Lawrence-based Older Women’s League seeks to legalize physician-assisted death

April 18

  • The Kaw Valley Older Women’s League is asking Kansas lawmakers to introduce a bill that would make physician-assisted death legal. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Lawrence-based group wants physicians to be able to prescribe medication to those with an expected lifespan of six months or less, if the patient requests it verbally and in writing. Members of the league said they think people should be able to choose when they want to die.
  • Gov. Sam Brownback scheduled a news conference Thursday to discuss the proposed changes to Medicaid. The Wichita Eagle reports that the management of the $2.9 billion-a-year program will be given to three private companies. Brownback began the overhaul in February and the changes will take effect in July.
  • Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he intends to improve access to state records by making them available online. Business Week reports that former Secretary of Ste Ron Thornburgh began the project of better accessibility. Before becoming available online, someone from the public had to request a copy to be mailed. Kobach said the access to records will keep his office efficient and promote knowledge of democracy in the state.
  • The Lawrence Journal World reports the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet later this week to rework the $14.1 billion state budget. Before the break that ends April 25, a compromise, which legislators were close to taking final action on, was thrown out. The negotiated budget will take effect in the next fiscal year, starting July 1.
  • Gov. Sam Brownback will introduce his plans for expanding the state’s ecotourism at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center in Great Bend, Kan on April 28. The Kansas City Star reports Brownback invited participants to discuss ideas for outdoor activities that would bring tourists to the state.

“Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” passes House, moves to Senate

April 10
  • The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which would prohibit the government from creating a law that would infringe on someone’s religious beliefs, passed the Kansas House with a vote of 89-27. The act would nullify the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity on the Lawrence anti-discrimination ordinance. The Kansas City Star reports that the bill will be sent to Senate and discussed in a committee today.
  • A bill presented to protect women from breast cancer is being stalled in the House after it was passed with unanimous support in the Senate in February. Midwest Democracy reports that the bill would require health professionals to inform women that cancer can go undetected during a mammogram; the aim is to lessen the risk of a missed cancer diagnosis.
  • Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed a bill that would require ex-barbers to take a licensing exam upon re-entering the profession after a two-year gap. The current law allows a three-year gap before an examination. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill was sent forth by the Board of Barbering as an intended safety measure, but Brownback said the measure was placing a government burden into economic activity.
  • U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that Western Plains, an ethanol plant in Oakley, Kan., would receive a $5 million grant from the USDA Rural Development’s Repowering Assistance Program. The funds will go toward improving the process of converting ethanol into fuel. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the project will create 15 permanent jobs and 100 construction jobs.
  • University of Kansas Student Senate candidates will discuss their platforms and answer questions today in the Alderson room of the Kansas Union. The University Daily Kansan reported that no formal debates between KUnited and SPQR have been held for this election cycle. Elections will be held tomorrow and Thursday; polls are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kansas courts close to make up for budget shortfall

April 4
  • Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss signed an order to close the Kansas courts for five days because legislature did not approve a budget that would help fund the court system’s $1.4 million shortfall. The Lawrence Journal-World reported the courts will close to make up for part of this shortfall. More than 1,500 employees without pay for those five days.
  • University of Kansas Student Senate voted on a bill that would require coalitions for presidential elections to register before chalking or distributing materials.  In accordance with this bill, senate also set deadlines for the candidates to pay fines for campaign violations. The University Daily Kansan reported that the senate also made changes to its budget code at the meeting Tuesday.
  • The Kansas House began debating a bill that would allow pharmacists to stop offering drugs that they think could cause abortion. The law intends to provide legal protections for those in the health care field who do not want to be associated with abortion. The Kansas City Star reported that under this bill, pharmacists could refuse to provide the “morning-after” pill.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is investigating to identify the source of salmonella. The Wichita Eagle reports that members of the FDA called the spread of the illness “rapid”; there have been more than 90 cases throughout the nation. Symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever.
  • The governor’s staff and legislators will be interviewed in the district attorney’s investigation into meetings at Cedar Crest, Gov. Sam Brownback’s residence. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Brownback invited more than 90 legislators to dinner gatherings in January. Only one democrat was invited to these meetings, and she did not attend.

US Supreme Court hears arguments on health care law

March 27

  • The Supreme Court began hearing arguments about the health care law Monday. The Detroit News reports that the law would require almost all Americans to have health insurance. Now, more than 30 million Americans have none. Those against the bill say the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to force people into buying insurance. The hearing will last three days and a decision is expected in June.
  • A proposal to overhaul the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System passed the Kansas House last Tuesday. The Kansas City Star reports that Gov. Sam Brownback endorses the measure, which would use revenues from state-owned casinos to fund the pensions of teachers and government workers. The profits from casinos in Dodge City, Wichita and Kansas City would help cover the $8.3 billion unfunded obligation to more than 260,000 Kansans through 2033.
  • The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the local NAACP coalition rallied Wednesday at the Statehouse against the proposal to enact the voter identification law at an earlier date than originally planned. The measure was pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and passed by the House last year. The law requires a photo ID and proof of citizenship to register to vote. Those against the proposal said this makes voting confusing and will disenfranchise voters.
  • The Kansas government ranks in the top 10 in a study of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. The Dodge City Globe reported that Kansas received a grade of “C” in the State Integrity Investigation conduced by the Center for Public Integrity.  New Jersey had the highest grade, a “B-“, and eight states received failing grades.
  • The Wichita Business Journal reported Tuesday that Kansas was one of 20 states to add government jobs between January 2008 and January 2012. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kansas created more than 600 federal, state and local government jobs in this four-year period.

Students ask congress to keep federal subsidized loan interest rates low

March 14
  • Congress members received more than 130,000 letters from college students on Tuesday pleading for interest rates on federally subsidized student loans to remain the same. The Kansas City Star reports that the interest rates will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in July. Keeping the interest rates low could cost the government billions more annually.
  • Kansas Legislature refused to hear a bill that would have made the cairn terrier, best known for playing Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”, the official state dog.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that the South Central Kansas Kennel Club advocates the naming of the state dog and plans on conducting a statewide campaign this summer.
  • The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the Kansas House approved changes to the new concealed carry bill on Monday. The bill would allow concealed carry in public places that do not have adequate security. However, hospitals, colleges and nursing homes could be exempt for four years if they contact the attorney general’s office with valid reasoning.
  • According to the state Department of Labor, Kansas’ unemployment fell from 6.8 in December to 6.1 in January. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that private employers added about 22,000 jobs in 2011.
  • The University Daily Kansan reports that Student Senate approved a bill Tuesday stating students can’t be academically punished for views posted on electronic media, unless it is disruptive to the operations of the University. Student leaders expect the bill to pass at the full Senate meeting next Wednesday.

Proposed bill would cause KU med program to lose accreditation

March 7

  • The Lawrence Journal World reports that abortion opponents are supporting a bill that would make the University of Kansas Medical Center Obsterics/Gynecology program lose accreditation. One provision of the bill states that no health care services provided by a state agency should include abortion. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires residency education to include access to experience with induced abortion.
  • Kansas Democratic leaders created a plan for job growth that would provide tax incentives for job training and fully fund job initiatives in the state that were put on hold during the recession. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the plan also prohibits employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants, and requires contractors to hire 70 percent of their work force from in state.
  • The Associated Press reports that Kansas House members approved a bill that would reinstate happy hour at bars, restaurants and clubs. The ban on happy hour was established in 1985 with the intent to decrease alcohol abuse.
  •  Kansas House bill 2260, dubbed “The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” was passed by the legislative committee and will be debated by the House. The measure says that the government cannot burden someone by compelling him or her to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs. To see how the Kansas Equality Coalition and others feel about this bill, click here.
  • A bill that would give the Kansas Corporation Commission the authority to oversee hydraulic fracturing of natural gas in Kansas had a hearing Tuesday before the Senate. The Lawrence Journal World reports that environmentalist groups opposed to “fracking” support the bill, because passing a law is the only way to regulate it.

Kansas republican pushes bill to cut funding for state universities

Feb. 29
  • Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson republican, is pushing a bill that would cut funding for the remedial classes that state universities offer. He said taxpayers shouldn’t be required to pay for these classes just because K-12 schools failed to teach basic courses properly.
  • Kansas water officials have proposed measures to protect water levels in the state’s two major aquifers, which showed an average decline of 2.25 feet during 2011. One of these measures is a bill that would eliminate a provision that requires water-right owners to use a certain amount of water each year. Legislature is currently considering this bill.
  • A Kansas House committee is preparing to act on a bill that would prohibit public schools from using materials in human sexuality classes from groups that provide abortion services. The bill would also prevent people from deducting abortion expenses in their income taxes.
  • A man accused of video taping the sexual encounters of a Rutgers University student, which led to the student’s suicide, is currently on trial. He faces a 15-count indictment and up to 10 years in prison if convicted. A proposed law, released less than a month after Tyler Clementi’s suicide, would require universities to create policies prohibiting the harassment of any student.
  • Terrance Anthony Dean was sentenced to 32 months in prison for a 2009 charge of robbery on the University of Kansas campus. Dean robbed a student of marijuana at gunpoint near McCollum Hall on April 29, 2009.

Kansas House passes bill requiring proof of citizenship to vote

Feb. 23

  • The Kansas House passed a bill Thursday that would require Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to vote. The bill was spearheaded by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said it is difficult to remove “alien voters” once they are on the rolls. Residents born in Kansas can apply for a free copy of their birth certificate to comply with the law.
  • Two Lawrence police officers allegedly dismissed speeding tickets in exchange for University of Kansas basketball tickets. The federal authorities that investigated declined to pursue criminal charges. The individual who provided the basketball tickets is now in federal prison for the broader KU ticket scandal.
  • The Kansas House passed a bill to honor soldiers from Frankfort, Kan. It will name part of Kansas Highway 99 “The Frankfort Boys World War II Memorial Highway.” Frankfort had more men killed in WWII than any other town its size.
  • Kansas House members approved a bill that will strengthen the penalty for failure to report cases of child abuse. The bill will also expand the list of individuals required to report allegations of child abuse, and remove the defense that a person believed someone else was going to file the report. This bill was created in response to the allegations of child sex abuse at Penn State University.
  • U.S. Senator Bob Menendez asked the Justice Department to investigate the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim communities in New Jersey and at Rutgers University. Thirty-four members of Congress have asked the department for a similar investigation.

The University of Kansas may receive extra state funding for quality educators

Feb. 15

  • The House Appropriations Committee approved the higher education budget, which is a 4.4 percent increase from the current year. Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal for a $3 million increase to the University of Kansas to hire internationally known professors will be revisited. The extra funding would help the school retain its membership in the Association of American Universities.
  • Protestors plan to rally in Wichita over the President’s day weekend in opposition to Koch Industries. The group says the Koch brothers exemplify corporate dominance of politics. Participants of the “Occupy Koch Town” event are also against the creation of the Keystone-XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to Texas, passing through Kansas, for fear of water contamination.
  • An alliance of Kansas organizations rallied at the Statehouse Wednesday against the Republican legislature and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. This Kansans United in Voice and Spirit rally is in opposition to the state’s changes in school finances, income tax structure and social service programs.
  • The Kansas Delegation, along with Gov. Sam Brownback, released a statement Wednesday contending President Barack Obama’s budget regarding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to be built in Manhattan, Kan. The delegation thought the proposed budget was insufficient to complete the construction of the NBAF, and accused Obama of using his budget as a campaign document.
  • The committee closed the hearing and took no action on a house bill that would further restrict abortions in Kansas. The hearing closed after Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator of the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, called the committee process irrelevant, spurring criticism from several committee members. Hear more reactions from pro-choice and pro-life organizations by clicking the link.

Proposed Kansas abortion bill allows doctors to withhold information

Feb. 8

  • The Kansas House committee reviewed a bill Wednesday that would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld medical information about potential birth defects to prevent women from having abortions. Women would also be unable to sue if they suffered health problems during pregnancy because of the withheld information. Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) is advocating this legislation.
  •  The Kansas House committee endorsed a proposal by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to require some Kansas voters to prove U.S. citizenship before this year’s presidential election. This endorsement allows a debate in the House. The state approved and enacted the proof-of-citizenship requirement last year, but it wasn’t scheduled to take effect until 2013.
  • According to a survey conducted by the Partnership for Public Service, just six percent of college students say they want to work for government, at any level. This number has decreased from 2009, when 10.2 percent of students had government career aspirations. Most of the 35,000 students polled are interested in graduate school, non-profit work or employment in the private sector.
  •  Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during his speech Tuesday night at the Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas campus. Pawlenty said Romney’s business experience would help during the country’s tough economic climate, and that he would be able to unite the Republican party.