Monday, February 10, 2014

Capitol Report: Regents, conservation easements, KU energy savings

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Board of Regents hires lobbyist

The Kansas Board of Regents has hired a lobbyist to serve as its interim director of government relations.

Dan Murray, who lobbies for a number of interests in the Statehouse, including the National Federation of Independent Business, has replaced Mary Jane Stankiewicz.

Stankiewicz, who has been in charge of governmental relations at the regents since November 2011, has taken a position as executive director of the Kansas Rural Independent Telecommunications Coalition.

Murray will be allowed to continue lobbying for his other clients while he works for the regents, according to Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins.

When asked whether that raised any potential conflict issues, Tompkins said, "We hired Dan as our interim director and did a conflicts check and were satisfied that he will be able to devote the time needed to help us during this session."

According to the 2014 legislative lobby directory maintained by the state secretary of state's office, Murray's clients include: Brightergy; Cash America International Inc.; Devine & Donley; Frederico Consulting; Galt Ventures, doing business as Speedy Cash; Kansas Association of Insurance Agents; Kansas Auctioneers Association; Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association; Murray Governmental Relations; and the NFIB.

Bill would put limits on conservation easements

A bill that would limit conservation easements is kicking up dust in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Under a conservation easement, owners donate land with restrictions in place that would prohibit development on the land for perpetuity.

Conservation groups have used the easements to preserve land in its natural state.

But Senate Bill 323 would limit the duration of a conservation easement to the death of the grantor or a specified number of years.

Jim Hoy, who has donated a conservation easement on his Flint Hills ranch near Cassoday, said the effect of the bill "would constrict our rights as landowners and constitutes an intrusion by the government into the property rights of individuals."

Supporters of the bill will testify Friday.

KU seeking bonds for energy conservation

Kansas University is seeking approval from the Kansas Board of Regents to issue bonds to install energy conservation measures at the KU Medical Center.

The project will cost approximately $2.4 million but will reduce total energy consumption to pay back the cost in less than 5 years, KU officials said.

Siemens Industry Inc. has recommended a specialized control system that will reduce electricity usage by the campus' central chilled-water power plant.

The issue will be discussed by the regents on Wednesday.

Quote of the week:

"You know, if I have two glasses of wine with my dinner, I'm fully capable of still defending myself." Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.

What's next:

1 p.m. Monday — Hearing on SB 335, drug screening of school district employees, before Senate Education Committee, room 144-South.

10 a.m. Tuesday — The Board of Regents social media working group is meeting in the Kathy Rupp meeting room on the 5th floor of the Curtis Building.

Noon Tuesday — House-Senate State Building Committee hears capital improvement presentations from KU, KU Medical Center, K-State, and Fort Hays State University, room 159-South.

1:30 p.m. Tuesday — Hearing on HB 2543, prohibiting the Kansas Turnpike Authority from charging tolls to persons on motorcycles, before the House Transportation Committee, room 582-North

7:15 a.m. Wednesday — Senate Ways and Means education subcommittee, possible recommendation on KU budget, room 546-South

3:30 p.m. Wednesday — KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, speaking to House Education Budget Committee, room 281-North.

1:30 p.m. Thursday — Hearing on HB 2494, limiting the number of parking tickets a city could issue, before the House Transportation Committee, room 582-North

3:30 p.m. Thursday
— Hearings on HB 2250, repealing atmospheric mercury deposition monitoring network, and HB 2551, repealing regulation of PCB disposal facilities, before House Agriculture and Natural Resources, room 346-South.