Senate passes final version of bill to abolish Kansas Arts Commission, replace it with commerce board

TOPEKA — More than a year after Gov. Sam Brownback started abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission, the state Senate today gave its final approval to a bill that will do that.

Senate Substitute for House Bill 2454 will create a new Creative Arts Industries Commission under the control of the Department of Commerce.

The new commission would take over all the duties of the Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Services Commission, both of which will be abolished.

The new agency will be governed by an 11-member commission, made up of:

– Five members appointed by the governor.

– Four members appointed by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

– Two members appointed by the minority leaders in the House and Senate.

One of Brownback’s first acts as governor upon taking office last year was to issue an executive order abolishing the Arts Commission, which he wanted to replace with a privately funded arts council.

The Senate invoked its authority to block the governor’s decision, which technically kept the Arts Commission alive. But Brownback laid off the staff of the agency and took away its $700,000 a year in funding.

Last year, Kansas lost an estimated $1.2 million in federal arts funding because of the lack of a state-supported arts agency.

Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, carried the bill on the floor today. She said the new arts and film agency is modeled on Colorado’s Creative Industries Division.

She said in budget talks, the House and Senate have basically agreed on $700,000 to go to the new commission. If the governor doesn’t veto it, that “would go a long way” toward restoring Kansas’ ability to get federal funds, Huntington said.

“It would give the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) an indication that Kansas has the administration to administer grants,” Huntington said.

The focus of the new commission will be more on economic development and creating jobs in the arts, said Huntington, a former member of the film board.

The bill, already agreed to by a House-Senate conference committee, passed the Senate 38-1.

It will now proceed to the House, which is expected to approve it, and then to the governor.