- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators on Tuesday pushed the state closer to a confrontation with the federal government over protecting prairie chickens.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1ohymdS ) that the Senate gave first-round approval to a bill declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate prairie chickens or human activities that affect the birds’ habitat. The measure covers both the lesser and greater prairie chicken.

The Senate planned to take final action Wednesday, when passage would send the measure to the House.

State Wildlife Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison has said he expects the federal government to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species or to impose a conservation plan. Western Kansas lawmakers and farmers worry they’ll face extra costs and new land-use restrictions.

“The federal government is running roughshod on this,” said Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, a Grinnell Republican.

Some supporters believe the bill asserts the state’s rightful sovereignty. Kansas last year enacted a law declaring the federal government has no power to regulate guns, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas.

Sen. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, said he fears the United States is creeping toward a totalitarian government similar to North Korea’s.

“The federal government is coming into Kansas, into states, and they have no constitutional authority to do that,” Knox said.

But some legislators question whether Kansas can block federal action. The bill makes it a felony for a federal official or employee to attempt to enforce regulations involving prairie chickens.

“How is it that the state of Kansas can impose that kind of retraction on the job federal agents are required to do and is that even constitutional?” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.

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Online:

Information about prairie chicken bill: https://bit.ly/1grpgpD

Kansas Legislature: https://www.kslegislature.org

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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