Daily Archives: April 26, 2012

Faust-Goudeau files for re-election, plans to run on legislative record

Faust-Goudeau

State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau has filed for re-election, solidifying a 29th District rematch with her 2008 opponent KC Ohaebosim.

Faust-Goudeau, 52, filed her candidacy papers in Topeka where she is finishing out the current legislative session and said today that she plans to run on her record as a senator.

Faust-Goudeau faced Ohaebosim, also a Democrat, four years ago in her first run for Senate. She won the primary with about 70 percent of the vote, and then beat Republican Kenya Cox in the general election by about the same margin.

Ohaebosim said he welcomes the chance to face Faust-Goudeau again because a competitive race is “good for the Democratic process.”

He said he looks forward to debating Faust-Goudeau and said he plans to attend any opportunities offered to participate in forums for community groups.

“We’re very happy that she did decide to file,” he said. “We want the voters to take a good hard look at all the candidates in the 29th District.”

Grandparents’ right has been Faust-Goudeau’s signature issue, as a senator for four years and a state representative for five before that.

She has shepherded three bills on that topic, starting with the first bill she filed as a freshman lawmaker in 2004.

That bill, which was enacted in 2006, provided for grandparents to receive financial support when they take over care of grandchildren who would otherwise be placed in foster homes at a higher cost to the state.

Last year, she guided through a bill requiring grandparents to receive notification of child-in-need-of-care court proceedings involving their grandchildren. And this year, she has been advocating for a bill that is close to final passage to require courts to give consideration to grandparents when making decisions in child-placement cases.

“Everybody thinks it’s been one (grandparents’ rights bill), but it’s three distinct pieces that have helped people not only in the 29th District but throughout the state of Kansas,” she said.

Faust-Goudeau also has been active on insurance, with a bill to provide continued health care for spouses and children of firefighters killed in the line of duty; and identity theft, with a bill that allows victims whose identities were stolen to clear criminal records without having to pay.

Faust-Goudeau has also been active in the northeast Wichita community, serving as chairwoman of a monument committee for a memorial dedicated to the 30 people who died when an Air Force tanker crashed in the North Piatt neighborhood in 1965.

Listing her occupation as “community activist” on her state Web page, Faust-Goudeau has worked with schools and other agencies for children, including efforts to teach financial literacy and fathering skills.

Legislature may still take action on confusing ballot measures

TOPEKA — A House-Senate conference committee could breathe new life into a Wichita-inspired proposal to help voters understand ballot measures they vote on.

Members of the House Elections Committee asked their Senate counterparts to consider adding language to a bill to allow officials to provide an explanation when it’s not clear to voters what a particular ballot measure would do.

Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe and chairman of the House Elections Committee, said the proposal has “maybe a 50-50 shot” of getting passed this year and if not, it will definitely come up again at next year’s session.

The issue arose out of voter frustration over a Feb. 28 Wichita referendum where voters rescinded a tax incentive the City Council had granted to developers of the Ambassador Hotel project downtown.

The ballot question read: “Shall Charter Ordinance 216 entitled: ‘A charter ordinance amending and repealing Section 1 of Charter Ordinance No. 213, of the city of Wichita, Kansas, which amended and repealed Section 1 of Charter Ordinance No. 183 of the city of Wichita which amended and repealed Section 1 of Charter Ordinance No. 174 of the city of Wichita, Kansas, pertaining to the application of revenues from the transient guest tax’ take effect?”

“This thing was not written in English,” Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, told the conference committee today. “I don’t think that could be called English, even though there were English words there.”

A “yes” vote favored the hotel subsidy, while a “no” vote was to rescind it. Voters complained that it was impossible to tell that from the ballot language, but those who asked the county election office for clarification could only be told “yes means yes and no means no.”

The ballot language that was used followed the requirements laid down in the state Constitution, officials said.

Earlier this year, the House passed an amendment to allow election officials to request that a plain-language “explainer” be prepared if they found a ballot measure to be confusing.

In local elections, the explainer would be written by the county or district attorney, and reviewed by the secretary of state or the attorney general, to ensure that the wording didn’t favor either side in the election.

The Senate has not acted on the House amendment, which was part of a larger bill.

In an effort to revive the proposal, Schwab asked senators on the conference committee to talk to their leaders and to Sedgwick County senators about the possibility of adding it to House Substitute for Senate Bill 129, a catch-all elections bill that the committee is working on.

The proposal has three solid votes on the conference committee: Schwab, Goico and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, opposes the proposal. She said she’s worried that explainers could be written to sway voters for or against a ballot measure, potentially creating a situation where “whoever writes the explainer wins.”

The potential swing votes on the six-member conference committee include Sens. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, and Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka.

Both agreed that something has to be done about confusing ballot measures, but they weren’t sure if the House’s solution, which hadn’t been heard in the Senate, is the right one.

“The concept is good, it’s just not fleshed out enough,” Schmidt said.

After reading the Wichita ballot measure, Huntington, the chairwoman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, acknowledged that it was not understandable.

“We’ll just see what we can do,” she said.

Other significant provisions in SB 129 include:

– Allowing members of native American tribes to use tribal identification to comply with the voter ID law passed last year.

– Raising the limit on individual contributions to state Board of Education candidates from $500 to $1,000.