Monthly Archives: April 2011

Brownback calls for economic air offensive

TOPEKA — After helping to land the $35 billion contract for Boeing Co. to build the next generation of tankers for the Air Force, Gov. Sam Brownback said today that he’s focusing on making sure Kansas gets its fair share of the jobs.

As a Senator before taking over as governor in January, Brownback — along with Sen. Pat Roberts and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, were among the strongest congressional advocates for the Air Force to reverse an earlier decision to give the tanker work to the European aviation consortium Airbus Industrie.

In a news conference at his Capitol office, Brownback said he’s delighted that Boeing, which has strong Wichita ties, eventually won what he calls “the largest military contract in global history.”

Now, he said he thinks “it’s time we get out of a defensive position on the aviation sector and saying, well, this state, this country’s trying to raid this job and us get in an offensive position.”

Brownback said as governor, he is turning his attention to a different role than he had as a senator, trying to ensure that jobs created by the tanker contract come to Kansas.

“Lord knows this state leaned in hard to get that tanker contract to stay in the United States and not go to Airbus,” Brownback said. “I want them to know we think we ought to be doing our fair share of the work here.” Read More »

House seeks to force Senate to comply with anti-smut bill

TOPEKA — A day after forcing the Senate to take up an abortion clinic bill, the House turned to the same parliamentary maneuver today to try to make the Senate crack down on sexually oriented businesses.

On an overwhelming voice vote, representatives sent House Substitute for Senate Bill 25 across the hallway to the other chamber. The bill is identical to House Bill 2107, which passed the House earlier this session and is now stalled in committee in the Senate.

Because the House replaced the language in a bill that originated in the Senate, any senator can now bring the bill to a floor vote. The House used the same tactic Wednesday to force a vote on abortion clinic restrictions that were stuck in the Senate.

Several conservative members of the House said they want to force senators to either agree to House-proposed restrictions on adult businesses, or take a politically risky vote that can be portrayed as support for pornography and strip clubs in the 2012 election.

Donohoe

“There’s another vote out there, OK, and that vote is coming at election time,” said Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee. “What I want to see is every senator who will not bring this out … have to run against that when they’re up for re-election, OK.”

“We are negotiating with ourselves to say, ‘I don’t want to be too conservative because this isn’t going to get past the Senate so we won’t get something accomplished,’” Donohoe added. “I guarantee you we could get something accomplished. We can get people (senators) replaced.” Read More »

Legislators still split on funding for Affordable Airfares

TOPEKA — The Kansas House and Senate still are split on whether to fund the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program, leaders announced this afternoon.

Sen. Sam Brownback has included the money in his recommended budget. The state has budgeted that amount for affordable air service in Wichita since 2006. The five-year commitment ends this year.

The money is in the Senate’s version of the budget. But the House stripped the money in its version.

Today during a conference committee meeting of the House’s appropriations committee and the Senate’s ways and means committee, leaders said they were still at odds.

Wichita and Sedgwick County officials point to a state audit that showed that for every $1 the state spends on the program, it gets back $2.32. Affordable airfares, they say, are crucial to keeping and attracting businesses to the state, particularly in the Wichita area.

Senator thinks money might be available to track DUIs in Kansas

TOPEKA — Funding might be available for a central repository to track DUIs, a state senator said today.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said he thinks the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation might be able to come up with the estimated $3 million. The Eagle reported earlier this month that Owens was working on finding money for the repository.

Owens has been a strong proponent of a statewide system to track DUI arrests and convictions. In 2008, 4-year-old Gisele Mijares and her mother were killed in Wichita while they were walking to Gisele’s school.

Prosecutors charged the driver in the crash with his fifth DUI, but the state’s driver’s license database showed only two convictions after the accident.

Owens has said that the repository is critical to reducing DUIs across the state. Read More »

House rejects ordering attorney general to challenge Mulvane casino

House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, center, and Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, watch the overhead voting board during a razor-thin vote on House Resolution 6015.

TOPEKA — After a long debate on jobs, economics and the law, the House narrowly approved — and then rejected — a bill to order the attorney general to go to court to challenge the state’s approval of the Kansas Star casino in Mulvane.

House Resolution 6015 raised numerous challenges to the process used by the state Racing and Gaming Commission, which granted a casino permit to Peninsula Gaming last year.

The initial vote on the resolution was 59-63 against, but after several lawmakers changed their votes — Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, changed hers twice — the count was 63-59 in favor of advancing it to final action. But minutes later, the final action fell 59-62.

Minority Leader Paul Davis then immediately called for reconsideration, in an attempt to head off further moves to bring it back up. No supporters of reconsideration spoke, and as Republican supporters of the measure sought to stall and strategize, various Democrats called out “vote, vote, vote.”

Reconsideration was rejected 58-63, essentially killing the resolution for the rest of the legislative session.

Read More »

Spirit AeroSystems CEO urges support for engineering education

TOPEKA  — Spirit AeroSystems president and CEO Jeff Turner provided written testimony this morning supporting the University Engineering Initiative Act, which aims to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas to 1,365 per year by 2021.

“During these times, it is more important than ever to do everything in our power to protect the industries and jobs that help sustain our people and our communities,” Turner wrote.

He said a skilled engineering workforce “will positively impact the economy of Kansas.”

Spirit depends on engineers, Turner said, saying that they “play a critical role in our ability to design and build exacting products in one of the most rigidly controlled industries in the world.”

The Senate substitute for House Bill 2149 directs the Kansas Board of Regents, in concert with Wichita State University, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, to develop a plan to grow engineers locally.

The act would create four new funds to boost engineering education, paid for with lottery funds.

Read More »

Sedgwick County commissioners approve citizen advisory boards

Jim Skelton

Sedgwick County commissioners approved a resolution Wednesday allowing them to establish citizen advisory boards in their districts if they want them.

Commissioner Jim Skelton, who represents the southeastern part of the county, including Derby and Mulvane, is the only commissioner who has said he wants one so far.

Skelton served on the Wichita City Council, which uses such boards.

The boards would consist of 11 members appointed by each commissioner. Board  members would give commissioners advice and recommendations on public policy, citizen engagement, and problems in the districts.

Read More »

Kansas Senate sends third abortion bill to governor

UPDATED longer version

TOPEKA  — The state’s abortion clinics would be inspected at least twice a year under a bill that passed the Kansas Senate on Wednesday.

The bill also gives the Kansas Department of Health and Environment the power to write standards for buildings and equipment, issue annual licenses, fine clinics and go to court to shut them down.

Senators passed House substitute for Senate Bill 36 on a 24-15 vote. It now goes to the governor.

Proponents such as Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said oversight of abortion clinics is crucial “because the health and safety of women is at stake.”

But opponents said if the state is going to inspect abortion clinics, it also should look at clinics and doctor’s offices where patients undergo other types of surgical procedures such as hip and knee replacements.

Read More »

Senate vice president questions fiscal note on abortion bill

TOPEKA  — The Senate’s vice president today questioned the fiscal note for an abortion bill that would require inspections at the state’s three abortion clinics.

The fiscal impact of the bill would be $67,165 for one full-time staff member.

The bill, Senate Bill 36, calls for at least two inspections each year at each of the state’s clinics.

“I want to know where I could apply for that job,” Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood said, adding his comment was a rhetorical question.

He said it was ridiculous for the state to pay someone $10,000 per inspection, assuming “that individual has nothing to do the rest of the year.”

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said oversight of abortion clinics is crucial “because the health and safety of women is at stake.”

Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, said there are other types of clinics where women undergo surgical procedures such as eye surgery or knee or hip replacement.

If the Senate passes a bill on abortion clinics, she said, then “all ambulatory clinics need to be inspected and licensed.”

Senators are debating the bill now.

Kansans for Life just put out an e-mail asking supporters of the bill to call the legislative hotline.

The House already has passed a similar bill.

Kansas Senate honors KU’s Tyrel Reed

TOPEKA — Kansas senators gave University of Kansas basketball player Tyrel Reed a standing ovation today during a resolution honoring him for his athletic and scholarly pursuits.

Reed, a guard from Burlington, appeared in the Senate chamber with his parents, Stacy and Debbie Reed.

A sponsor of the resolution recalled pro player Charles Barkley once saying that he was a basketball player, not a role model.

“Charles Barkley might not be a role model,” Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence. “Tyrel Reed is.”