Topeka Split Plan Faces Trouble in Kansas Senate
March 30, 2012

(AP) – The Kansas House has passed a redistricting bill splitting Topeka between two congressional districts.

But key senators said even before Thursday’s vote 81-43 vote in the House that they oppose the measure. The Senate approved its own plan last month, and negotiators for the two chambers must compromise.

Topeka currently is in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, and the House’s plan would move part of it into the 1st District of western and central Kansas. House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, noted that his chamber rejected other plans that kept Topeka in a single district.

But Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, called splitting Topeka absurd. And Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said he opposes the idea.

A Bi-Partisan, Bi-State Search for an End to ‘Poaching’?
February 18, 2012

Prime Buzz:

A bipartisan group of Kansas City-area lawmakers is ready for the economic “border war” between Missouri and Kansas to end.
But if it doesn’t, they want Missouri to invest the resources needed to win.
Rep. T. J. Berry, a Kearney Republican, is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit the state from issuing certain economic development tax credits to attract jobs from Kansas to Missouri.
To go into effect, however, Kansas would have to pass similar legislation within two years, and at least a couple Sunflower State lawmakers are willing to consider it. But if Kansas doesn’t, Missouri would commit to spending $1.50 on economic incentives for the Kansas City area for every $1 that Kansas spends.
“If we’re not going to end it, we need to win.” Berry said. “But I would much prefer not to go to war.”
Seventeen local business leaders, including Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Donald Hall Jr. of Hallmark Cards, sent a letter in April to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback asking them to declare a moratorium on using incentives to induce businesses to move across the border.
The aim, Berry said, is that passing the bill will force Kansas to end “a race to the bottom where neither side wins.”
“Kansas lawmakers know they have a problem with tax credits,” Berry said. “It’s sucking more and more general revenue, just like ours are, and it makes it much more difficult to fund things like education.”
Rep. John Rizzo, a Kansas City Democrat, is co-sponsoring Berry’s bill and working on similar legislation of his own. Instead of the region competing against itself for the same jobs, the Kansas City area should be trying to spur investment from around the country, he argued.
“Our position would be so much stronger if we were on the same team,” Rizzo said.
The difficult part of selling the legislation, Berry said, is showing lawmakers from around the state just how much impact the “border war” can have on Missouri’s economy.
“Between St. Louis and Kansas City, we make up 70 percent of the general revenue of the state. If Kansas City continues to suffer, the general revenue will continue to suffer,” he said.
Although he said he’s had some discussions with Kansas lawmakers, Berry admitted the idea is not getting much traction on the other side of the state line.
But leaders in the Kansas Senate were intrigued by the Missouri proposal, noting that they have discussed how businesses move back and forth across the state line with the help of tax incentives without a net gain in jobs.
“We certainly don’t want to rule something like that out,” said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican.
Senate Vice President John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said he would like to see Missouri approve the legislation first, with a trigger that would be contingent upon Kansas adopting something similar.