During turnaround week, bills on highway speeds, voter ID dominate

This last week was turnaround week in the Legislature. The House and Senate each completed their work on the bills that started in those respective chamber.

We completed our work about noon Friday and the House and Senate each sent its bills over to the other for consideration.

We did not meet this Monday or Tuesday to give the Revisor of Statutes office time to finalize and print all those bills. Our work starts Wednesday.

Sen. Jeff Longbine and I held legislative coffees in Hillsboro and Marion Saturday. We talked about some of the more significant bills passing through our houses. I will report on a few we talked about.

The House passed a bill setting the speed limit at 75 mph on four-lane highways. Three concerns have come to light through the two community meetings:

(1) If people typically go 75-80 mph with a 70 mph limit, won?t folks simply go 80-85?

(2) Shouldn?t we limit higher speeds to limited-access highways like interstates? Tractors and farm trucks have to cross grade-level four-lane highways, and it?s very dangerous even at 70 mph (think K-254 north of Wichita or U.S. 24 east of Manhattan).

Further, with limited-access on-ramps, drivers have the chance to increase their speed before merging into traffic, while drivers entering from stop signs attempt to merge from a standstill. (An amendment to increase speed only on limited-access highways failed to pass.)

(3) Why is the Legislature willing to spend the money to change all those signs for a mere convenience when it isn?t willing to spend more to properly fund schools, colleges, the disabled, etc.? I have no answer for No. 3.

The House passed out the widely anticipated voter identification bill Friday. It has two major components: getting registered and showing an ID at the voting place.

Folks who are registered will not be required to re-register; new registrants will have to show a birth certificate, passport or similar document that complies with the proposal.

When voting at the polling location, we will need to show a voter ID like a driver?s license or non-driver?s ID card. An expired driver?s license is acceptable for a person over 65 who doesn?t drive any longer.

If this becomes law, you might inconvenienced, but you voters of the 70th House District overwhelmingly asked for this bill (please refer to results of the poll of last Feb./March). The bill also provides safeguards for successful voting by advance ballot. I hope they are sufficient.

I still get asked why Kansas needs voter identification since we have virtually no problems in Kansas with voter fraud. Kansas has had very few matters even referred to the secretary of state in the past 10 to 12 years. Of those referred, less than a handful were believed to warrant prosecution and I believe there was one person convicted.

The current secretary of state, Kris Kobach, believes this is only the tip of an iceberg. I submit our poll workers would have seen more smoke if there were a fire. We do have folks watching at every polling site from both political parties.

While I don?t believe Kansas has a voting fraud problem, I do think that creating a system of voter identification could be the ?ounce of prevention? Kansans need/want to give us the assurance our voting system is sound.

The questions: Now that we are adopting a voter identification process, will Kansans see it as a minor inconvenience or an intrusion? From your response to my poll last year, I anticipate you will be fine with that.

Now, are you prepared to pay for that system? My assumption is ?yes? based again on your responses to the poll of last year.

The Senate has yet to take up the liquor bill I spoke of last week. Time will tell if it ever comes to the Senate floor.

I will report on other bills next week.

What are your thoughts? Please contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call 620-382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session (through about May 10): 785-296-7636.

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