Water rights, swine and redistricting top agenda


During this past week, the House of Represent­atives passed a bill to eliminate “use-it-or-lose-it” for water rights in areas where water is in short supply and is closed to drilling new wells.

Currently, a person must pump water for irrigation or other purposes at least every five years, whether the water is needed or not, or risk losing the right to use it later.

We hope this change in policy will encourage conservation in dry parts of Kansas, particularly in the area using the Ogallala Aquifer. It does not impact us in central Kansas; our water sufficiency did not indicate a need for this change, and we can watch how this bill works before considering other changes.

We also passed a bill modifying the method to allow swine production facilities. The proposed change will bring the procedure in line with dairy facilities, rather than continue the major difference between them.

The new bill authorizes county commissions to adopt a resolution allowing large swine facilities, which would be subject to a protest petition. Like current dairy and swine law, the bill retains the right for citizens to affirmatively petition to bring the swine facilities issue to a vote.

Both the protest and affirmative action were proposed to require 10 percent of voters to sign the petition, but the ag committee thought it best to retain the old 5 percent requirement, making it easier to protest or request a swine facilities vote.

This bill actually has the possibility of saving tax dollars when folks in a county are in agreement on the issue.

The proposed re-districting map for the House was rolled out this week. District 70 needs to pick up between 2,400 and 2,900 extra residents. As the map exists, the current district will stay intact, and will add part of Dickinson County. The plan would add that county’s four south-tier townships at the west end, add the three west townships just north of those first four, then on the western edge of the county, the plan would add a single row of townships north of those, which would put Solomon and part of I-70 in District 70.

The district will stretch from north of Solomon to Rosalia. Time will tell if these boundaries are modified.

The Senate has begun considering new congressional district lines, but the current proposal won’t impact Chase or Dickin­son counties; it will likely impact lower Marion County, because the plan would put all Marion County in the “Big First” congressional district, which includes all of western Kansas, and would remove southern Marion County from the Fourth District.

We expect all of Butler County will remain in the 4th District. The huge arguments are in Geary, Riley and Lyon counties, and of all places Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. A map not currently up for review in the Senate would put part of Leavenworth and all of Wyandotte counties in the Big First and put Geary and Riley in the Second District; it would leave Lyon County in the Big First.

The brewing fight: Should urban Wyandotte (think Kansas City) and semi-urban Leaven­worth be put into the rural western-Kansas Big First, or stay with Johnson County in the 3rd District?

The Senate planners thought the map now being considered to be better because it won’t create a constitutional challenge; the map pairing western Kansas with Wyandotte and part of Leavenworth most certainly will.

We cannot create a map for the purpose of disenfranchising voters—we cannot gerrymander a district. Will the Big-First-to-Wyandotte map assure a Democrat could not win a race? That a minority person could not win? Those are our questions at hand.

In the meantime, the accusation about the Senate map is it takes the Second District from about 41 percent Republican to about 39 percent Republican. The allegation is Lynn Jenkins would have difficulty winning that district.

Senators say that’s nonsense, noting that Jenkins won re-election with 63 percent of the vote; and they point out their plan would be constitutional.

It gets more complicated. People in the Geary/Riley corridor want to be together in the same district, and Riley wants to be in the 2nd District, not the 1st. Emporia wants to be in the Second with its neighbor, Topeka.

Quite a quandary, but we don’t have a dog in that fight, except to assure the map is constitutional. A court fight over its constitutionality would take money we don’t have. I’m not likely to cover this flap in my column until our final vote, so to keep up, check the Salina, Wichita or Topeka newspapers regularly.

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 785-296-7636.


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