All-GOP government in Kansas heralds new abortion limits

TOPEKA — On the day after an election that exceeded even their own hopes, Kansas Republicans found the weight of governing the state resting solely on their shoulders.

For the first time in 45 years, one party will hold all statewide offices. And Republicans will outnumber Democrats 92-33 in the House, their biggest majority since 1954.

There is little doubt that some legislative priorities stymied by eight years of Democratic governorships will finally be realized, such as sweeping anti-abortion regulations and requirements for voters to show photo ID at the polls.

A bigger question is how the party that promised fiscal austerity combined with economic recovery will go about accomplishing that.

Newly elected Gov. Sam Brownback has vowed to govern on the conservative principles he outlined in his campaign’s “Road Map for Kansas.”

“We haven’t had a Republican governor in eight years and a conservative governor in 50 years, and you have a lot of people going ‘I have an idea for you,’ ” he said. “I understand, but we have an agenda that is set here and this is what we are going to do. This is what we ran on, this is what the people elected us on.”

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, hopes that Brownback will not simply add on to previous state budgets, but take a close look at how money is spent.

“Part of that has to do with making government efficient but still effective,” Brunk said. “Rather than asking taxpayers to just pony up more money we need to make sure our own state fiscal house is in order first.”

With the overwhelming majority comes renewed responsibility, some said.

“We (Republicans and Democrats) spent the last six years in the Legislature blaming each other,” said state Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard.

Now, he said, “The other party has no power. We (Republicans) don’t have anybody left to blame.”

Abortion and voter ID

Republicans are looking forward to enacting two measures that passed both houses in recent years but were stopped by Democratic governors and an inability to garner the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto:

--Abortion restrictions. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a bill that would have required doctors who perform an abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy to provide state regulators with a full description of the medical condition that led to the abortion. It also would have allowed an abortion patient’s family members to sue the doctor if they felt the abortion had been performed illegally. Gov. Mark Parkinson said in his veto message that the bill tried to regulate “a private decision that should not be dictated by public officials.”

--Voter ID. In 2008, both houses passed a bill that would have required voters to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

Then-Gov., Kathleen Sebelius and Democrats blocked the bill, contending that it would disenfranchise poor people, the disabled and care-home residents.

State Sen. Dick Kelsey, R- Goddard, said he expects those bills to pass easily and be signed early in the 2011 session.

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