The Hutchinson News, March 25
Lawmakers focus on vengeance instead of good policy:
Legislation based in spite or blind hatred doesn't often come without some ill consequences and that's certainly the case with House Bill 2096, which is designed to damage public employee unions.
The bill, which advanced quickly thanks to the questionable "gut-and-go" legislative process, would ban public employees from making automatic payroll deductions for anything other than insurance, taxes and pension plans.
Caught in the crossfire are groups such as the United Way that rely a great deal on the automatic payroll deduction for their fundraising. The legislation is so questionable and filled with ill consequences that even the great and powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce has backed away from a bill it originally supported.
The groundswell of opposition to the bill and the damage it would inflict on nonprofits seems to have stopped the measure, at least momentarily.
This legislation has its origins in conservative lawmakers' dislike of labor unions, particularly those that represent public employees. Instead of drafting legislation that actually helps people or effectively manages the state's affairs, this batch of lawmakers spends entirely too much time searching for ways to be punitive or dismantling anything that doesn't mesh with their singular point of view.
Such an approach to lawmaking is childish and destructive. Instead of electing statesmen to weigh and consider issues on their individual merits, it seems we've largely sent to Topeka men and women who seek to use their office to rewrite the laws so that every Kansan must live under the "right" ideals.
When spite is the basis for much of the state's legislation, Kansans can expect to see laws passed that are hastily written, poorly thought-out and enacted with little discussion or consideration of the long-term effects of their poor decisions.
Lawrence Journal-World, March 29
Lawmakers should boost renewable energy efforts, not hamper them:
The Kansas renewable energy industry has been growing and thriving, but some measures still active in the Kansas Legislature could bring an end to that.
Wind is the big renewable energy player in Kansas, but solar power and biomass production also are making strides. One of the keys to growth, especially for wind power, was approval of the renewable portfolio standards in 2009. The standards required major Kansas utility companies to gradually increase the amount of power they get from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. The standards have provided a solid market for wind producers in the state without placing an undue burden on energy companies. Westar Energy indicates it already has reached the 20 percent mark.
Despite that success, two different bills have been introduced to eliminate the renewable energy requirement or freeze it at 10 percent. The Senate bill would maintain the 10 percent requirement through this year and then eliminate it completely.
Other bills would modify the property tax exemption on renewable energy generation projects and place a new 4.33 percent excise tax on electricity produced from renewable sources. Because most Kansas wind projects have conation or payment-in-lieu of taxes agreements with local taxing entities, state wind experts say that changing the tax picture for existing wind projects could create real problems. Depending on how the provisions are worded, companies might end up being liable both for ongoing local payments and new state-ordered taxes.
Critics of the renewable energy standards claim they interfere with the free market and significantly add to the price that Kansas consumers pay for electrical power. However, that added cost is minimal. According to a Kansas Corporation Commission's report, the state's retail electrical cost is 9.95 cents per kilowatt hour. The renewable portfolio standards account for just 0.22 of a cent of that cost.
Kansas has huge potential for renewable energy production, especially in the area of wind power. According to the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas is ranked second in the nation for potential wind energy production, and projections indicate that by 2030, the state could be producing 7,000 megawatts of wind energy for export each year. The renewable energy industry also attracted a Siemens wind turbine production facility to the state and has fueled new wind energy-related programs at several community colleges.
At least some of the legislation listed above seems to be stalled for now, perhaps because enough legislators — and their constituents — recognize how the state's support of wind energy is paying off. This is a growing industry that has the potential to produce an economic boon for Kansas, especially in that western part of the state, which needs all the economic help it can get. Any legislation that squelches that progress would be a move in the wrong direction.