Kansas state offices in Topeka closed Wednesday

TOPEKA – State government offices in Topeka are closed Wednesday, Dec. 9, due to snow conditions.

Non-essential state employees are not required to report to work, said an announcement posted on the state website kansas.gov.

More bad revenue news for Kansas

MoneyTOPEKA – Lawmakers could be faced with cutting more than $100 million from the state’s current budget when they return to Topeka in January, the House budget committee heard Monday.

That assumes there are no further revenue drops, the governor does not order more cuts and state agencies do not request additional money to cover their budget needs.

The latter is unlikely. Alan Conroy, director of legislative research, told the House Appropriations Committee that the state Education Department already had a request of about $91 million additional funds, due in part to more students using free or reduced lunches and an influx in students.

Revenue news was not good in September, which reflected taxes from back to school shopping, money from the federal “Cash for Clunkers Program” and the first quarter of estimated income taxes, Conroy said.

Taxes came in about $67 million below estimated revenues, he said.

“Bottom line the news is not good, we are down about 5 percent overall and it is almost all in individual income taxes,” he said. Read More »

Gov. Parkinson joins the blogosphere

TOPEKA – “Welcome to my first actual blog,” wrote Gov. Mark Parkinson yesterday.

In the post Parkinson, a Democrat, said he decided to start blogging when he became governor at the end of April “to provide you a glimpse of what it is like to serve as Governor and to give insight into what happens in our office every day.”

The blog comes up with the governor’s website.

In the mostly biographical initial offer Parkinson promised he’d be the one writing the posts, “this isn’t something that a staffer is writing to try to make me look good.”

He also promised he, and other posters, would try not to be boring or politically correct and “we’ll try not to use political speak (lots of words that say nothing, but sound good).”

Parkinson to hold first press conference as governor on Friday

TOPEKA – Newly minted Gov. Mark Parkinson on Friday will hold his first media availability since being sworn in late Tuesday.

The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. This afternoon, Parkinson, a Democrat, will address a joint session of the Legislature at 4 p.m.

Parkinson assumed his new roll when former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius resigned to be sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary on Tuesday.

Senate confirms Sebelius as HHS secretary

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services.

The vote, 65 to 31, came just before 6 p.m. in Washington D.C. after an all-day debate.

Both Kansas senators, Republicans Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, voted for Sebelius, a Democrat.

Last week, Brownback had said the governor’s veto of a bill aimed at tighetning regulations of late-term abortions made it harder to support her. Sebelius had vetoed similar bills in previous years.

The move means Kansas is likely to have a new governor when the Kansas Legislature returns Wednesday for a wrap-up session.

It’s hard to say if Sebelius could hand the reins of power over to Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson tonight or not – her office is keeping mum on its plans.

KDHE creates swine flu hotline and email

Kansans concerned about the appearance of swine flu can call a toll free hotline with questions.

The toll-free number, 1-877-427-7317, is offered by Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Operators will be available to answer questions from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

After calling the number, people will be directed to press “1″ to speak to an operator about the swine flu.

Kansans can also email questions about the virus to swinefluinfo@kdheks.gov.

The department has also posted information about swine flu on its website.

Kansas has had two confirmed cases of swine flu, but no other cases have been confirmed. The department is investigating the cases and working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In accordance with the Kansas Response Plan, KDHE is also monitoring and instituting recommendations from CDC for any additional influenza disease surveillance activities, reviewing plans to further enhance those activities, and advising health care providers on how to handle potential swine flu cases.

The department recommends the following steps to help prevent the virus from spreading:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends.

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of used tissues.

  • Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest and exercise.

Senate vote on Kansas Gov. Sebelius set for Tuesday

Sebelius NominationBy David Goldstein/Eagle Washington Bureau

The Senate will vote on Tuesday whether to confirm Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.

The debate could last several hours. She’ll need 60 votes for confirmation; Democrats are confident she will be approved.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ State of the State speech as prepared for delivery

Following is the text of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ prepared State of the State speech, taken from a preview copy.

The governor, a Democrat, has begun delivering the speech to the full Legislature guests assembled in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Read More »

Sebelius staying in Kansas

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius reiterated Monday that she was not hoping to go to Washington D.C. as the Secretary of Commerce after the former nominee withdrew.

“My position asking that my name be withdrawn had nothing to do with the options, it had to do with what was going on here in Kansas,” she told reporters. “Unfortunately, that is still the same today as it was two weeks ago.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for the post on Sunday. He cited a federal investigation in to a California company that had made political donations and also landed a state contract.

In December, Sebelius announced she was withdrawing her name from consideration for a cabinet post with the Obama administration.

Kansas faces a $141 million shortfall in this year’s budget, which could expand to a $1 billion deficit in the next budget year. Sebelius, a Democrat, said the state’s money problems and family considerations lead to her decision.

“That has not changed,” she said.

Sebelius was attending the swearing in ceremony for former House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, who she appointed as the state’s new Secretary Treasurer.

McKinney, a Greensburg Democrat, replaces Republican Lynn Jenkins who won the 2nd Congressional District seat in November beating Rep. Nancy Boyda, a Democrat.

Kansas Democrats announce a new executive director

TOPEKA – Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Mike Gaughan is leaving to work in the governor’s office and the party’s technology director, Kenny Johnston, is assuming his spot, the party announced Wednesday.

Johnston began working with the party in February 2007 after working on two of Rep. Dennis Moore’s congressional campaigns in the 3rd District.

Democratic Party Chair Larry Gates praised Gaughan’s three-and-a-half years of work with the party. Read More »