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Statehouse

KPR opened its first full-time Statehouse Bureau in Topeka in January of 1978. Ever since, KPR's Statehouse Bureau, which is often called the KPR-Network, has provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislature, executive and judicial branches of Kansas government and other stories of statewide interest. KPR is the only broadcast outlet in the state that maintains a full-time, year-round bureau at the Capitol.

KU to Host Seminar on Civil Rights Era

Thirty five teachers from all across the nation will be selected to participate in a seminar this summer at the University of Kansas. Shawn Leigh Alexander, director of the Langston Hughes Center at KU, says the seminar is part of a prestigious national program.



The topic of the KU seminar is "Presidential Politics, Civil Rights and the Road to Brown," and focuses on the early struggle for civil rights and equality. Applications for the seminar will be accepted until February 1. More information is available online at gilderlehrman.com or by calling the Langston Hughes Center at the University of Kansas (785-864-5044).

House Committee Approves Plan to Cut State Employee Pay

A committee in the Kansas House has approved a proposal that would cut state employee pay by seven-and-a-half percent. The House Appropriations Committee today (TUE) approved a spending freeze bill introduced by Governor Sam Brownback. The committee added a provision that would cut the pay of all state and university employees by 7.5 percent for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in June. Representative Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican, introduced the amendment.



The pay cut would also affect legislators, judges and other state officers. It’s estimated the cut would save the state 8 million dollars in the current fiscal year.

16 KS Cities Competing to Save Energy

An energy efficiency contest has 16 Kansas cities competing to see who can save the most energy. The Take Charge Challenge is broken into 4 regions, with a total of 16 cities competing. Each community gets a 25 thousand dollar grant to start the program. The money is used to buy energy-saving light bulbs and get the word out about easy ways to increase energy efficiency. The Take Charge Challenge is in its second year. Dorothy Barnett is with the Climate and Energy Project. She says all the competing cities will likely show benefits from the contest.



In each region, the top city will receive a 100 thousand dollar grant for an energy efficiency project. There is more information at takechargekansas.org (take charge Kansas dot org).

Lawmakers Could Push Back Against State Reorganizations

Governor Sam Brownback has begun his plans to restructure state government and eliminate state agencies. Brownback has signed an executive order to abolish the Kansas Parole Board and move those duties to the Department of Corrections. This is just the first of his plans to eliminate 8 state agencies. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda tells us, some lawmakers could push back against the proposals.



Brownback Signs Order to Eliminate Parole Board

Governor Sam Brownback has signed an executive order that would abolish the Kansas Parole Board. The duties of paroling inmates would now fall under the Department of Corrections. Newly appointed Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts says he believes the department can handle the new duties.



Brownback says abolishing the Parole Board could save the state around 500 thousand dollars per year. Fewer than 600 of the state’s 8 thousand inmates are eligible for parole. Most inmates were sentenced under newer laws that require set prison terms. The order is slated to take effect July 1st. Either chamber in the Legislature can reject the order within 60 days.

Brownback Appoints Secretary of Corrections

Governor Sam Brownback today (FRI) appointed his secretary of corrections. Brownback has selected El Dorado Correctional Facility Warden Ray Roberts. The prison system in Kansas is currently over capacity and was tarnished in 2009 by allegations of sexual misconduct by guards at a Topeka women’s prison. Brownback says he’s ordered Roberts to take steps to prevent future misconduct.



The appointment will need to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

Money From Highway Fund Could Help Cover Budget Deficit

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proposed taking money from the state highway fund to help cover a more than 500 million dollar budget deficit. The highway fund pays for road maintenance and upgrades. The state is also just starting a 10 year, 8 billion dollar transportation project, known as T-Works (tee works). As KPR’s Stephen Koranda tells us, the Governor says taking 200 million dollars from the highway fund won’t hurt the T-Works project.



Budget Plan Would Take Money From KS Highway Fund

The governor’s budget proposal would take 200 million dollars from the state highway fund to help cover a budget deficit. Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller says recent bids for highway projects have been cheaper than expected, freeing up the money. The state is embarking on a 10-year, 8 billion dollar transportation project, known as T-Works (tee-works). Miller says the highway fund can handle this transfer, but if legislators keep taking money in the future, the T-Works project could be compromised.



Miller says lawmakers have taken money from the fund other times in recent years. She says if costs or inflation increase beyond their projections in the future, it could also mean scaling back some of the T-Works projects.

Lawmakers Introduce Abortion Bill

A coalition of conservative House lawmakers has introduced a bill that would tighten the state’s restrictions on abortion. It would also require parental consent for a minor to obtain the procedure. State Representative Lance Kinzer, of Olathe, is one of the bill's authors. He says the legislation would require the consent of at least one parent, and in some cases both parents, for a girl under 18 to get an abortion.



The bill would also require more reporting to the state about late-term abortion procedures. The legislation would allow local prosecutors to have access to those state records. Kinzer says parts of the bill have passed in previous years, but were vetoed by Democratic governors.

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