- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stalled an effort Thursday by some fellow Republicans to override his veto of a popular budget measure by warning lawmakers that doing so could jeopardize the state’s credit ratings.

The debate over Brownback’s veto highlighted a split among Republicans in the GOP-dominated Senate. The bill the governor rejected last week would have protected an aging government building near the Statehouse and dealt with the cancellation of a $20 million project to tear it down and build a new power plant in the area.

Legislators also advanced a bill to bar minors from using tanning beds and considered a measure to exempt the state from daylight saving time, starting next year. Legislative leaders hired an attorney to represent lawmakers in a school funding lawsuit.

Here is a look at legislative developments Thursday:

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POWER PLANT PROJECT

Brownback’s administration had planned to demolish the 1950s-era Docking State Office Building near the Statehouse. Because it houses a power plant for the Statehouse and other buildings, the administration’s plan would have built a new one.

The Department of Administration signed an unusual financing agreement in December, weeks after members of a legislative committee expressed misgivings. The state would have financed the project through a 15-year lease-purchase agreement with Bank of America, paying 2.32 percent interest.

Bipartisan opposition forced Brownback to cancel the project last month.

Legislators then passed a bill with only one dissenting vote in either chamber to protect the Docking building from demolition. The bill also tied the cancellation of the project to a refusal by lawmakers to provide money for it - something its drafters said would help the state negotiate lesser penalties from Bank of America and the construction company.

“We were looking out for the taxpayers,” said Kay Wolf, a Prairie Village Republican.

Wolf initiated an effort in the Senate to override Brownback’s veto and appeared at one point to have the necessary two-thirds majority, or 27 of 40 votes. But she dropped it and asked that the vote be postponed until Monday after Brownback’s warnings became public during the debate.

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GOVERNOR’S WARNING

Brownback’s administration said if the state ties the power plant project’s cancellation to a refusal to provide funds for it, credit rating agencies could question Kansas’ willingness to pay its obligations.

The warning was based on a Feb. 26 memo from Paul Maco, a Washington attorney representing the state on such issues.

Brownback vetoed the bill March 4, and his message to lawmakers did not mention the credit rating issue, something his critics quickly noted.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the issue wasn’t mentioned because, “We were trying to work out all of this amicably with the Senate.”

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GOP ACRIMONY ON DISPLAY

The debate over Brownback’s veto showcased deep divisions among Republicans in the Senate.

President Susan Wagle, of Wichita, pushed to override the veto. She questioned the power plant project and said lawmakers were providing necessary oversight by getting it canceled.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, a Grinnell Republican, said, “We’re at a crossroads. We’d better decide who’s in charge in these chambers and govern.”

But Majority Leader Terry Bruce, of Nickerson, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, of Andover, sought to prevent the veto override.

“What’d done is done,” Masterson said. “There’s no positive gain.”

Brownback’s official account and his budget director also tweeted during the debate in favor of the governor’s position.

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NO TANNING FOR KIDS

The House approved a bill that would prohibit minors from using tanning devices such as sun lamps and tanning beds.

The 77-44 vote sends the measure to the Senate. Salon owners could be fined up to $250 and incur disciplinary action for allowing people under 18 to use tanning devices.

Supporters of the measure say it would protect young people from ultraviolet lights that can cause the deadliest form of skin cancer. Critics argue the bill prevents parents from deciding what is best for their children.

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DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

Masterson is pushing the bill to have Kansas stop observing daylight saving time and testified during a short Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee hearing.

Masterson said there’s little evidence that moving clocks forward an hour each spring saves energy or increases productivity, and it interrupts people’s sleep cycles and could cause health problems.

Lawmakers in other states also are considering such proposals. Daylight saving time begins this weekend.

But Masterson was the only person to testify in Thursday’s hearing, and the panel doesn’t yet plan to take up his bill.

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HIRING A LAWYER

The Legislature’s top seven leaders voted to hire Toby Crouse of Overland Park to help lawmakers collect evidence and build a record in a school funding lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court.

The court ruled last month that a 2015 school funding law shorts poor school districts on their state aid. The justices threatened to shut down public schools unless lawmakers fix the problems before July.

Legislators set aside $50,000 for an attorney.

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Associated Press writer Melissa Hellmann contributed to this report.

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Online:

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

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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