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State legislative update

Liquor bill remains controversial

State Rep. of 70th District

Monday was the last day for committees to meet and distribute bills that start in the house of origin. After Monday, I will spend my time on the floor of the House looking at House bills.

Recently, I spoke of the national health care law and the Kansas legislature’s response to it. This week’s health news deals with another matter and the legislature may be plowing new ground in Kansas through what is called an “apology” bill.

Here’s the idea. In a society bent on finding fault with everyone and filing suit to prove it, it is difficult for a physician to explain to a family the circumstances surrounding an unintended outcome, even though many doctors would like to be able to express their feelings about the matter. The problem is that anything said by a doctor to a patient or the patient’s family might land the physician in court having to claim that his words weren’t an admission of fault.

The apology bill sets the platform for doctors and families, as well as patients, to talk openly with each other without regard to having to eat their words. This has the potential to help folks struggling with a bad medical result to understand what really happened, and if a party later decides to file a lawsuit, the facts of the case will determine whether a health care provider is at fault — the doctor’s words and the family’s response don’t enter into the mix.

I don’t know if the law will pass and I don’t know whether it will work, but if it does it could go a long way to improve the climate at a time when compassion and truth should be paramount, not holding onto a position. Time will tell.

The Senate is looking at passing a liquor bill that would open the sale of strong beer, wine, and spirits such as whiskey and vodka, to grocery stores, convenience stores, and other large outlets.

Our former sheriff, Ed Davies, sent written testimony in opposition to the Senate committee hearing the bill, and I commend him for speaking up on the matter. (He had the flu and couldn’t deliver it personally.) Davies observes that policing the proposed law would be incredibly difficult. With limited liquor outlets in a community as we now have, law enforcement has a better chance of monitoring alcohol, thus making it more difficult to get in the hands of our youth, and when it does we have a better chance of tracing the provider.

We have another enforcement issue crushed through the bill. Currently a real person must own a liquor store and that person must be “squeaky clean.” If a liquor store violates the liquor laws — not just the owner but any employee — Kansas will likely shut down the store, from one day to possibly forever.

The Senate bill would permit large corporations to sell liquor, but their rules aren’t the same. Right now, convenience stores and grocery stores that sell beer won’t be shut down so long as the company has training on the state’s rules.

Taken to the next level, will we shut Dillons down for selling to a minor or after hours? Not if Dillons attempts to train its workers on Kansas’ liquor rules. Dillons simply goes on with its sales. See the problem?

The convenience of purchasing at the grocery store is the draw attracting people to support the bill; the controls that have been in effect (and pretty effective) since 1949 will be one of the casualties if the bill passes.

The last issue is economic impact. Why is a locally owned business less worthy than Dillons unless there is some compelling issue? Will the corporate profits of Kroger, Dillons’ parent company, benefit Kansas in any particular way? Will sales go up? Will controls be as effective? Will Marion County keep its high ranking as a place that has little binge drinking of its youth?

Last year you told me overwhelmingly that you opposed strong beer at convenience stores. Now you know my thoughts.

What are your thoughts? Please contact me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66612; or call me at (620) 382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session (through about May 15) is (785) 296-7636.

Last modified Feb. 24, 2011

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