Death penalty, pay freeze among issues

While matters of budget are primary in our considerations this year, we have other issues at hand….

We will likely vote on a repeal of the death penalty and I?d like to hear your thoughts. I have heard from quite a few of you, and I appreciate your conviction in contacting me way before the issue comes to a head. It has helped me formulate my thoughts, as well as this column.

You may know the arguments for and against. Pro: The person committed such a horrific crime that the criminal ought not to live; our society has no duty to keep this person alive; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; it deters at least this one person from committing another murder.

Con: It is not our place to judge; there have been many cases where the jury was wrong and an innocent person is on death row, and therefore we ought not risk taking the life of an innocent person at all; even the truly guilty can seek forgiveness and if put to death by the state, that opportunity to repent is taken from them and we don?t have that right; and further, it is very expensive to hold a trial for a capital murder case, not to mention the cost of keeping that person on death row, in prison.

My difficulty with the dilemma is easy to state, hard to resolve. I wish we could retain the death penalty so a criminal defendant charged with the crime can see the potential for his or her loss of life, strike a deal to avoid the expensive and heart-wrenching trial and avoid using the death penalty, and I?d like prosecutors to accept those deals. They are extremely costly, and to date, after Kansas has successfully prosecuted several death-penalty cases, we?ve put no one to death but have incurred the excessive expense of the trials and their custody.

On another topic, I?ve not yet had an opportunity to vote on a bill dealing with my pay. Since arriving in Topeka, I have discovered we have an automatic annual cost-of-living increase.

I agree with Sen. Jim Barnett?s proposal to freeze that automatic increase, and if I have the opportunity to vote on his bill, I will vote in favor of it. Sen. Barnett speaks of current pay being $116 per day, but that?s for senators. I believe my Representative?s pay is about $88 per day for a 90-day session.

I think pay for representatives and senators ought to increase only when we are willing to raise the pay for other state workers, but not at all until our Kansas economy is alive and perking along again.

If I don?t get the chance to vote on a rollback of my pay, I commit to you I will give back part of it. In discussions with constituents, I learned some folks have the impression we each earn over $100,000 per year; we don?t. You can do the math on my pay.

I get a daily living allowance while I stay in Topeka besides my daily pay, and I have health coverage, of which I share in the cost. Still, in tough economic times, legislators ought to bear our share of the state?s cuts.

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call me at 620-382-2133 or 785-296-7699.

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