Daily Archives: March 30, 2011

House delays decision on intervening in Sumner County casino contract

By Todd Fertig

It’s unclear when the House will decide whether or not to have the attorney general intervene in the contract for a Sumner County casino.

House Resolution 6015 would require Attorney General Derek Schmidt to to challenge the state gaming commission’s decision to award the contract to Peninsula Gaming’s Kansas Star casino.

The resolution was to have been debated Wednesday evening, but the House instead adjourned for the day.

“It was getting late and we knew the debate would be long,” said House Speaker Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson. “Since it’s a resolution, it doesn’t have to be done this week.”

Read More »

House approves AT&T deregulation, opponents say phone rates will increase

TOPEKA — In a move that will almost certainly raise the price of stand-alone phone service, the House of Representatives today approved a bill to remove the last price caps on AT&T, the state’s dominant phone company.

Senate Bill 72 will take the brakes off AT&T ability to hike rates on single-line residential and four-line small-business service.

At present, urban residential customers pay $16.50 a month for ordinary local service, not including taxes and fees. Rural customers pay $15.50.

Packages in which AT&T bundles basic service with Internet access, television, or services such as caller ID, call waiting and conference calling, are already deregulated. But increases in the price of basic home and business service are limited by the Consumer Price Index.

SB 72 changes that and will let the company charge what the market will bear.

The House approved the measure on a voice vote, following a lengthy debate over prices and rural access to phone service. Read More »

House passes bill restricting abortion clinics, procedures

TOPEKA — The House today passed the third bill of its anti-abortion trifecta, calling for strict regulations of clinics and doctors’ offices where abortions are provided.

House Substitute for Senate Bill 36 would require abortion clinics to be licensed and comply with a long list of medical standards and practices. Abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy would have to be done at a hospital or surgical center.

The bill passed on an overwhelming voice vote and assuming approval on the formal roll call, it will go to the Senate for consideration. SB 32 is the third anti-abortion measure to win House approval this session. Read More »

Sedgwick County commissioners approve Frontier subsidy

Sedgwick County commissioners this morning approved giving Frontier Airlines $333,750 to provide low-cost service from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau voted against the subsidy, saying he could not support giving money to a business when the county is planning to lay off employees.

The money is part of an earlier revenue guarantee agreement the county approved.

Chief financial officer Chris Chronis said Frontier did not ask for a revenue agreement in 2009 but later was acquired by Republic Airlines, which changed service from turbo-prop airplanes to jets. It then asked for a $500,000 revenue guarantee through September 2010. The county approved an agreement in May 2010 but because the contract would expire in September, reduced its guarantee to $166,667.

The $333,750 guarantee will be good through June 30.

Ranzau said the decision to provide jet service was the company’s business decision, not the county’s, and that the county should not have to pay for it.

Sedgwick County to trim adult residential program

Sedgwick County commissioners this morning approved eliminating 23 positions from the corrections department’s adult residential program, which provides an alternative to prison for felons who meet certain criteria.

Public safety director Bob Lamkey explained to commissioners this morning that budget constraints forced the cuts.

The adult residential program is state-funded and was established in 1983. There has been level state funding for the program since 1990, about $1.2 million a year, which supported 75 felons in the program.

The county kicked in money to serve 45 more people in 2005, Lamkey said. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council recommended doing so to ease the waiting list for the program.

Lamkey today recommended reducing annual county funding for the program by $800,000 and reducing the number of people eligible for the program to 65. The county would honor the current waiting list and plea agreements under the plan, Lamkey said.

As part of the plan, the county will eliminate 23 positions. Some people might qualify for other county jobs or early retirement. The county expects to announce an early retirement program in the next two weeks, as The Eagle reported Monday.

Some people could be laid off, Lamkey said.

Election office predicting 14 percent voter turnout next week

Sedgwick County election commissioner Bill Gale updated county commissioners this morning about preparations for next week’s elections for city and school board offices.

“I don’t think we’ll see as low of turnout at the primary, which was 8 percent. I’ve been trying to rub my crystal ball hard,” Gale said, predicting a turnout of 14 percent.

The election office started mailing advance ballots out March 16. The office had mailed out 7,500 advance ballots as of Tuesday, and voters had returned about half of those.

Advance voting in person at the election office started a week ago today. About 200 people have voted in the office so far, Gale said.

Satellite advance voting starts tomorrow. There are 15 satellite locations across the community for advance voting.