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State legislative update

House, Senate will review bills

Rep., 70th District

This past week was turnaround week in the legislature. The House and Senate completed their work on the bills that started in those respective chambers. We completed our work about noon Friday and the House and Senate each sent respective bills to the other for consideration.

We did not meet Monday or Tuesday to give the Revisor of Statutes office time to finalize and print all those bills. Our work begins today.

Sen. Jeff Longbine and I held legislative coffees Saturday in Hillsboro and Marion. We talked about some of the more significant bills passing through our houses. I will report on a few we talked about.

The House distributed a bill setting the speed limit at 75 on four-lane highways. Three concerns have come to light through the two community meetings: 1. If people typically go 75 to 80 with a 70 mph limit, won’t folks simply go 80 to 85? 2. Shouldn’t we limit higher speeds to limited access highways such as interstates? Tractors and farm trucks have to cross grade-level four-lane highways, and it’s very dangerous even at 70 mph (think K-254 north of Wichita or US 24 east of Manhattan); further, with limited access on-ramps, drivers have the chance to increase their speed before merging into traffic, while drivers entering from stop signs attempt to merge from a standstill. An amendment to increase speed only on limited access highways failed to pass. 3. Why is the legislature willing to spend the money to change all those signs for a mere convenience when it isn’t willing to spend more to properly fund schools, colleges, the disabled? I have no answer for No. 3.

The House distributed the widely anticipated voter identification bill Friday. It has two major components: becoming registered and showing identification at voting sites. Folks who are registered will not be required to re-register; new registrants will have to show a birth certificate, passport, or similar document that complies with the proposal. When voting at the polling location, we will need to show a voter ID like a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID card. An expired driver’s license is acceptable for a person more than 65 years old who no longer drives. If this becomes law, you might be inconvenienced, but you voters of the 70th House District overwhelmingly asked for this bill in the poll from February and March 2010. The bill also provides safeguards for successful voting by advance ballot. I hope they are sufficient.

I still am asked why Kansas needs voter identification since we have virtually no problems in Kansas with voter fraud. Kansas has had very few matters even referred to the Kansas Secretary of State in the past 10 to 12 years; of those referred, less than a handful were believed to warrant prosecution and I believe there was one person convicted. The current Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, believes this is only the tip of an iceberg. I submit our poll workers would have seen more smoke if there were a fire. We do have folks watching at every polling site from both political parties. While I don’t believe Kansas has a voting fraud problem, I do think that creating a system of voter identification could be the “ounce of prevention” Kansans need/want to give us the assurance our voting system is sound. The question: Now that we are adopting a voter identification process, will Kansans see it as a minor inconvenience or an intrusion? From your response to my poll last year, I anticipate you will be fine with that. Now, are you prepared to pay for that system? My assumption is yes based again on your responses to the poll.

The Senate has yet to take up the liquor bill I spoke of last week. Time will tell if it ever comes to the Senate floor.

I will report on other bills next week.

What are your thoughts? Please contact me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66612; or call (620) 382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session (through about May 10), (785)-296-7636.

Last modified March 2, 2011

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