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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lawmaker's immigrant remark draws gasps

BY TODD FERTIG
Eagle Topeka bureau

What one House member said was intended to be a joke backfired on him Monday.

In a committee hearing, Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, introduced a question he was asking regarding the hunting of feral swine in Kansas with what he says he intended to be a joke:

"Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem."

Several members of the audience and the House Appropriations Committee gasped at Peck's comment, but no one responded to it until Peck's question was answered by witnesses and members of the committee.

At that point, Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, chair of committee, made the only comment regarding Peck's joke.

"I know that the preface to your question was an attempt at humor, but I would ask that in the future you refrain from comments that could be deemed inappropriate," Rhoades said.

The question being debated was how best to control the about 500 feral swine in Kansas. Presently in the budget for 2012 is $175,000 for the Department of Agriculture to continue to hunt herds of feral swine. They occasionally employ a helicopter to shoot at the hogs from the air. It has been suggested that the state should open a season in which hunters can kill the hogs legally.

Peck could not be reached for comment, but following the hearing he told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was "just speaking like a southeast Kansas person."

Tyro is in Montgomery County, about 12 miles west of Coffeyville.

He said most of his constituents are extremely upset with illegal immigration and the state and federal government response. He added that he expects no further controversy over the comment.

"I think it's over," Peck told the Journal-World.

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