The Star on minimum wage vote

Kansas City Star; February 26, 2007
Ugly side of enacting laws – Discovery of a possible loophole in an eminent domain law creates an awkward situation.

KANSAS CAPITOL NOTEBOOK

Discovery of a possible loophole in an eminent domain law creates an awkward situation.

TOPEKA – It is said that enacting laws is a lot like making sausage — not very pretty.

What’s really ugly is when nobody seems to know what’s going in the grinder.

A case in point is Senate Bill 316, which could help Olathe build a professional soccer stadium. The bill, approved last week by the Senate Commerce Committee, was supposed to be debated by the full Senate on Thursday, but something strange happened on the way to the Senate floor.

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Fowler Republican, started reading the bill and discovered something that disturbed him — a possible loophole in an eminent domain law that prohibits taking private property for commercial business purposes.

He found a section that might provide an exception in that law for blighted property. And, “of course, we really haven’t come up with a good definition for blighted areas, so it could be anything,” said Sen. Phil Journey, a Haysville Republican.

Huelskamp confronted leaders of the Commerce Committee about the blight section, and they didn’t seem to know anything about it.

After a brief moment of embarrassment, Senate leaders decided to pull the bill from the debate calendar. Sen. Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican and the committee’s co-chairwoman, said she wasn’t certain the bill created that loophole but added that she would investigate Huelskamp’s concerns.

House Democrats have long argued that the state’s minimum wage of $2.65 — the lowest of all states that set a minimum hourly rate — should be raised to match the federal level. Last week they tried unsuccessfully to add an increase to a bill. Their proposed amendment sparked some of the best debate so far this session.

The vote was 63-56 against it.

Democrats and a few Republicans argued the wage was an embarrassment to the state and an insult to the 19,000 Kansans whose jobs pay less than the federal minimum wage because they don’t involve interstate commerce.

But most Republicans countered that businesses are best able to set wages, and that an increase in the minimum wage could cause a rise in prices and a reduction in jobs. They said there were better ways of helping low-income workers than raising the cost of labor for small businesses.

Here’s how Kansas City area lawmakers voted on the amendment. A yes vote supported the increase.

Republicans voting yes: Anthony Brown, Eudora; Tim Owens, Overland Park; and Judy Morrison, Shawnee.

Republicans voting no: Colloton; Jeff Colyer, Ben Hodge, Ronnie Metsker, Sheryl Spalding and Kevin Yoder, all of Overland Park; Kay Wolf, Prairie Village; Owen Donohoe, Shawnee; Terrie Huntington, Mission Hills; Mike Kiegerl, Lance Kinzer, Rob Olson and Arlen Siegfreid, all of Olathe; Ray Merrick, Stilwell; Stephanie Sharp and Ron Worley, both of Lenexa; and Kenny Wilk, Lansing.

Democrats voting yes: Tom Burroughs, Stan Frownfelter, Broderick Henderson, Margaret Long, Mike Peterson and Valdenia Winn, all of Kansas City, Kan.; Marti Crow and Candy Ruff, both of Leavenworth; Cindy Neighbor, Shawnee; and Gene Rardin and Sue Storm, both of Overland Park.

To reach Jim Sullinger, call 1-(785) 354-1388 or send e-mail to jsullinger@kcstar.com. To reach David Klepper, call 1-(785) 354-1388 or send e-mail to dklepper@kcstar.com.

Author: JIM SULLINGER and DAVID KLEPPER

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