Monthly Archives: March 2012

House passes congressional redistricting map

TOPEKA — The House this afternoon approved a congressional redistricting map that bumps most of northern Butler County and Harvey, Kingman and Harper counties out of the 4th Congressional District, which is anchored by the population in the Wichita area.

The map, which faces a final vote in the House and further debate in the Senate, would add portions of Greenwood County to the 4th District along with all of Labette, Cherokee and Crawford counties.

The move capped a back and forth debate that largely focused on whether to put Wyandotte County in the traditionally rural 1st District that sprawls across most of western Kansas. The map approved keeps Wyandotte County in the 3rd District.


Here’s a look at the map.

House panel endorses congressional redistricting map — small impact on Wichita area

TOPEKA — A congressional redistricting map approved by a House panel Thursday would have little impact on the 4th District, which covers Sedgwick County and several nearby counties.

It jettisons parts of Greenwood and Kingman counties that are currently in the 4th.

The real rub is up in Kansas City. The map peels away parts of the Kansas City metro area and puts them in the predominately rural 1st District that covers the western half of the state. (Here’s an AP article that explores that.)

There are many draft maps that cut the state up in different ways. But all aim to balance the congressional districts based on new Census data. The rural 1st District has to gain people and the more urban 3rd District needs to shrink its boundaries to reduce its population.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, drew the map the committee endorsed on a close vote. It’s called “Eisenhower B.”

He said there’s no pretty way to draw the maps.

“If there is a better way, it has not emerged yet in either the House or Senate,” he said in a news release. “Changing Congressional boundary lines does not change or alter those historic connections. My county, Reno, has bounced back and forth between the 4th and 1st over the years without any noticeable effect in relationship to our connections with Wichita or rural Kansas, e.g.”

The discussion now shifts to the House floor. Read More »

Border War over for Libertarians; Kansas and Missouri to share presidential convention

The Kansas Libertarian Party is getting ready to hold its state convention.

In Missouri.

It’s not actually as strange as it sounds. This year, the Sunflower State’s biggest third party has decided to share a convention with the Show Me State so they can all get to see as many of their presidential candidates as possible.

So far, seven have agreed to come and participate in a debate at the bi-state convention, where the two states’ presidential delegates will be apportioned.

The most recognizable name and likely winner is Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who tried for the Republican nomination earlier this year and then bolted to the Libertarians after he was denied a place on stage in several GOP presidential debates.

Gary Johnson

While the other candidates are not widely known to the general public, all have been active in party circles, said Al Terwelp, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Kansas.

Joining Johnson in the Libertarian debate will be Jim Burns, Roger Gary, Carl Person, Bill Still, and R. Lee Wrights.

– Burns is a longtime Libertarian activist from Nevada who did nine months in prison for refusing to pay income taxes.

– Gary is the former chairman of the Texas Libertarian Party and held elective office, a seat on the board of the San Antonio River Authority.

– Harris is a National Guard veteran and first year law student at the University of Oklahoma.

– Person is a New York antitrust and small-business attorney who once started a for-profit court system called the “National Private Court.”

– Sill is a documentary film-maker and former newspaper editor from Virginia.

– Wrights, of North Carolina, is editor of and former vice-chairman of the party.

There are apparently others running, but the party’s national web site doesn’t say who they are. Read More »

Kobach still hopes for earlier start date for proof-of-citizenship plan; despite DMV computer woes

Secretary of State Kris Kobach is undeterred by computer woes that have pushed back the date the Department of Motor Vehicles will be able to provide proof-of-citizenship documentation to election offices.

Kobach said he’ll go before a legislative committee tomorrow with an amendment that will still allow proof-of-citizenship to register to vote before the 2012 primary and general elections.

Under a law passed last year, citizenship proof won’t be required to register to vote until Jan. 1, 2013; Kobach is hoping lawmakers will pass a bill this year moving the implementation up to June 15.

Kobach argues that the current system allows for widespread voting fraud, while his opponents say the real purpose is to suppress voter turnout among elderly and minority voters who are less likely to have immediate access to citizenship-proving documents such as a birth certificate or passport.

The DMV and Kobach had hoped to have a system in place by June 15 in which scans of citizenship documents would be provided to voter offices across the state. But today, the DMV reported that it can’t have its new computer system up and running until August at the earliest.

State officials have said previously that getting the new system up and running is critical to the plan for the DMV to link citizenship documents such as a birth certificate or passport to the right to vote.

Today, Kobach said he’ll offer the Legislature an amendment that would bypass the computer problem and allow the DMV to simply certify it had received citizenship proof when people register to vote. The actual documents would not be transferred to county election officials and the Secretary of State’s office until Jan. 1.

Republican caucus as it happens

9 a.m.

With an hour to go before their caucus begins, hundreds of Republicans have filed into Century II Convention Center.

County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn is leading the crowd in a political trivia game while elected officials work the crowd seeing and being seen.

For the first time in recent memory, Kansas occupies a spot on the primary calendar that puts the state in position where its Republican votes can significantly influence the presidential nominating battle.

“The world’s watching Kansas today – and that’s the truth,” said District Judge Phil Journey. Read More »

Senate approves resolution recognizing dangers of antifreeze

Aaron Coash hugs his dog, Nikko. The shiba inu died after ingesting antifreeze. Aaron, 12, is trying to get a bill passed making antifreeze less dangerous. (February 14, 2012)

TOPEKA – The Senate today unanimously approved a resolution recognizing the dangers that antifreeze poses to animals and children.

It’s a move prompted by 12-year-old Aaron Coash, whose dog Nikko, a shiba inu, died in January after ingesting antifreeze, which smells and tastes sweet. (Read more about that story here.)

Coash has hoped to get legislation introduced that would require a relatively inexpensive additive to antifreeze that would make it smell and taste bitter, making it less attractive to animals and children. But his request came too late in the legislative session to be considered as a possible new law.

Seventeen states have laws requiring manufacturers to add a bittering agent, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Coash was joined by his mom and a friend on the Senate floor today as lawmakers approved the resolution.

Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said most people have antifreeze in their garages or shops, but that most forget that its smell can lure animals and, in some cases, children.

She recounted Coash’s story about raising Nikko and commended him for trying to make positive changes out of something tragic.

“I think it’s great that we have somebody at that age who wants to be involved in part of the process,” she said.

(The resolution is titled SR1830. It was not immediately available, but check back for it at this link.)

State school trustee Chappell calls common core standards ‘No Child Left Behind on steroids’

State school board member Walt Chappell criticizes a move to implement national standards in math and language.

Wichita’s state school board member today assailed common core standards for schools, saying they do little to prepare students for college or a career.

Walt Chappell told the Republican Wichita Pachyderm Club that the core standards will be a worse drag on schools than the controversial “No Child Left Behind” testing mandates in place now.

He called common core standards “No Child Left Behind on steroids.”

“Unless we push back … this is going to be a problem that will take years, decades to recover,” Chappell said.

The object of Chappell’s ire is a national movement to establish common educational goals in math and language.

Kansas adopted the standards in 2010 and is in the process of implementing them, Chappell said. Tests based on the new standards are expected by 2014, he said.

Chappell criticized the math standards in particular, distributing a list of properties and principles which are part of the standards, but which he said most workers other than engineers and mathematicians don’t need to know.

The standards require “so much time teaching kids procedures of how to solve a problem, they can’t do basic math,” he said.

He also said forcing teachers to “teach to the test” in two subject areas shortchanges other important subjects such as science, history, and geography.

“Other subjects we want kids to learn, they (teachers) don’t have time to teach,” Chappell said.

Chappell said in an effort to prove his point that standardized tests are irrelevant to real life, he had offered to take the current state assessment test and challenged his fellow board members to do the same to see if they could pass it.

“I got blank stares (and) sqirming in the chairs,” he said.

Chappell also urged the Pachyderms to support four bills currently before the Legislature:

  • House Bill 2645, which would require high schoolers to complete a class in financial literacy.

  • Senate Bills 69 and 278, which would mandate that instances of bullying be reported to principals within 24 hours, that parents be notified of such incidents, and that all bullying allegations be investigated within 10 days to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted.

  • Senate Bill 393, which would allow high school students to enroll in vocational education classes at community colleges and technical schools. That bill is slated for an Education Committee hearing in Topeka on Tuesday.