Kansas Senate bills expand reach of lobbyist registration, oppose private management of state prisons

Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, February 20, 2018
 
Motivation for sweeping change in lobbying registration centered on behind-the-scenes activity to influence the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback when considering a controversial 20-year, $360 million contract with CoreCivic to build and maintain a new state prison in Lansing.  Opponents of the lease-to-own pact, approved in January, said they were concerned about being blindsided by CoreCivic’s strategy to privatize the state’s prison system.  Meanwhile, the Senate advanced to final action Senate Bill 328, which would block privatization by the executive branch of security operations and personnel management at state correctional facilities. The Kansas Department of Corrections would still be able to contract for food, medical and other support services.  Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said the bill declared the corrections system wouldn’t be open to privatization without approval of the Legislature. …

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Editorial: Bill against privatized prisons right move
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal, February 11, 2018
 
A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by majority and minority leaders of the Kansas Senate would limit privatization at state prisons and maintain the role the Kansas Department of Corrections fulfills regarding day-to-day operations of those facilities.  The legislation was authored after a 20-year, $362 million lease-to-own contract for a new state prison in Lansing was approved by the State Finance Council.  CoreCivic, which is based in Tennessee, was contracted to build the new prison. However, under measures outlined in the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, CoreCivic would not be granted authority to oversee personnel operations at Kansas adult and juvenile facilities. …

Kansas Senate GOP, Democrats embrace bill limiting privatization at state prisons
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, February 7, 2018
 
A rare exhibition of Senate bipartisanship Wednesday led to a committee’s prompt approval of a bill to prohibit outsourcing of personnel management operations at state prison facilities.  Motivation for the change reflected apprehension about approval of a $362 million contract with CoreCivic, a Tennessee company that builds and operates private prisons, to construct and maintain for 20 years a new Lansing Correctional Facility.  Under the contract, the Kansas Department of Corrections would retain supervision of corrections officers, wardens and other personnel. … Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the union supported the Senate bill because it would clearly prohibit outsourcing or privatization of management operations at state corrections facilities.  He said KOSE had many officers, counselors, maintenance specialists and administrative assistants who “do a fine job of making the state prison facilities run in a professional manner under trying circumstances working long hours for little pay.” …


P3 benefits in question as Kansas hits pause on prison proposal
Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, January 22, 2018
 
Plans to build a $362 million Kansas prison as a public-private partnership are in doubt as lawmakers question the financial benefits of the proposal.  Traditional state bond finance could provide the state a better deal, according to state auditors who examined private operator CoreCivic’s proposed lease-purchase arrangement. Kansas is having difficulty hiring enough guards to staff the state prisons at current capacity. The Kansas Department of Corrections says that it can lower operating costs by building a prison at the existing Lansing site that requires 46% fewer guards.  Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who heads the State Finance Council, postponed a meeting of the council Thursday that was to have authorized CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, to begin work on the project. …

Kansas legislators remain skeptical of new Lansing prison deal
Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, January 11, 2018
 
Legislators remained skeptical Thursday of a plan backed by Gov. Sam Brownback to rebuild the state’s oldest, largest prison.  …. The council is expected to take a vote on the proposal next week, but legislators have continually voiced concerns over the project’s cost and CoreCivic, the private prison operator that would build it. The state would still operate the prison. …. Ward said he was concerned about correctional officers’ safety because the proposal claims to require 46 percent fewer staff members. The Kansas Department of Corrections did not engage the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents officers, on the project. ….

Opinion: Bring Lansing prison proposal out of the dark
Source: Lisa Ochs, Kansas City Star, December 17, 2017
 
That project is the proposed new prison that would replace most of the current Lansing Correctional Facility. The Kansas Department of Corrections, or DOC, is pushing a lease/purchase arrangement under which private contractor CoreCivic would build the new structure and lease it to the state for 20 years. … After limited legislative review of this scheme, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Building Construction refused to endorse this approach. … Legislators also expressed concerns that the CoreCivic contract would be a first step toward privatization of prison operations in Kansas. As State Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka pointed out, there is little interest in the Legislature in privatization. …

Kansas wants private prison company to build Lansing replacement
Source: John Hanna, Associated Press, November 30, 2017

Kansas plans to have the biggest private prison company in the U.S. build a replacement for the state’s oldest and largest correctional facility and pay for the project by leasing the new prison from the firm for 20 years. The state Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it selected CoreCivic Inc., based in Nashville, Tennessee, as its contractor for the new prison for 2,400 inmates in Lansing, in the Kansas City area. … Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration contends a lease-purchase deal is the most cost-effective way to build a new prison, even after a state audit in July questioned that assessment. Two legislative committees still must review the plan, and legislative leaders and Brownback must formally sign off next month for the two-year, $170 million project to move forward. …

Secrecy surrounds efforts to rebuild Kansas’ largest prison
Source: Jonathan Shorman and Hunter Woodall, Kansas City Star, September 27, 2017
 
A high level of secrecy surrounds an effort to rebuild Kansas’s oldest and largest prison. The Kansas Department of Corrections received bids from three companies in the past week to build a new prison at Lansing, Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood told lawmakers on Wednesday. The construction project could ultimately cost Kansas upwards of $200 million. But few details about the bids – including names of bidders and a final cost estimate – have been released publicly. … “Most prison projects, we have a bid opening where all the numbers are all read out loud – a public bid opening,” said Mike Gaito, the agency’s director of capital improvements. “This is a negotiated procurement so it does not happen.” In a negotiated procurement, the government negotiates with the bidders after they submit bids. The winning bid is not always based on the lowest price. … “We’re very concerned about the lack of transparency the Kansas Department of Corrections is exhibiting with not sharing with the public about who the bidders are and the cost estimate,” said Robert Choromanski, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. …

…. KDOC would not identify Wednesday the companies that bid on the project, or details of their bids. The Kansas Department of Administration has previously named three companies who expressed interest: Tennessee-based Core Civic, Florida-based GEO Group and Lansing Correctional Partners. … The financial stakes for both Kansas and the companies pursuing the contract are high. State auditors have said using bonds for the project could ultimately cost the state $178 million, while a lease-purchase agreement would cost up to $206 million. The agency has not decided which path it wants to use. …

Plan would cut Kansas prison’s staffing more than 40 percent
Source: John Hanna, Associated Press, February 8, 2017

Kansas would cut staffing at its largest prison by more than 40 percent under a plan for replacing it by leasing a modern lockup built by a private company, the state’s top corrections official told legislators Wednesday.  Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood said the new prison in Lansing, built where part of the existing one now stands, would require fewer officers to watch inmates, would be safer and would operate more efficiently. … On Wednesday, several prominent Democratic legislators questioned whether Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is moving too quickly. They also suggested that the lease-purchase proposal would be a step toward privatizing the prison system. … Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the largest union for state employees, questioned that assessment, saying staffing is based on the number of inmates.  “I just find it incredibly concerning,” she said of the proposal and the department’s projections for a smaller staff. …