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SPOTLIGHT
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And fighting out of this corner ...

Published on -1/8/2013, 5:04 PM

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Well, it's always fun to hold a couple guys' coats while they fight.

It appears that situation is coming up for the 2013 Legislature, a fight over immigration law, or at least the pieces of immigration law the state can deal with. Immigration is basically a federal issue, of course, and Kansas doesn't have a border with any foreign nation ... unless you want to count Oklahoma.

The scrap? It is shaping up between the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who doesn't want any accommodation of not-legally-here residents of Kansas. Kobach has made a nice sideline job out of writing bills for cities and states to deter illegal immigration and expel illegal immigrants.

So, whose coats are we holding? Those of national conservative political icon Grover Norquist, chief of Americans for Tax Reform, and of Kobach, who said he'll wear his American citizen coat, not his official Kansas Secretary of State garb, when the immigration issues surface in the upcoming Legislature.

Norquist? His trip to Kansas next week is sponsored by the Chamber, which with several other special interest groups is seeking accommodation for not-legally-here Kansas workers whom businesses and agriculture depend on as a source of labor.

"We are bringing Mr. Norquist to Kansas so legislators can hear what real immigration reform should look like," said Mike O'Neal, now president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber -- and outgoing Speaker of the Kansas House.

So, it's a Chamber vs. Kobach scrap that begins at that legislative breakfast next week.

Now, at least on the issue of illegal immigration, we might get to see how conservative the Legislature is on what is almost a bright-line issue among social conservatives. The House in recent years has passed bills (ignored in the moderate-led Senate for several years) that would require employers to prove their workers are legal American citizens. And the House passed a (Senate-ignored) bill that would require non-legal youngsters who have completed at least three years of high school in Kansas to pay out-of-state tuition at Kansas universities so many times we believe the bill was laminated for better wear.

With the new more conservative Senate and a House that probably is a dab more conservative than it was in the almost-over biennium, whom do lawmakers listen to? Norquist (and the Chamber) or Kobach?

It's probably worthwhile to remember the Chamber's political action committee spent at least 25 times more supporting conservative Republicans for the Legislature than did Kobach's Prairie Fire PAC at the 2012 election cycle.

It's a business issue for the Chamber -- which is in the business business -- and it's a black-and-white simple constitutional issue for Kobach.

The governor? He tends to be a let 'em work guy, but last session he backed away from the issue because Kobach was making noise about it. Anyone else recall a time when a secretary of state could outweigh a governor on a big issue? We can't.

So, we're going to watch this closely. There are several anti-illegal immigrant issues simmering for the upcoming session. We'll see whether the Norquist/Chamber/governor side wins this debate, or whether Kobach leads lawmakers on the issue.

Oh, and who gets their coat back...

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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