Legislature will have plate full of meaty issues

Gov. Sam Brownback has promised to tackle just about every major aspect of state government in the legislative session that starts in January.

“It’s a big session, but we have a lot of needs,” Brownback said recently.

Asked if it may be a good time to ask the Republican-dominated Legislature to refrain from the controversial issues of immigration and abortion, Brownback, a Republican, said, “They’ll decide what they want to do on topics. We have a full-load agenda for the Legislature.”

On the issue of immigration, a group of Protestant and Catholic leaders has asked the Legislature to leave the matter to the federal government.

But Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican and national leader on passing anti-illegal immigration legislation in multiple states, said that isn’t going to happen.

There will be legislation aimed at stopping illegal immigration in Kansas during the 2012 session, Kobach said.

“I think one of the reasons is that there is just so much demand for it from constituents,” he said.

Also, he said, an E-Verify bill that has failed in the past in the Kansas Legislature is more likely to gain acceptance because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May that upheld an Arizona law that requires employers use the E-Verify database system to check the immigration status of their workers.

During the 2011 session, legislation similar to another Arizona anti-illegal immigration law, and a bill to repeal in-state tuition for some undocumented students, was under consideration. Kobach has been a driving force behind both measures.

But advancement of those bills ground to a halt amid a national furor about remarks made by state Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro. During a House Appropriations Committee meeting, Peck compared illegal immigrants to feral hogs and said perhaps the state should shoot them from helicopters.

He later said he was joking and then apologized under pressure from Republican leaders.

In the 2012 session, Brownback will forward to the Legislature proposals to make major changes in taxes, Medicaid and school finance, in addition to the annual fight over state spending. All are guaranteed to generate much discussion. And the Legislature will also deal with funding problems with the public pension system, and the once-a-decade process of redrawing congressional, legislative and State Board of Education district boundaries.

But Kobach said he doesn’t see anti-illegal immigration legislation getting crowded out because of all the other issues. The Legislature, he said, “can multitask.”

By Scott Rothschild

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