The controversy over Mission’s so-called driveway tax has derailed the reappointment of the city’s former mayor to the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.
The old issue flared Thursday in the Kansas Senate, which voted 19-18 to reject Laura McConwell for the state board that regulates casino gambling.
It was a defeat for Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who had nominated McConwell to a four-year term on the commission. She has been filling an unfinished term since last summer.
McConwell could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon. The governor’s spokeswoman said Brownback would choose another nominee.
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“The governor was confident the nominee would have continued to serve the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission well,” Eileen Hawley said in a statement.
The conservative-controlled Senate rejected the conservative governor’s appointment because McConwell supported the much-derided driveway tax when she was mayor.
Approved in 2010, the tax — technically a transportation utility fee — collected money for roadwork based on how much traffic each property in the city generated. The fee was designed to collect the most money from the properties that put the heaviest burden on city streets.
However, the fee created an uproar, leading to litigation that is still winding through the state courts. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a nonbinding opinion saying the tax was illegal.
Lawmakers jumped on the opinion to make their case that McConwell used poor judgment when she was Mission’s mayor.
“It is pretty obvious that it upset a lot of citizens in Johnson County to be taxed in such a manner,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, a Shawnee Republican who was among six Johnson County senators to vote against McConwell’s appointment to the commission.
“When the attorney general returned his opinion on it, there was still no recognition how unfair this tax was.”
Sen. Kay Wolf, a Prairie Village Republican, said a local issue should not play a role in deciding McConwell’s appointment. She said there is no relationship between the road fee and her ability to serve on the gaming board.
“It was completely inappropriate,” Wolf said. “What does that have to do with the Racing and Gaming Commission?”