The end of the year means the start of a new political and legislative season, and south-central Kansas residents will have several chances in the next two weeks to hear from and be heard by their state legislators and a U.S. senator.
For those interested in state issues, the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation will be holding its annual pre-session town hall meeting Jan. 6, followed by a Jan. 7 meeting with leaders of community interests including USD 259 and Wichita State University, said Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita and chairman of the delegation.
The Legislature will return to Topeka to begin its annual session on Jan. 11.
Sen. Jerry Moran will take advantage of Congress’ holiday recess to hold a series of town meetings on federal issues in Sedgwick and neighboring counties on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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On the state front, Goico said he’s planning to set up an online forum for constituents to communicate with legislators before he passes the gavel to a new chairperson on Jan. 7, when the delegation will also hold its annual organizational meeting.
Details are still to come on the online forum, which will either be set up through Facebook or possibly hosted by a local organization’s website, Goico said.
In the past, the delegation has held Saturday town meetings periodically during the legislative session, but Goico stopped that this year.
He said he didn’t think the general public or lawmakers were getting much out of those meetings, because the comment periods were dominated by organized special interests and most legislators didn’t show up regularly, preferring to spend their Saturdays at home with family after spending their weekdays in Topeka.
You will have a blog, if you will, where all 51 South Central Kansas Delegation members can communicate with their particular constituents and everybody in south-central Kansas can see the answer.
Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita
Goico said he thinks an online forum will be a better way for Kansans to pose questions and express their thoughts to all the members of the delegation.
“You will have a blog, if you will, where all 51 South Central Kansas Delegation members can communicate with their particular constituents and everybody in south-central Kansas can see the answer,” he said.
In addition to the town hall meeting and the Wichita State forum, the delegation has scheduled separate meetings with the Sedgwick County Commission and the Wichita City Council.
In years past, the city and county have cooperated closely on ventures such as the Fair Fares initiative to subsidize air fares at the airport and fighting for state funding for community health programs.
But this year, the County Commission majority took a sharp turn toward minimizing government after former state Rep. Jim Howell took a seat on the commission. Commissioners have turned down some health grants as being outside what they consider the proper role of government and severed ties with regional and national city/county associations.
The county legislative agenda has become more of a platform for the majority commissioners to convey their thoughts on broad policy matters such as advocating for more state tax cuts, opposing the federal Affordable Care Act and complaining about the regulatory burden of complying with environmental laws.
The city, meanwhile, is taking a more expansive view of government’s role, seeking to end diversion of money from the state transportation fund and asking for increased state support for passenger rail service, economic development and the cultural arts.
The city and county are both primed for battle at the Legislature over whether to allow cities to continue annexing land without county permission, and the division of local sales tax income, where Wichita claims it’s being shortchanged.
With the county and city being at loggerheads, “That I don’t understand,” Goico said.
“It seems like they should be in sync and dancing together, because (Wichita) is the largest city in the county and there should be harmony between the parties,” Goico said. “That’s something they have to resolve.”
All I want is our legislators to get the details from everything, because a lot of times we make decisions and there could be unplanned consequences.
Goico said he’s resolved that the legislators won’t just be listening to elected officials, but also talking with the paid staff at the county government and City Hall.
“All I want is our legislators to get the details from everything, because a lot of times we make decisions and there could be unplanned consequences,” he said. “So I’m insisting the county give us the numbers of the different directors of the different departments. I’m insisting on the same thing from the city.
“I want our members to be able to call any members of the county and city to get all the information they can.”
From the federal level, Moran will be making a whirlwind tour of five meeting in five counties over two days.
When he’s not in Washington, Moran schedules town hall meetings on a rotation designed to take him to each of Kansas’ 105 counties at least once every two years.
The Sedgwick County town hall will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Center in Clearwater.
Elsewhere in south-central Kansas, Moran has stops scheduled in Cowley, Sumner and Reno counties on Tuesday and Marion County on Wednesday.
Hear and be heard
South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation
Most of the 51 senators and representatives from south-central Kansas will discuss the upcoming legislative session at these three meetings.
Public forum – 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 6, Jury Room, Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main, Wichita
The format is open-mic. People wishing to be heard must register to speak when they arrive at the meeting.
Annual meeting – 1-3:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Rhatigan Student Center, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita. Legislators will select their officers at 12:30 p.m. Beginning at 1 p.m., they will receive presentations from the university, Wichita School District USD 259, Sedgwick County and other local interests. The meeting is open to the public, but there will be no opportunity for general public comment.
Wichita City Council – 2 p.m. Jan. 8, City Hall, 455 N. Main, Wichita. Legislators will meet with the City Council to discuss issues of interest to the city. The meeting is open to the public, but there will be no opportunity for public comment.
Sen. Jerry Moran town hall meetings
Moran will give a brief update of issues in Washington and then take questions from the audience.
Cowley County – 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Udall Community Building, 102 E. First St., Udall
Sumner County – 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sumner Regional Medical Center Basement Conference Room, 1323 N. A St.,Wellington
Sedgwick County – 2 p.m. Tuesday, Clearwater Community Center, 921 E. Janet Ave., Clearwater
Reno County – 4 p.m. Tuesday, Haven Senior Center, 106 S. Kansas St., Haven
Marion County – 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Wohlgemuth Music Education Center at Tabor College, 400 S Jefferson St., Hillsboro