Top GOP lawmakers hold up nearly $10M for Kansas prisons

Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 12:10 PM CDT
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Top Republican legislators are holding up nearly $10 million in funds for Kansas prisons that corrections officials say they need to deal with overcrowding.

GOP leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature expressed strong reservations Wednesday about plans by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's administration to ship inmates to private prisons outside Kansas.

They also expressed doubts that a plan to move adult female inmates into empty space in a juvenile corrections center is legal.

Lawmakers included nearly $36 million in extra funds for the Department of Corrections in the next state budget. But Republicans worried enough about how it would be spent to require Kelly to get top legislative leaders to sign off before nearly $28 million could be used.

Legislative leaders did approve $9 million for pay raises for prison employees.

Kansas prisons chief's confirmation in doubt

Two Republican leaders say they have doubts that the Kansas Senate will confirm Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's choice to be the next head of the state prison system.

Kelly on Wednesday stood by her appointment of top Idaho corrections official Jefferey Zmuda as Kansas corrections secretary. Zmuda is set to take over the Kansas Department of Corrections in July.

Zmuda was criticized by an Idaho judge earlier this year for giving "disingenuous" testimony as the deputy director of that state's prison system in a lawsuit over access to execution records.

Senate President Susan Wagle said Wednesday that she is not sure the GOP-controlled Senate will confirm Zmuda. Majority Leader Jim Denning said the vote would go against Zmuda if it were held now.

Lawmakers are out of session until January.