent reporting period, which covers Jan. 1 to Feb. 17. He spent $11,773 of that, mostly on mail pieces and other ads.

District 5 incumbent Jeff Longwell raised $17,601 and spent $8,070, largely on mailings and advertisements.

District 4 candidate June Bailey logged $6,725 in donations, including a $3,000 loan to herself. She spent $5,780 of that, mostly on ads and signs.

District 2 candidate Om Chauhan reported a $10,000 self-loan but no other contributions. He spent $2,6,12 of that on canvassing, consultants and advertising.

District 3 candidate Clinton Coen reported $650 in contributions, including a $550 check from himself. He came into Jan. 1 with $160. He has spent $762 on signs and buttons. Read More »

House passes bill to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students

TOPEKA — The House has passed a bill to repeal a state law allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay resident tuition to attend public universities, community colleges and trade schools in Kansas.

Goico

Today’s 69-49 vote came after a lengthy and at times emotional speech by Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, who strongly opposes repealing in-state tuition for the immigrant students. He recounted his own personal story as a refugee who escaped communist Cuba on a tourist visa at age 15, after two schoolmates were shot for protesting the regime and one of his aunts was arrested.

Goico related how he was bounced around foster homes and orphanages in Kansas, but eventually attended Wichita State University to study engineering. Goico said he had to pay out-of-state tuition, although he graduated from a Kansas high school.

“When you find yourself in that situation, you feel like baggage,” he said.

Current law allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition if they have attended a Kansas high school for three years and earned a diploma or equivalent. They are ineligible for state or federal financial aid.

Goico said it took him 7½ years to get through college, including about 1½ years off, as he worked “the most awful jobs you can imagine” to earn tuition money. After graduation, he said, he entered the Air Force, became a pilot and served for 32 years, including deployments in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Kosovo and Bosnia.

“Just because of the grace of God I went back to school and changed my life,” he said.

Read More »