Daily Archives: March 17, 2011

Senate passes bill outlawing ‘bath salts’

Bath salts that can produce a meth-like high when ingested would be outlawed under a bill passed by the Senate today.

Bath salts containing cathinones, which were being legally sold in the state, are linked to recent cases of addiction and suicide.

The House has passed a similar bill. Minor differences between the bills will be addressed before the legislation is sent to the governor.

The Senate’s version, Senate Substitute for House Bill 2049, also addresses synthetic marijuana, known as K-3.

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Whirlwind committee meeting sends casino smoking ban bill to House floor

TOPEKA — In a hastily called meeting in a Capitol hallway, the House Health and Human Services Committee today advanced a bill to ban smoking in casinos.

The vote came a day after the committee held hearings on that and a competing measure that would have exempted bars that sell lottery tickets from the statewide smoking ban passed last year.

Today, the committee stripped the bar bill and replaced it with the casino smoking ban, which now is House Bill 2040.

Casinos — to be operated by private companies under the auspices of the state lottery — are under development at several sites around the state. The closest to Wichita will be at the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike.

Technically, the casinos will be “Expanded Lottery Facilities” owned by the state, which will get a portion of the profits.

The casino operators testified that a smoking ban would cost them — and the state — about 20-25 percent of the revenue they expect.

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Bill to dump state income taxes falls short

TOPEKA — A bill to phase out the state income tax and permanently extend last year’s sales tax increase died today on the floor of the House.

Substitute for Senate Bill 1 failed on a vote of 61 to 56, with eight representatives not voting.

The bill would have created a formula to reduce personal and corporate income taxes each year, based on the rate of increase in other classes of tax revenue coming to the state.

It also would have frozen the state sales tax at 6.3 percent — the current rate, which includes a three-year, one-percentage-point hike approved last year in response to the ongoing recession.

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Proposal to restrict sex-oriented businesses stalls in committee

TOPEKA — A bill regulating sex-oriented businesses failed to clear a Senate committee today.

House Bill 2107, known as the “Community Defense Act,”  targets strip clubs and adult entertainment stores. It would restrict such businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of a school, park, church, library or residence. It would also require such businesses to close at midnight and outlaw physical contact between patrons and performers.

It passed the House last week. But the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee voted not to advance the bill to the Senate floor. Committee Chairman Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said that the bill could now be brought out of the committee to the Senate floor only by a motion requiring 24 votes. The Senate has 40 members of the Senate.

Most of the committee’s opposition to the bill hinged upon resistance to state involvement in what is generally perceived as a community issue.

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Senate panel weakens, but passes, Kobach voter ID plan

TOPEKA — The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee today passed a weakened but still potent version of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s bill to require photo ID and proof of citizenship for voters.

Senators stripped House Bill 2067 of provisions that would have given Kobach the authority to criminally prosecute allegations of voter fraud. The committee also voted to delay until 2013 the start date at which new voters will have to provide proof of citizenship when they register.

After the committee meeting, Kobach said the vote virtually assures that photo ID will be required when voters go to the polls or send in absentee ballots in the 2012 election.

“Some version of this bill is going to pass,” said Kobach. “We probably aren’t yet to the final language of the bill.”

He said the removal of the prosecutorial power was a procedural move, so that the bill wouldn’t have to also have to go through the Judiciary Committee on its way to the Senate floor.

He said that could be added back through floor amendments or in a House-Senate conference committee.

He had strong objections to the committee’s decision to push back by a year the date at which new registrants will have to provide a birth certificate, passport, tribal ID card or other citizenship proof.

He said that would complicate the process of educating county election officials and voters on the new requirements. He also said it will give noncitizens an extra year to sneak their names into the voting rolls — and it’s much harder to get them off than to keep them from getting on in the first place.

Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, said she proposed the amendment to give the Department of Motor Vehicles time to implement its plan to begin collecting and imaging license applicants’ citizenship documents — before the agency has to start sharing that information with voter registration.

The bill passed on a voice vote with only Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, recording his opposition.

After the meeting, he said he thinks the measure will make voting too difficult for many citizens and decrease voter turnout. He also said Kobach’s assertions of widespread voter fraud are greatly exaggerated.

“I don’t think there is voter fraud in the state of Kansas,” he said.

The Kansas Equality Coalition objected to a provision of the bill that would require transgendered individuals to disclose their original and current gender to register to vote.

Coalition lobbyist Thomas Witt said there are thousands of transgendered people now living quietly in Kansas.

Medical information on sex changes is now closely held by the state, but it could be dangerous for transgendered people to have to “out” themselves when they register, Witt said.

Gossip leaking out of voter registration offices around the state “will expose them to discrimination, placing their jobs, housing and even safety at risk,” Witt said. “This is a big issue.”

House votes down repeal of sales tax

TOPEKA — The House of Representatives has just rejected a bill that would have lowered the state sales tax by a penny per dollar spent.

The tax was passed last year as a three-year temporary measure to help the state though budget problems caused by the recession.

House Bill 2091 would have repealed it. The bill failed on a vote of 39-80.

Lowering the state sales tax rate from the current 6.3 cents to 5.3 would have cost the state government an estimated $391 million in 2012 and $441 million in 2013.

Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, said the tax had averted major damage to state government, which — even with the extra revenue — is still facing a $500 million deficit in 2012.

“I want you all to think about where we would be this year without the tax increase,” he said. “Adding $390 to $400 million to our deficit is just irresponsible.”

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said raising the tax in the first place was a mistake and “We need to undo the mistake we made last year.”

Debate is continuing on several other tax measures, including a bill to reduce and eventually eliminate state corporate and individual income taxes.

Wichitopekington will report developments as they occur through the day.