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Governor Sam Brownback Vetoes Barber, Banking Bills In Kansas

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Kansas Gov. San Brownback
Kansas Gov. San Brownback

Vetoes of three bills in Kansas -- including an obscure one relating to licensing barbers -- are raising eyebrows in the state legislature.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) this month rejected three bills that passed the Republican-controlled legislature with bipartisan support. The bills, which include measures relating to authority of state banking regulators; control over an oil and gas fund and the licensing of barbers, were among the most popular -- and obscure -- passed this year in Topeka.

The barber veto is attracting attention from state Democrats.

"It was bizarre," state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) told HuffPost. "Nobody ever thought that this was a bill that would see this."

The barber bill would have changed state law to require barbers who let their licenses lapse for more than two years to take a new licensing exam. The current law says that a three-year lapse is required before a new licensing exam is needed. Barbers whose licenses lapse under the deadline can pay a fee to have them restored. The bill was pushed by the state Board of Barbering.

Officials at the barber regulation agency did not return messages left for comment. Davis said state barber regulators told legislators this would be a public safety measure for the state.

Brownback did not view the issue as a public safety one, but rather an economic and regulatory one. In the April 4 veto he sent to legislators, he said the bill would harm the state's economy by creating more regulations and fees for those seeking to work.

"Only when the state's economic role is limited to maintaining a fair and safe playing field for all can the resourcefulness, ingenuity, and hard work of Kansans in every field of labor be fully realized," Brownback wrote. "Now is not the time to add layer after layer of regulatory fees, burdensome certification requirements, barriers to entry, and bureaucracy to our economy."

Davis said he expected legislators to attempt to override Brownback's barber veto when they return to Topeka next week. He said he did not know if Republicans were willing to buck the governor over the bill.

Another bill vetoed by Brownback this session would have changed state's banking laws. In that veto, Brownback said he was objecting to a portion of the bill that would have taken control of appointing regulators from his office and given it to an independent board. Brownback said he approved of the rest of the bill, but the appointment change would make it more difficult for him to manage the state.

In the oil and gas depletion trust fund bill, legislators wanted to shift control over the funds from the state to county governments. Brownback issued a terse two-sentence veto statement saying while the bill had merit, he wanted to see it brought up in terms of a larger economic picture.

Davis said he and other Democrats believe the oil and gas veto was a reaction to Senate President Steve Morris' (R-Hugoton) support of the bill, and Morris' opposition to the governor's tax plan, which failed in its first Senate vote. Brownback's spokeswoman could not be reached for immediate comment.

Davis said he is still surprised by these bills coming in for a potential override. "None of these were controversial," he said.

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