Written by Lara Hastings

Desoto Explorer

Incumbent State Rep. Owen Donohoe and his challenger for the Kansas House District 39 seat, Joe Novak, offer voters plenty of differences for voters to consider as the Nov. 4 election approaches.

The candidates, whose district includes northwestern Shawnee, Basehor and Bonner Springs, recently responded to a short questionnaire posed by the Shawnee Dispatch regarding current state legislative issues from smoking bans to energy resources.

Donothat both could be possible, but did not emphasize complete support or opposition.

Donohoe, a 63-year-old owner of a medical device company, said smoking bans should be decided locally by voters and no exceptions for certain businesses should be allowed under such a ban.

"This would impose unfair and unequal restrictions on private businesses inhibiting their ability to compete fairly and equitably within the free market," he said.

An increase in the cigarette tax, he said, may later encourage other taxes on items associated with health problems such as fast food.

"I believe this could become a slippery slope, and I don't think this is the type of government involvement we want in our lives," he said.

Novak, a 57-year-old high school principal, said a statewide smoking ban could be discussed and, depending on the outcome of that discussion, the Legislature could decide if it was feasible and, if so, how to institute such ban.

"In opening a dialogue and hearing from all sides, Kansas could enact a proactive statewide practice while considering exceptions or possible special considerations," he said.

As far as a cigarette tax increase, Novak said the Legislature first needs to "define a comprehensive health care initiative for all Kansans" that would look at the uninsured and the underinsured.

"Once a plan has focus, the state has to look at all potential funding sources in which to help the plan get to the implementation phase," he said.

Both candidates agreed the state budget had room for cuts. Novak said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius already had taken the correct first step in figuring budget cuts by conducting a full audit, but Novak said there also are other ways to cut the budget.

"An additional piece is to review programs and services and determine which are working in serving Kansans and which no longer serve a purpose," he said. "Phasing out ineffective programs also helps the budget."

Donohoe said across-the-board cuts are key to paying down the state debt along with eliminating more than $400,000 a day in interest payments.

"Once the debt is lowered, we will be able to afford new programs and increase funding for existing programs," he said. "We must become more judicious and prudent with our state budget and how we allocate our resources."

Novak and Donohoe also both agreed that the state should look at more rigorous restrictions and training for teenage Kansas drivers. Donohoe proposed implementation of a graduated driver's license, which would increase education requirements and provide restrictions such as nighttime driving.

"I would want to be sure that these restrictions would not be overly burdensome to the wide open, rural areas of western Kansas where farming communities depend on the ability of teenagers being able to drive to work and school," he said.

Novak said he supports better enforcement of the current driver's license laws, as well as possibly strengthening those laws.

"We have too many of those drivers on the road not fulfilling their obligations and/or staying to current restrictions," he said.