Legislature’s wrap up session starts

TOPEKA – The Statehouse parking garage is full again, which means lawmakers are back in town.

The wrap up session starts today. Typically these mini sessions last only a handful of days. Legislators come back, tweak the budget and take a crack at overriding some vetoed bills.

This year is likely to be a little different. Facing a $328 million deficit, lawmakers are likely to use a combination of cuts to state programs and revenue enhancements to fill the gap.

That process is likely to be more contentious than adding money to key projects, which is typical in a good year.

Legislators are also likely to have at least two veto override attempts. One for a bill allowing the construction of two coal plants in Western Kansas and a second aimed at bolstering the state’s late-term abortion law.

Tiahrt urges Lt. Gov. Parkinson to approve Holcomb coal plants

Congressman Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, on Tuesday urging Parkinson to support a bill that would allow two coal-fired plants to be built in western Kansas.

With Gov. Kathleen Sebelius likely leaving in the near future to become the health and human services secretary, Parkinson could decide if HB 2014 is vetoed or signed.

Tiahrt is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who is running for governor. Read More »

Sebelius says coal bill is “DOA”

TOPEKA – A coal bill that the House of Representatives could debate Thursday doesn’t stand a chance with the governor.

“The coal bill is DOA with me,” Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday.

The proposal House Bill 2014, would allow the construction of two coal-fired power plants in Holcomb and block the state’s top regulator, Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby, of the authority to regulate carbon dioxide.

In 2007, Bremby blocked permits the 1,400 megawatts expansions by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. citing concerns over the carbon dioxide the plants would release.

“We don’t want to go back to the want, we want to be leaders in the future,” she said.

Sebelius vetoed three similar bills in the 2008 session. She said the current effort would be a “step backwards” especially with the federal stimulus package which includes $30 billion for green initiatives and energy efficiency.

Coal plant debate back in Topeka

TOPEKA – Two years after a state regulator rejected plans to build two coal plants in Western Kansas, supporters are back before lawmakers hoping to resurrect the project.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and a broad business coalition urged a panel of lawmakers to take away the regulator’s discretion to block environmental permits when they meet all federal requirements. They say the decision was arbitrary and will result in higher electric bills and fewer jobs in Western Kansas.

“We can’t regulate on a whim,” said Sunflower vice president Mark Calcara. “At what point do our freedoms end and tyranny begin?” Read More »