Legislative Newsletter

By Richard Alldritt

“In the long run, we only hit what we aim at” H. D. Thoreau
House Expands Capital Punishment Law
A bill to expand the death penalty in Kansas passed the House this week. The proposed legislation would make all premeditated murders of children under age 14 capital crimes. Under current Kansas law, it is a capital offense to murder a child only if the victim dies during a kidnapping or was kidnapped for sexual purposes.
An amendment failed which would have given juries an option of life in prison for those convicted of the murder of a child and mandating they pay restitution. Two amendments were passed, however, allowing judges and juries to consider life imprisonment without chance of parole as a sentencing option in capital crimes. I voted against the bill
Higher Education Reform to Include Scholarships
The Select Committee on Higher Education’s reform package was passed out of committee. The reform package, which is aimed at encouraging more cooperation and coordination among the state institutions of higher learning, was also amended to include college scholarships.
The proposal calls for eliminating the Board of Regents and replacing it with a 10-member Council on Higher Education that would govern seven state universities - adding Washburn - and would have coordinating authority over community colleges and vo-tech schools.
After House Democrats voiced concerns that reform efforts would be incomplete without increasing access to higher education, a provision was included to invest $6 million in need-based academic scholarships. House Democrats support Student Tuition Achievement Recognition Scholarships or STARS - funded by lottery proceeds, to place a college education within the reach of every Kansas family.
Hog Farm Bill Debated on House Floor
Legislation regarding corporate hog farm received lengthy debate on the House floor this week. As introduced, the proposed legislation addresses several environmental issues, including:
*Implementing odor management plans
*Increasing setback distances
*Manure management and nutrient application plans
*More stringent standards for waste lagoon liners
*Operator training and certification and increasing on-site inspections
*Water and soil testing
*Increasing set back distances regarding drinking water wells
Many amendments were offered during the several hours of debate on the bill. An amendment to place a two-year moratorium on the new corporate hog farms permits while environmental impact studies are completed failed on a 53-65 vote. An amendment passed requiring a county-wide vote in which corporate hog farms wish to locate.
HB2950 will provide some of the toughest environmental standards on confined swine operations in the country. An amendment was offered to impose a permanent moratorium in those 22 counties that have voted NOT to allow corporate hogs. I voted for the amendment which passed and for the bill which now goes to the Senate for debate.
Bill Addresses Disputes Between Railroads and Businesses
On a 73-45 vote, the House approved a bill designed to help businesses settle disputes with railroads. It would apply to businesses that lease property, often grain elevators, from railroad companies near railroad tracks. I voted for HB2715.
The legislation provides for arbitration by a three-member panel on issues of disagreement. The bill also would give businesses the first chance to buy property when a railroad decides to sell it.
Two of the issues that prompted the legislation included increases in rental rates for properties owned by railroads and recent concerns resulting from farmers having to store bumper crops on the ground during last year’s harvest.
Critics suggested the Legislature should not intervene in squabbles between railroads and other businesses. Proponents said the legislation will necessary to address the rights of the tenant businesses.
House Rejects Bill to Allow Liquor Sales on Some Holidays.
The House voted 35-78 to reject a bill that would have allowed liquor sales on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence Day in counties where voters approved the sales. I voted no.
Under Kansas law, sales of liquor are banned on all holidays, including Christmas and Thanksgiving. Kansans can buy beer with an alcohol content of 3.2 on holidays.
Opponents of the bill said that allowing liquor sales on those holidays would contribute to increased alcohol-related accidents.
Legislators Promote Early Childhood Development Package
A group of House Democrats are pushing to include funding for early childhood education programs in appropriations committee bills. Saying that investing in the early development of children promotes a strong future economy and provides long-lasting benefits for everyone, they promote investments in community-based programs that provide families the tools they need to help themselves without creating more added bureaucracy.
They feel a comprehensive package that assures no one’s needs are left unmet includes:
*Fast Start Preschools, state-funded preschools based on Head Start;
*Parents as Teachers, a home-based program that provides information on home safety, language development and nurturing;
*Infant and Toodler Program, which identifies developmental disabilities through early detection and prevention;
*Healthy Start, which provides health information to pregnant women and families with newborn infants;
*Healthy Families, which empowers first time parents, focusing on those most at-risk of child abuse and neglect; and
*Children’s Trust Fund, which provides grants to community based programs for areas not addressed by other programs.
Committee Notes
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony in favor of a bill designed to limit access at schools and public libraries to pornographic material from the computer internet. The bill would require all libraries, public schools, universities, community colleges and vocational schools that use state dollars for internet access to develop policies to prevent minors from accessing pornography. Library officials and school districts oppose the bill, arguing that decisions about internet access are best made by local officials.
*The House Appropriations Committee endorsed a proposed budget for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services that included an extra $7.5 million to increase the amount of money paid to doctors, hospitals and clinics for providing services to the poor.
*A bill to strip parental rights from people convicted of murdering their spouses, already passed in the House, was endorsed by The Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill be the subject of a television program about justice hosted by Fred Goldman, whose son Ron was murdered along with Nicole Brown Simpson. Goldman testified on behalf of the bill.
*A Bill that would define school administers’ authority over student publications was debated in the Senate Education Committee. The controversial bill was denounced by students as a violation of free speech. Administrators say that clarification in current laws are needed to allow teachers and administrators to prevent false or offensive material.
Calls, Letters, E-Mail
Barbara Harbaugh, Sharon; Judge Larry Solomon, Kingman; Norbert Gerstenkorn, Conway Springs; Lawrence and Lenette Kottas, Harper; Mike Snyder, Coldwater; Kelly Booth, Coldwater; Linda Hamilton, Medicine Lodge; Larry Ellis, Coldwater; Daryl and Margie Eck, Sharon; Jessie Skillen, Norwich; Michelle Melrose, Norwich; Robert Melrose, Norwich; Garry Wright, Medicine Lodge; Noel Shank, Medicine Lodge; Rita Taylow, Medicine Lodge; Teresa Wiechen, Harper; Jack Parker, Kingman; Rex and Phyllis Haltom, Wilmore; Don Jensen, Anthony; Vern Minnis, Harper; Ola Weltmer, Harper; Bud Moore, Medicine Lodge; Monte Whitmer, Zenda; Allen Stackhouse, Medicine Lodge; Josiah Cauthorn, Medicine Lodge; Mike and Tina Andra, Conway Springs, Carol Haury, Anthony; Jay Plank, Harper; Charley Swayze, Medicine Lodge; Rob Lackey, Medicine Lodge; Bill Duvall, Kiowa; Mary Copenhaver, Anthony; Mrs. Hershel Martin, Harper; Don Heidrick, Anthony; Larry McCarty, Kiowa; Jim Herrington, Coldwater; Alan Weber, Coldwater; Dr. Larry Phye, Conway Springs; Bill Root, Kiowa; Damon Weber, Caldwell; Linda McGuire, Medicine Lodge; Kevin and Ronda Noland, Medicine Lodge; Abbey Melrose, Norwich; Irma Krone, Danville; Larry Ellis, Coldwater; Robert Graves, Hardtner; Walt Wiechen, Harper; Glenn Newdigger, Medicine Lodge; Jeff Prilliman, Medicine Lodge; Steve Fenton, Kiowa; Dr. Steve Albert, Anthony; Lloyd Davis, Anthony; Harold Fieser, Norwich; Andrew Stackhouse, Medicine Lodge; Irma Farrar, Norwich; Jan Smith, Norwich; Clair and Fred Parcel, Coldwater; Ed Parks, Norwich; Pat Hess, Coldwater; Everett Stewart, Harper; Dean Alexander, Hazelton.
Thanks for the Visit
Pat Kirschen, Harper; Mrs. Lear, Anthony.
Good Job
Tim Lear, Anthony; Alex Williams, Anthony.
Daniel Hardinger of Coldwater - Comanche County Spelling Champ!
Let Me Hear from You
Please call, write or come by to see me in my office in Topeka. Remember that I work for you. My office address is Room 302-S, Statehouse, Topeka, KS 66612, phone number: 785-296-7686. I will be home almost every weekend, so call anytime, phone number: 316-896-7527, or call the HOTLINE, 1-800-432-3924. Leave your name and number and I will return you call. (Please feel free to copy and distribute this newsletter in our community.)
My email address is rep.richard_alldritt@mail, ksleg.state.ks.us

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