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Four legislators present at well-attended legislative coffee
new kl legislature
Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, speaks at the legislative coffee at the Kansas Oil & Gas Museum on Saturday. Also present, from left, were Bill Wolf, R-Great Bend, Bob Bethell, R-Alden and Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

State of Kansas Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, and Representatives Bill Wolf, R-Great Bend, and Bob Bethell, R-Alden, were all at the legislative coffee on Saturday morning, and Wolf reported good news about the intersection at U.S. 281 and K-19, south of Great Bend.

"In response to the recent accident, ... the KDOT has installed 48 inch stop signs, tow fluorescent yellow stop ahead signs and rumble strips on both of the approaches that have a stop condition," said Tara Mays, legislative liaison to KDOT in an email to Wolf. "We hope that these safety adjustments will help to ensure the security of Kansas travelling through the area."

Wolf had approached KDOT requesting changes at the intersection due to the number and serious nature of wrecks.

He also reported on a resolution that he hopes will go into effect in the very near future before wheat harvest begins. The length of harvesting equipment trailers allowed now on the highway is 65 feet. Wolf reported that current trailers are coming in at over 81 feet, and the surrounding states allow the longer length. Thus, when they enter Kansas, they have to park and bring in more equipment.

He also said that a farming company is releasing a 95 foot trailer in the next couple of years.

Ruth Teichman reported that the senate did fund PBS with a 15 percent cut and that she did not want to completely cut funding. "We should let them rachet down," she said. The House gave them no funding and on Feb. 18 passed HR1 which eliminates state funding for public broadcasting.

From the audience, questions were asked regarding voter identification with concerns about the cost to low-income people. Teichman said that Senate has passed a measure that will allow people to get a birth certificate free when they register to vote. However the bill, "will probably keep some people from voting," she said including those that do not carry identification.

The voter ID bill would require all voters to show photo identification before voting, require proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and extends the power to prosecute alleged cases of voter fraud to the Secretary of State’s office.

Also discussed at the meeting was:

•The changing of the Kansas State Constitution regarding the clause about the state must provide a suitable education to adequate. Teichman agreed that the constitution should not be changed.

•Discussed the funding of the Kansas Public Employees Pension. The plan is underfunded at this time. Teichman discussed at length the bill passed by the Senate. Right now, KPER’s employees contribute at a two-tier level to their defined benefit pension plan. That percentage is at 4 percent for those hired before July 1, 2009, called Tier 1 workers, and at 6 percent for those hired after that date, called Tier 2. Those percentages would be raised for the Senate’s plan. Employers also make a contribution percentage which would change. The fund should also receive money from the state.

Bethell encouraged the audience not to get excited when you first hear about a bill because it has to go through revision in numerous ways, he said. "Politics is a game of compromise," he said. The House plan would switch the plan to a define contribution plan.

The bill will go a legislative conference committee to reconcile the two bills.

•Discussed closing of the Kansas Neurological Institute, which serves people with severe developmental disabilities. Bethell is in favorite of closing with the provision that the monies saved should go back to provide for care. Most KNI residents are unable to walk, speak, bathe or feed themselves. Nearly 500 people work at KNI.

House Bill 2296 and the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s opposition to closure appear to contradict each other.