Politics & Government

Capitol Beats: Snow shuts down the Legislature

Gov. Sam Brownback, right, shakes hands with Her Excellency, Dr. Tebelelo Maxile Seretse, Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the United States.
Gov. Sam Brownback, right, shakes hands with Her Excellency, Dr. Tebelelo Maxile Seretse, Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the United States. The Wichita Eagle

Check this spot on Sundays for a few quick hits about what’s driving the debate in the Legislature.

Say what?

“We’ve had accidents this time around, people hitting snow plows. Please don’t follow them that close. And they’re moving slow – they have to! – to move the snow.”

– Gov. Sam Brownback speaking on Thursday. Five snow plows were hit by motorists on Tuesday, according to the Department of Transportation.

“The one thing I learned in the orphanage, okay, was that if I wanted anything done I had to make it happen myself.”

– Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, describing his teenage years at the Mariana Boys Home in Wichita. Goico fled Cuba by himself at age 13 to Florida first and then Kansas. He said the experience taught him about self-reliance.

10,000 miles

That’s the combined distance of “snow-packed” roadways KDOT crews cleared this week, according to Secretary of Transportation Mike King.


Snow. This week winter weather did the same thing to the Legislature that the Seattle Seahawks did to Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl: Shut it down. The House and Senate suspended activities completely for Tuesday and Wednesday. In addition, Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park, called off the first meeting of the special committee studying Gov. Sam Brownback’s all-day kindergarten proposal originally scheduled for Thursday. Brownback also ordered state agencies to close their offices except for essential personnel.

Runner-up: It was a big week for Brownback, too. While legislators got a snow day, the governor was “on duty” – as he described it to reporters – overseeing the state’s emergency response efforts. He even went along with a snow plow crew to clear part of I-70 on Tuesday.

And somehow the governor still found time to meet with the ambassador from Botswana this week.

Brownback leads House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, 42 to 31 percent among likely voters, according to a poll released this week by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research. Bear in mind that the firm primarily works with Republican candidates, but that’s still a better result for Brownback than an October poll from Survey USA that had the governor trailing Davis by 4 percentage points.

That said, only 45 percent of Kansans have a favorable opinion of the governor, according to the poll. Will plowing streets get him over the 50 mark?

News Ahead

Legislators in both chambers have repeatedly joked that the Corrections budget is the only thing that they “have” to get done this session. But what’s going to be interesting is seeing what Legislators want to get done.

If bills before the House are any indication, some legislators are looking to fight a few battles in the culture wars, especially on the issue of marriage. A bill that would allow public employees to refuse service based on their beliefs of marriage made it through committee this week and is headed for the floor. Supporters say the bill is about protecting religious freedom, but opponents say the bill unfairly targets same-sex couples. Another House bill, introduced this past week, would eliminate incompatibility as grounds for divorce.

Bryan Lowry