Monday, January 21, 2013

Capitol Report: Drug testing for state benefits; Landwehr lands state job; Brownback changes tune on EITC

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Speaker backs drug testing for benefits

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said he supports legislation that would require Kansans receiving welfare or unemployment benefits to pass drug tests or lose their assistance.

Merrick said when he goes to the store, it "blows my mind," when he said he sees people who receive state benefits buying cigarettes and alcohol. "I'm not saying everybody does that. But some people do and we need to tighten it down," he said.

Landwehr working for agency she criticized

The Wichita Eagle reports that former state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Republican from Wichita who was defeated in the November general election, is now working for the Department of Children and Families, formerly known as the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

During her 18 years in the Legislature, Landwehr was a frequent critic of SRS.

The Eagle reports Landwehr will make $26.45 an hour, or about $27,000 per year, working as a part-time senior policy analyst in the Wichita regional office of DCF, according to DCF spokeswoman Angela de Rocha.

DCF has also hired another Wichita Republican, Kenya Cox, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Democrat. Cox is the new assistant regional director for community relations, earning $50,000 per year. Neither Landwehr's nor Cox's job was advertised to the public because both are classified positions that don't have to be, de Rocha said.

Brownback changes tune on EITC

Last year, Gov. Sam Brownback's package of proposed income tax cuts included getting rid of the state version of the Earned Income Tax Credit which is aimed at helping the working poor. His administration claimed there was widespread fraud in the EITC. Brownback's Budget Director Steve Anderson had said, "We have no way of making sure, for example, that a single mother is spending that on needs for her children."

But social service advocates fought hard to keep the EITC in place.

This year, Brownback is pushing for more tax income tax cuts, but his plan doesn't touch the EITC. At a budget briefing with reporters, Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said that shows the governor's compassion for low-income Kansans.

The tax cuts that Brownback signed into law last year did do away with several credits that helped needy Kansans. These included the food sales tax rebate, the homestead refund for renters and child care credit.

All systems go with South Lawrence Trafficway

After a Senate Transportation Committee meeting last week, a Kansas Department of Transportation official said all systems are go with the South Lawrence Trafficway.

"We are acquiring right of way as we speak and finishing the final design work," said Jerry Younger, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The contract will be awarded this fall and work will probably start toward the end of the year, Younger said.

The road will connect Interstate 70 west of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.

Hearing set on concealed-carry changes

A hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on the first of what is expected to be several bills expanding the concealed carrying of guns.

Senate Bill 21 would make several changes to the state's concealed carry law, including allowing someone from out-of-state with a concealed-carry permit to be allowed to carry a handgun in Kansas.

Quote of the week:

"You can't create a fake budget emergency by slashing taxes for your cronies and then cry poverty when it comes time to fund vital services."

— Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, during a "People's State of the State" rally.

What's next:


3:30 p.m.: hearings on bills and proposed constitutional amendments to allow the governor to appoint appellate judges with Senate confirmation, and to allow partisan elections of appellate judges. House Judiciary Committee, Room 112-N.


1:30 p.m.: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will speak to the House Elections Committee, Room 281-N.

1:30 p.m.: Overview of Kansas Board of Regents and public school education before joint meeting of House and Senate education committees, Room 112-N.


9 a.m.: Overview of Kansas Turnpike Authority with Michael Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the authority. House Appropriations Committee, 112-N.