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Capitol Notebook: Thimesch, Seiwert were Brownback plane sidekicks

Reps. Jack Thimesch, R-Spivey, and Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, hitched a ride with Gov. Sam Brownback when he flew to Kingman Friday, Feb. 3. Brownback visited Hooray Ranch in Kingman County and stopped at the award-winning St. Patrick Catholic School in Kingman. He also traveled to Arkansas City and an event celebrating Cowley College. In January, Brownback challenged colleges to offer a four-year degree that didn t cost more than $15,000. Cowley and Fort Hays State University entered into an agreement in March 2016 that made that possible. The governor s staff said he invited local legislators to fly with him, but didn t reveal who was asked and who flew.

Sens. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, and Larry Alley, R-Winfield, told The News they were invited but declined because they had Ways and Means subcommittee work. Alley said he did take a break from a subcommittee meeting that day to attend a Brownback press conference at the Capitol regarding Cowley College. Thimesch said he and Seiwert flew with Brownback to Kingman. Thimesch s district includes all of Kingman County. Seiwert s district includes parts of Reno and Sedgwick counties. Becker sidelined

Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, was absent from the House most of last week due to the H1N1 flu virus.

He said he contracted the virus the weekend of Feb. 4-5 but reported to work in the State Capitol on Monday, Feb. 6. That was a mistake, he wrote in an email. He became very ill and spent a couple of days in the hospital. On Friday he was home and planning to work in the House this week.

Cosmosphere

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, would like to look into the cockpit of the SR-71 Blackbird in the Cosmosphere, but there aren t stairs or a ramp. He mentioned that during a House committee presentation on tourism where the Cosmosphere was mentioned. Turns out, much of the cockpit isn t way up there. The control panel and seat have been removed so visitors can see them along with other artifacts, according to Mimi Meredith, vice president of development and marketing at the Cosmosphere. The exhibit is in the Cosmosphere Rotunda that surrounds the stairs down to the Hall of Space Museum. It is on the other side of the Rotunda from the Apollo 1 exhibit that just went up, Meredith pointed out.

It s a zoo

When a rhinoceros beetle under glass is the centerpiece on a dining table, the venue must be unusual. The seven zoos in Kansas accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums jointly hosted a legislative reception Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center.

We re just here to explain what it means to be an accredited zoo, said Hutchinson Zoo director Ryan VanZant. Every five years a zoo must be reaccredited, meeting all-encompassing standards, he said. Besides Hutchinson and Topeka, areas where accredited zoos can be found are Garden City, Salina, Manhattan, Emporia and Wichita. The event was a new one for the zoos, and they weren t advocating any specific legislation. Besides offering a barbecue meal, the hosts gave legislators a chance to feed giraffes or pet a 4-month-old alligator or hold a ball python.

Rep. Roger Elliott, R-Wichita, gamely said yes to hold the snake. What kind of pets did he have at home? We have a very spoiled miniature poodle, Elliott said.

Marshal s in town

The Travel Industry Association of Kansas highlighted the role tourism plays in Kansas, and Dodge City s Brent Harris was walking the Statehouse hallways Wednesday in his familiar role: the Marshal of Dodge City.

What are you? Wyatt Earp? is what Harris frequently hears. No, he s gone now. I took his job, is how he responds. Harris didn t wear guns into the Capitol, but a security officer wanded his spurs, according to the Dodge City visitors.

Harris carried a saddlebag that had been filled with silver badges to give away. So eager were people to get a badge that by the afternoon, the saddlebag was empty.

You would think these things were the Pulitzer Prize, he said.

Pancakes

Years ago when Liberal s community leaders visited the Statehouse, legislators competed in pancake-flipping contests. Then came the Statehouse restoration and for more than 15 years, the pancake breakfast for legislators and legislative staff did not return. That changed Monday, Feb. 6, when about 18 people from the Liberal area hosted a pancake (and sausage) breakfast for all legislators and staff. Jo Ann Combs, executive secretary for the annual pancake race that will occur this year on Feb. 28, thought it was good to bring the breakfast back. We like the attention, she said.

The visitors weren t allowed to make the breakfast in the Capitol a caterer had to provide the breakfast but this was the next best thing, Combs said.

Seward County and Liberal city leaders traveled to Topeka, and Liberal Mayor Joe Denoyer also had a meeting scheduled with the Kansas Department of Transportation to discuss the city s desired geometric improvements and hoped-for reduced speed limits through the Six Points intersection that s been narrowed to a four-way intersection.

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