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KS senator plays defense on basketball bill

By   /   February 5, 2013  /   No Comments

FREE THROW: Sen. Mike O’Donnell said his basketball bill is one of the few pieces of bipartisan legislation on which lawmakers can come together.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Between the state’s persistent unemployment, a flagging economy and a looming budget deficit, the Kansas legislature has its fair share of hard-hitting issues to tackle this session. So, with such a heavy agenda on the table, why are legislators wheedling in the political fluff that is state sports rivalries?

Because, says Sen. Mike O’Donnell, it’s a slam dunk.

O’Donnell, R-Wichita, introduced legislation Tuesday which would require Kansas’ state universities — Kansas State University, Wichita State University and the University of Kansas — to square off on the basketball court. While WSU is a fully-fledged Division I school, it hasn’t shared the court with its Sunflower counterparts for the better part of 20 years now. O’Donnell said other states like Texas and Iowa have done it, and Kansas should be next in line.

“It all comes down to the fact that these are state universities,” O’Donnell said, citing economic development opportunities and passionate sports rivalries as cause for the legislation. “We do have obviously a large role, and WSU is a Division I school and it has been consistently overlooked by KU and K-State.”

But considering the state of things around Kansas, and the other issues lawmakers have been tasked with sorting out in the next few months, isn’t this a waste of time? O’Donnell doesn’t think so.

“There are so many bills happening right now that are more important, but this is something that the legislature on a bipartisan effort could work out and agree on,” he said. “I just don’t see a lot of downsides other than the fact that it will distract a little bit of time. I’m not under the illusion this is more important than school finance or the tax situation or the coming deficits we need to work on.”

O’Donnell added that while this is an issue he has heard from constituents for months, he hasn’t brooded over the matter for weeks. Rather, O’Donnell noted, he just put the bill together over the weekend.

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62.

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.

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