House bill would move municipal elections

By Hannah Swank
KU Statehouse Wire Service

Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City Democrat, said the House Elections Committee is trying to solve a problem it hasn’t been asked to solve with HB 2227, a bill that would move municipal elections to the fall of odd-numbered years.

House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Scott Schwab (R- Olathe) introduced HB 2227 in February 2013 and while the bill currently does not propose partisan elections, Wolfe Moore said this type of election wouldn’t work well in local venues.

“This is the first step to the next bill where we’ll be making these into partisan races,” Wolfe Moore said. “Even if these elections stay non-partisan and they are held in August or November, there will be a partisan overlay.”

HB 2227 would move municipal primary elections to August and general elections to November of odd-numbered years. The elected officials would begin terms in January of the following year.

Clay Barker, Executive Director of the Kansas Republican Party, testified as a bill proponent saying the goals of the KRP includes making municipal elections partisan since both the KRP and the Kansas Democratic Party involve themselves in select local races.

In written testimony outlining the problems with current spring elections, goals and recommendations for HB 2227, KRP Chair Tom Arnold said: “Aligning with a political party creates a foundation of resources to allow the candidate’s message to be better disseminated to the voters. Partisan designations by candidates give clear signals to voters on the candidate’s general political philosophy and view on issues.”

House Elections Committee Member Rep. John Carmichael (D- Wichita) also said the bill is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

“What is most concerning is when Clay Barker explains to us the real purpose of this bill is to turn municipal elections and school board elections into partisan elections,” Carmichael said. “That would not be good for the democratic process. It’s also concerning when he says the current rules of the Kansas Republican Party require them to participate in these supposedly non-partisan elections.”

Frank Henderson, President of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said holding school board elections in November and having newly elected board members begin their terms seven months into the fiscal year and halfway through the academic year could be very counter-productive and create a platform for making poor decisions.

“An even-year election would force board races to the very bottom of the ballot, but more importantly, allow important school issues to be lost in the din of state and national races,” Henderson said.

Schwab closed oral testimony for HB 2227 on Monday but written testimony will be accepted by the committee until Wednesday.

Published by:
The Salina Journal

Health clubs seek tax exemption in Kansas House

By Hannah Swank
KU Statehouse Wire Service

Lexena Mayor Mike Boehm says state government is overreaching on Senate Bill 72. That’s just one issue he has with the bill that will exempt Kansas health clubs from property and sales taxes.

“The exemption of these specified businesses will certainly reduce city revenue and compel us to force other taxpayers to take up this additional tax burden,” Boehm said in written testimony Monday.

SB 72 passed in the Senate last year and was introduced in the House Taxation Committee on Monday. In the Fiscal Note for SB 72, the Department of Revenue estimated the proposed bill would reduce state revenues by more than $3.9 million for fiscal year 2014.

Boehm wrote that there are more than a dozen health clubs in Lenexa that currently pay property taxes, including one that pays more than $400,000 per year.

Larry R. Baer represented the League of Kansas Municipalities to oppose SB 72. In written testimony, Baer said key concerns of the bill are loss of property tax base, shift of taxes to other taxpayers, loss of state revenues and impact on a city’s ability to fund operations.

Supporters of the bill said it would eliminate an unfair advantage for health facilities that are already tax exempt.

Rodney Steven II, President of Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita, said his direct competition is from tax-exempt facilities, such as the YMCA, which has seven facilities in Wichita. Steven said more than 80 percent of YMCA profits come from adult fitness memberships.

“These are buildings that are twice our size and they are able to charge half our price because they do not pay or charge any sales tax, any property tax and of course income tax,” Steven said. “They provide nearly the same services, collect membership dues and they are, for all intents and purposes, in the health club business.”

Committee Chair Richard Carlson (R-St. Marys) said the hearing on SB 72 would likely continue next week.

Published by:
The Garden City Telegram

Kansas House bill would criminalize surrogate parenting

By Hannah Swank
KU Statehouse Wire Service

The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee began discussions Monday of Senate Bill 302, which would criminalize surrogate parenting contracts in the state of Kansas.

The bill proposed by committee chair Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) states: “Surrogate parenting contracts are hereby declared to be against public policy and such contracts shall be void and unenforceable.”

The bill further says that any person or entity involved in a surrogate parenting contract for compensation would be found guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in county jail.

The hearing granted 20 minutes of testimony for opponents, 15 minutes for proponents and 5 minutes for the neutral position expressed by Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City). Since the bill deals with matters of legal contracts, Haley said the bill would be better addressed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We are speaking, not necessarily about a health procedure, mechanism or health plan, but primarily about existing legal contracts and how they are to be evaluated, amended and potentially abolished,” Haley said. “That is the providence of the Judiciary Committee.”

Proponents of the bill included Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network in California, who said her criticisms of surrogate parenting are the physical harm to women, the risk and harm to children and the commercialization of conception.

Another proponent, Michael Schuttloffel, Executive Director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said surrogacy violates the sacred bond between mother and child and the dignity of both is disrespected through the process.

“It’s deeply disturbing that society has become so comfortable with the idea of intentionally designing arrangements where children are not birthed and raised by their biological parents,” Schuttoffel said. “While we may have the technological means to engage some of these more exotic reproductive experiments, we do not have the technology to refashion human nature.”

Many opponents of the bill who testified Monday included adoption agents, women who have acted as surrogate mothers and parents who have used surrogate parenting methods, including Wichita couple Hilary and Geoff Louvar.

“I don’t see how a senator that claims to be such a strong advocate for the pro-life movement would want to abolish contracts protecting the very families that want to create life,” Hilary Louvar wrote in a prepared testimony she plans to read when the hearings continue Tuesday.

Their son, Griffen, was born in 2011 through a gestational carrier and they plan to have another child in 2014 through surrogacy.

“This isn’t anti-abortion. This is anti-family. This is anti-American,” Hilary Louvar said of the proposed bill. “Penalize the small; don’t penalize the masses.”

Lynlee Weber, a mother and gestational carrier of six children, said surrogacy has taught her daughter lessons about compassion, trust, sacrifice and social justice.

“We must be able to decide for ourselves if carrying another person’s child is right for us. It’s up to the parents to decide if that’s the way for their child to enter the world,” Weber said.

In Washington D.C., a law banning surrogate parenting has been in place for about 20 years. Courtney Wilson, representative of RESOLVE: the National Infertility Association, said the Washington D.C. city council held hearings to overturn the law.

“The city council will be voting this spring on a new law that will allow gestational carrier arrangements in Washington, D.C.,” Wilson said. “They have already had a hearing on this bill and indications are that they’re ready to overturn their outdated and restrictive law.”

Pilcher-Cook said she introduced the bill to initiate a discussion about surrogate parenting. The Public Health and Welfare Committee will continue its discussion of the bill on Tuesday with more testimonies from each side.

Women and Artistic Success in the Midwest

Successful female artists like Barbara Waterman-Peters are still a rarity in the male-dominated art world, but she has worked to become a critically acclaimed painter who is a fixture in the newly revitalized arts community in Topeka, Kan.

Waterman-Peters attended Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., to pursue painting. She married while in college and had a child, but when her daughter grew older, she returned to Washburn to complete her undergraduate degree in the late 1970s.

“At the time, the art world was just beginning to shake open for women artists. It was a good time for stepping into the fray,” Waterman-Peters said. “I thought seriously about what I was painting and what I wanted to do in the art world and I taught myself the skills to equip myself.”

After Waterman-Peters received her undergraduate degree in painting, she completed her MFA at Kansas State University. She has since been invited to teach at both institutions and been active in artists’ coalitions while showing her work in galleries.

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist and I really never considered another career,” she said. “I realized that painting was something I had to pursue and the world wasn’t going to beat a path to my door.”

In addition to her painting career, Waterman-Peters is also a writer for Topeka Magazine and was largely involved in the revitalization efforts in Topeka that resulted in the NOTO Arts District where she currently has a studio.

“I wanted to show that an arts district was a good thing for Topeka and for artists and by writing for Topeka Magazine I can introduce fellow artists and their work to the city,” Waterman-Peters said.

The work created by Waterman-Peters has contained depictions of clowns and the use of jacks-in-the-box as well as universal archetypes like Greek mythology or fairy tale lore. Waterman-Peters said she creates works that come out when she sketches.

“There are some ideas that demand to be in my work, which is sort of strange to wrap your mind around,” Waterman-Peters said. “There haven’t been any men in my work, but they will come one day when they appear in my drawings.”

In 1992, Waterman-Peters began a series of paintings depicting women. The first works in the series were surreal, nightmarish portrayals of women with no arms, no feminine characteristics and minimal hair. Waterman-Peters said this work came from an examination of the clichéd expectations of women during the time she grew up in.

“Women are more adaptable so they had to be willing to change for a man. Women would marry and have children and be the perfect housekeepers,” she said. “The early work was a reaction to that and a way for me to work through that.”

The work eventually expanded from her story to a more universal viewpoint. Waterman-Peters said the series was impacted by her time in graduate school through learning different ways of thinking and seeking justification for her artistic career.

“My work has gone from containing very personal imagery that only really spoke to me to something that a lot of people can enjoy and that is thought provoking,” she said. “I made the women more human and more powerful.”

Waterman-Peters said she believes women’s role is to continue making important art and addressing the important issues of the time. One of the important issues she addresses is the effort to reestablish arts programs in schools.

“How I envision it, women will be the ones to make that happen,” Waterman-Peters said. “Women are great collaborators and I believe that their collaborative efforts lead to something.”

Waterman-Peters said men and women may have a different approach to making art but she doesn’t see a difference between men’s art and women’s art.

“Artists are communicators. Men and women may be communicating different ideas, but they are still communicating,” she said. “I just think we’re all artists. We don’t always have to base things on gender.”

While women have been discouraged from art careers in many ways in the past, Waterman-Peters said this only made her more determined to become a successful artist and this impacted her work in a positive way.

“Being a woman is part of who I am as an artist,” Waterman-Peters said. “It can’t help but be.”

 

This story is part of a series regarding women in art. Listen to the corresponding audio story here and view the corresponding graphic here.

Nelson-Atkins Explores The Feminine Mystique

On Sun. May 12, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosted a presentation with the curators of the exhibition “The Feminine Mystique.” Curators Jan Schall and Nicole Myers presented the work by women and art depicting women from the 19th and 20th centuries. The curated works explore the evolving roles of women in society, how women are portrayed by men and how women portray themselves. The exhibition was created in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique.

VOICEOVER: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosted a presentation with the curators of “The Feminine Mystique” on Sun. May 12. The exhibition focuses on women in 19th and 20th century art. Curator Nicole Myers discussed the depictions of women that were selected.

MYERS: The way that it was curated was really to think about this dichotomy of types: the virgin, the femme fatale. To sort of show how women were perceived by artists, presumably male artists, as fitting into these two camps, I think is important.

VO: The exhibition was curated in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique. Myers explained the importance of the connection between art and literature.

MYERS: Any time you have a visual artistic movement, there are going to be movements in music, movements in literature, that are probably responding to the same stimuli and the same influences and impacts that are happening in society and history all at once. I think it’s important, always, when we can, to draw out those connections.

VO: Myers also discussed the distinction between work done by male and female artists, how the interpretations of these works differ and how she hopes female artists will be represented in the future.

MYERS: I think women artists have a hard time, no matter what they represent, getting away from the artwork being interpreted through their gender or through their sexuality. I think what would be ideal is that we come to a time and place where women artists aren’t a category, in and of themselves, and that it’s just the word “artist.”

VO: The exhibition will be on view until Aug. 13. This has been Hannah Swank for Art Addict.

This audio story is part of a series regarding women in art. Read the corresponding story here and view the corresponding graphic here.

Warehouse Arts District Revitalizes Lawrence

The Warehouse Arts District celebrates the history of East Lawrence through the renovation and re-purposing of warehouse buildings. The most recent renovation is the Cider Gallery that opened April 26 during Final Fridays with an attendance exceeding 1500.

The Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St., is a sister art gallery of the Weinberger Fine Art Gallery in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District. The building was renovated from a 1890s cider vinegar warehouse and still retains original hardwood flooring, wood beams and stone and brick walls. The renovated space houses a fine art gallery, indoor and outdoor event space and office space called the “Entrepreneur Office Hub” with added upstairs offices for rent, a bar, a kitchen and a stage for performances.

The cost of renovation for the Cider Gallery is approximately $2 million. The gallery received a $1.8 million infrastructure development from the city of Lawrence. The construction will include burying electrical lines and creating street lighting, curbs, brick roads and parking to be completed by July 24, 2013.

Clare Doveton, manager of the Cider Gallery, said she hopes the addition of the art gallery to the area will bring more attention to the art and culture in Lawrence.

“As this neighborhood is being built up, we’re thinking that it’s going to be a destination for the arts and that people will come here and collectors will come to Lawrence,” Doveton said. “There is so much talent in Lawrence and this is a wonderful outlet to showcase the work.”

The gallery aims to maintain a range of artists in its exhibitions and infuse the work of regional and local artists with that of nationally and internationally renowned artists. The work of artist Hunt Slonem who has work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art hangs in the gallery next to work by artist Steven T. Johnson who lives and works in the Lawrence Warehouse Arts District.

“It puts those artists on more of a national level where there is a national audience,” Doveton said. “It’s exposing Lawrence and the region to these artists.”

Doveton said there are plans to have artist talks, collector events and opening receptions during the course of future exhibitions and the gallery will become a regular participating venue for Final Fridays. Doveton said she wants to educate collectors about the artists and expose local university students to art and artists with behind the scenes tours and lectures.

“I believe Cider Gallery will be a huge success,” Doveton said. “As the Lawrence Warehouse District builds up with more art venues, more artists studios, more opportunities for artists and collectors coming together, how could it not?”

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