Daily Archives: May 11, 2012

Big booze bill headed to Brownback

TOPEKA — A wide-ranging set of bills that relax alcohol regulations in Kansas is headed to Gov. Sam Brownback, but it doesn’t include a controversial move to allow grocery stores to sell stronger beer and alcohol.

Among the changes are moves to allow happy hour specials, allow micro-distilleries of liquor to sell and serve their products similar to microbreweries and let liquor stores give consumer samples of beer, wine and booze.

The House approved the package of bills today in a 97-24 vote.

Among other things, the bill would allow bars to offer happy hour specials. Currently, bars can only offer special drink prices if they charge the same rate all day.

During the legislative session, some lawmakers voiced concern that happy hours encourage binge drinking to take advantage of short-term price reductions. But others argued it helps make Kansas competitive with neighboring states, such as Missouri, that allow temporary specials and give bars more freedom over their business models.

It also allows liquor stores to offer free tastings to consumers (a half-ounce of spirits or two ounces of beer or wine). There’s no limit on the number of samples a store can provide.

Wichita got one of its initiatives approved in the package of bills. The city had sought an extended-length special event permit so that organizers of the Wichita River Festival wouldn’t have to keep getting license extensions for the festival’s beer garden. Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, voiced concerns that the extended permit would open the door to boozy county fairs. But the extended permits don’t change any regulations or other parts of the permitting process, making it unlikely to lead to a big uptick alcohol at fairs, said Bel Aire Republican Rep. Steve Brunk.

Part of the bill would allow micro-distilleries to manufacture alcohol products, provide samples to consumers and sell their products on site. That’s similar to laws that allow microbreweries to give serve samples and sell bottles of beer.

Another bill tucked into the package opens the door for farm wineries where people could grow grapes, produce wine and sell it on site or take it to other locations, such as a wine festival, and offer people sampling wines to buy bottles on site.

Brunk, who carried the bill, said that the bills are aimed at providing more consistent laws that reflect consumers’ behavior.





Senate approves bill banning Muslim, other foreign laws from Kansas courts

TOPEKA — The Senate passed and sent the governor a bill that would outlaw the use of foreign legal codes in Kansas courts, a bill broadly written but particularly aimed at Islamic “Sharia” law.

The decision, which sends the bill to the governor’s desk, came after a lengthy and at times emotional debate.

The final vote was a lopsided 33-4, but had been closer on early procedural votes to try to send the bill back to committee.

Opponents of the bill, including two Senators who signed the committee report to bring it to the Senate floor, argued that it is intolerant and unnecessary.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the debate by apologizing for putting the Senate in position of having to vote on the bill.

“This is one where I made some mistakes; the first one was signing the conference report,” he said. “I believe this bill is unconstitutional (and) intolerant.”

Emphasizing that he is himself a Christian, Owens said “I think this bill will set Kansas out as a place not to go if you believe any other way than particularly a very small religious-right perspective … This country is based on freedom. And it isn’t ‘You can only be free if you think like me.’”

Proponents fired back that the bill protects the constitutions of Kansas and the United States and would prevent the use of foreign law to take away fundamental rights that are enjoyed in American courts.

“I look back at those remarks (by opponents) and I almost think they’re outrageous,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover. “Not only have we had a stretch of the truth, we’ve had a stretch of the rules. We don’t have any intolerance in this bill. Nobody’s stripped of their freedom of religion. This is talking about the law, American law, American courts.”

Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, argued that Sharia law itself is what’s intolerant.

“I find Sharia law to take away all the rights of women,” Wagle said. “They stone women to death in countries that have Sharia law, they (women) have no rights in court, female children are treated brutally … In this great country of ours and in the state of Kansas, women have equal rights.”

The proponents of the bill noted several times that Sharia was not specifically named in the bill and that it’s applicable to all foreign laws and legal systems.

But in an impassioned speech, Sen. Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, said the bill was obviously directed at Muslims.

He said he was originally approached about the bill in January. The original pitch wasn’t about protecting the Constitution, but that Muslims were trying to use Sharia law to take over the United States and had to be stopped.

“I thought that was quite ludicrous at the time and I still do,” he said. “This (bill) doesn’t say Sharia law, but that’s how it was marketed back in January and all session long, and I have all the e-mails to prove it.”

Senators seek fix for domestic violence contract

TOPEKA — Senators think they have found a potential fix for a contract dispute that has led the state’s top coordinator of services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to stop negotiations with the state.

That state contract was rejected last week by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, which subcontracts with 29 agencies across the state that help about 450 battered women, men and children being helped with transitions from abusive relationships to new beginnings.

The coalition believes new SRS contract requirements create barriers to serving survivors by requiring psychological evaluations required under the new contract could be used against mothers in child custody cases. SRS disputes their interpretation.

SRS officials say the coalition overreacted and that they just want more accountability to ensure the state complies with requirements tied to a federal grant that pays for survivor services.

But Sens. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and John Vratil, R-Leawood believe shuffling funds between several budget allocations could allow the coalition to contract with the state without adhering to the new requirements initiated last fall.

Their proposal in a budget conference committee this morning would cut $1 million from alcohol and drug abuse service grants, replace that with problem gambling and addiction funds and add $1 million in state general funds handled by Gov. Sam Brownback’s office.

The House’s budget negotiators haven’t signed off on the idea yet. And there’s no guarantee the Governor’s office would forego the new requirements sought by SRS. Kelly said it would be a “good faith effort.”

To learn more about the dispute between the coalition and SRS, see The Eagle’s prior reporting here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/05/04/2323386/flap-over-state-contract-for-sexual.html#storylink=misearch