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.

Fire alarm in the Statehouse – that’s one way to stop the debate

TOPEKA – Just when you think things at the Capitol are dragging, life gets interesting.

The House was in the middle of debating a procedural point – essentially arguing if they could or could not re-debate a measure allowing law enforcement to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt – when the emergency lights started flashing and klaxon blaring.

Rumor is a fire alarm triggered on the first floor of the Statehouse, but it could easily be a false alarm or dust kicked up from the renovation construction.

In the House at least, most people’s first reaction was to wait and see if the alarms such off. Then lawmakers started to slowly wander out.

Even in an emergency, the rules must be followed. Just before leaving, House Speaker Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchison, declared the House in recess.

Lawmakers, lobbyists, visitors and even journalists are milling about outside the building while the Topeka Fire Department checks out the alarm.

While the weather is lovely and it’s nice to be out side, this is a somewhat unwelcome disruption. Lawmakers are nearing the end of session, they could adjourn late tonight or early tomorrow.

After a busy night, the Senate is recessed to the sound of the gavel waiting for the House to take action on a handful of bills.

Earlier this morning, the House sent a energy bill to the governor’s desk. The measure way part of a negotiated agreement that allows one coal plant to be built in Western Kansas.

UPDATE: People are starting to trickle back in at 12:45 p.m. and the fire trucks are leaving so everything must have been given the all clear.

Topeka Fire Battalion Chief Ron Hufford said water leaked into a sensor in a construction area on the South side of the building triggering the fire alarm.

At 12:58 p.m., O’Neal gaveled the House back in.

Senate prayer and poetry for Thursday

Both the House and the Senate start their daily sessions with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. Senate Chaplain Fred S. Hollomon turns his daily prayers in to little poems.

On Thursday, he focused on the chamber’s 10 new members. Four are from south central Kansas. They are Republicans Ty Masterson, of Andover, Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City and Dick Kelsey, of Goddard and Democrat Oletha Faust-Goudeau, of Wichita.

Here is Hollomon’s prayer as written: Read More »

House Republicans release their Legislative agenda

Money – how to cut it, where to get it, how to spend it – toped the agenda for 2009 that House Republicans unveiled today.

High on the list was the budget. With the state facing down an almost $200 million deficit this year, and a potential $1 billion plus shortfall next year if nothing is done, crafting will likely over shadow almost every other issue.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchison, called the budget “the most important challenges facing us in the Legislature this year.”

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Senate President Stephen Morris’ response to the State of the State

Following is the Republican response to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ State of the State speech.

Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, delivered the response after Sebelius, a Democrat, finished speaking. The remarks are taken from a preview copy of the response.

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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.

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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 House selects committee chairs and vice-chairs.

TOPEKA — Several south-central lawmakers will lead House committees in the legislative session that begins Jan. 12. The Republican House leadership announced the chairs and vice-chairs Wednesday. Wichita Rep . Jason Watkins will be vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee, which handles budget issues. He will also head the General Government Budget Committee; Arkansas City Rep. Kasha Kelley will be vice-chair. Read More »