Kansas House roundup: Wind turbine lights, feminine fight, ballot deadline, Biden energy policy

By: and - March 28, 2023 3:57 pm
Rep. Lisa Moser said wind turbine lighting system disrupted the beauty of Kansas' rural landscape. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Rep. Lisa Moser said wind turbine lighting system disrupted the beauty of Kansas’ rural landscape. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Wind turbine lights are a dangerous nuisance, Kansas House lawmakers said during a lively discussion Tuesday of wind farm lighting statewide.

The wind turbine bill was among nearly two dozen pieces of legislation the House planned to consider during a jam-packed debate as lawmakers attempt to make progress ahead of next week’s end-of-session deadline. The House also advanced budget and tax bills, as well as legislation dealing with abortion and elections, among other topics, and adopted a resolution to condemn President Joe Biden’s energy policies.

The blinking red lights atop wind turbines, which are meant to prevent low-flying aircraft from flying into them, spoil the Kansas landscape and distract drivers, lawmakers said during debate on Senate Bill 49.

Rep. Lisa Moser, a Wheaton Republican, quoted poet Robert Frost to convince lawmakers to vote in favor of a turbine light mitigation bill. Moser said her rural community was an area “less traveled” before the blinking lights ruined the scenery.

“I have always found solace in our quiet little corner of the earth, with its green pastures and clear beautiful sky,” Moser said. 

She was one of several lawmakers to speak against the lights.

Rep. Joe Seiwert, a Pretty Prairie Republican, said he had heard of car accidents where people from out of state had driven off the road because they were distracted by the lights. Rep. Carrie Barth, a Baldwin City Republican, said the lights were often frustrating. 

“These blinking red lights drive people crazy,” Barth said. “They’re super annoying. Out in the country, they have a clear night black sky that they’re used to and all of a sudden, these are blinking on a nonstop basis.”

The bill would require the installation of light-mitigating systems in wind turbines across the state, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, among other bill provisions.

If approved, new wind turbine developers would need to apply to the FAA for lighting system installations that meet the organization’s regulations starting in July of 2023. Once approved, the turbine developer would need to install the system within 24 months. Existing wind turbines would apply to the FAA for lighting system installations starting in January 2026. 

Moser estimated that there were about 4,000 wind turbines in the state.  

“There are thousands of Kansans who see red blinking lights every three seconds, twenty-four hours a day,” Moser said. “This is legislation that will mitigate that.”

The House gave first-round approval to the bill, which the Senate passed by 39-1 vote on Feb. 23.

 

Feminine fight

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, tangled with Rep. Barbara Wasinger, a Hays Republican, over the meaning of “feminine.”

Clayton proposed an amendment to House Bill 2416, which would create a sales tax exemption for Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ, that would also exempt feminine hygiene products. The proposal was supported by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, as well as her Republican challenger in last year’s election.

But Wasinger, a champion of other legislation that targets transgender people, challenged Clayton to define “feminine.”

“Are you OK?” Clayton asked.

The Democrat continued: “I know you are trying to make a point, and I am not going to allow you to make that. You are not going to turn something that is decent tax relief for hardworking Kansans into something ugly. I will not accept that.”

Wasinger’s response: “I guess she doesn’t know the answer.”

The House rejected Clayton’s amendment.

 

Ballot deadline

House members approved an election security bill essentially identical to a bill already passed by the House and Senate earlier this legislative session.

Rep. Leah Howell, a Derby Republican, urged members to support Senate Bill 209, which would require all advanced voting ballots to be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Under current law, ballots that are postmarked by Election Day are counted if the election office receives them within three business days. In February, House and Senate lawmakers passed bills ending the three-day grace period.

Republican proponents of the bill argue the legislation is necessary to restore residents’ trust in the electoral process, though the bill’s critics have said proponents are the ones undermining the electoral system in the first place.

Rep. Brandon Woodard, a Lenexa Democrat, said he worried that valid ballots would be thrown out. Woodard also said he felt it was unnecessary to vote again on the measure, and that the Tuesday bill introduction was meant to put on a “show.”

“Any ballot thrown out is too many,” Woodard said.

Energy independence

The House approved by 84-35 vote Senate Concurrent Resolution 1603, which directs Biden to support the domestic oil and gas industry.

Rep. Chuck Smith, a Pittsburg Republican, said Biden needed to expand domestic energy production in the state, help with oil pipelines and consider “geopolitical tensions.”

“We want to stop buying oil from our adversaries,” Smith said.

He emphasized that oil and natural gas were big industries in Kansas and that energy companies should be supported. 

Rep. KC Ohaebosim, a Wichita Democrat, said the resolution was unnecessary because Biden was already doing all of the things the resolution asked him to do, such as supporting domestic oil drilling in Alaska.

“Take a look at the problems we have in the world right now,” Ohaebosim said. “Take a look at what’s going on with Russia. Take a look at what’s going on in North Korea. I guarantee you we’re not doing business with those people with respect to energy.”

Biden banned oil and gas energy imports from Russia in 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Smith’s response to Ohaebosim: “I know it’s hard to believe but I didn’t hear a word my friend said.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.

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