Officials set legislative priorities
In Leavenworth County, issues such as powers of home rule and road funding are top priorities. Its neighbor to the east, Wyandotte County, lists casino gaming and collection of delinquent real estate taxes as issues of note.
On Jan. 10, the political wheeling and dealing will begin as state politicos convene in Topeka for the beginning of the 2005 legislative session.
In preparation for the session, government officials from Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties took part in strategy sessions and meetings so a thorough plat
form of priorities could be developed.
Some of the top priorities for each county are listed below.
- Road funding: The Leavenworth County Commission will push heavily for the continuation of funding programs that provide federal money with some county participation.
"That's one of the highest priorities," said Dean Oroke, who on Jan. 10 will be sworn in as third district Leavenworth County Commission member. "Those programs, that funding, needs to continue on."
- Juvenile justice funding: The county is besieged with expenses stemming from state mandates for juvenile corrections. Oroke said the county is searching for the state to increase its participation.
"They provide some funding but the funding they provide is not adequate," Oroke said.
- New annexation regulations: Oroke said the county would like to see new legislation dictating that cities that annex areas also take in roads and road rights-of-way that are located inside the annexed areas.
- Home rule: Under Kansas law, counties are forced to act as "an arm of the state" rather than what's in the best interests of the residents in their area, Oroke said.
The new commissioner said Leavenworth County would like the same ability that cities have to exempt themselves from state mandates under home rule authority.
- Codes court: Counties with more than 150,000 population are allowed to implement a court that deals specifically with codes, zoning regulations and other related issues.
Oroke said the county would like to use a similar system to avoid a burdening county district court.
"Then we could administer to all those problems without cluttering up district court," he said.
- Gaming: Unified Government officials said they would urge representatives to approve legislation that would allow more gaming in Wyandotte County.
Unified Government is lobbying for approval of a compact between the state of Kansas and the Kickapoo/Sac and Fox tribes for a $210 million casino resort near the Village West tourism and entertainment district.
During the fall, the Unified Government sought state approval of an exclusive license for that casino, which brought howls of protest from Bonner Springs and Edwardsville, where officials were courting tribes with competing proposals.
The county also seeks approval of adding 600 slot machines to the Woodlands Racetrack.
- Delinquent real estate taxes: Wyandotte County is pushing the legislature to enact a law designating real estate taxes as debts and enforceable by civil action against the property owner.
The county claims current methods to collect delinquent taxes are cumbersome and ineffective.
- Paying for public services: Officials are also asking the legislature to develop and implement alternative revenue sources for local governments.
The county should be given the responsibility of crafting innovative funding mechanisms for services and projects that fit the community and allow for the reduction of property taxes, officials said