State Representative Jan Pauls (center) addresses the crowd at a Legislative Forum, while State Senator Terry Bruce (right) and State Representative Steve Becker (left) listen her remarks.
A capacity crowd attended the first of three legislative forums Saturday morning at the Mennonite Friendship Manor in South Hutchinson.
All of the local representatives attended and talked some of the issues that are being considered in Topeka.
That included such topics as allowing liquor sales in the bog box and grocery stores. Some of those in attendance were against the idea of expanding liquor sales including Democrat Jan Paul’s, while the more moderate Republican Steve Becker had no problem so long as it doesn’t increase consumption. State Representative Joe Siewert says he believes they could allow the smaller liquor retailers to sell other items such as chips and dip, pop, items like that. State Senator Terry Bruce says he is generally in favor of allowing liquor such as wines being sold in the big box stores. Representative Jack Timesch who’s district is primarily rural also worried about how this could effect the rural “mom & pop” operations.
Guns were also a topic of discussion and all Representative Becker agreed that there probably won’t be any type of new gun legislation at the state level, while Becker argued the answer can’t be “do nothing.” But, he didn’t specify any particular legislation that he would like to see addressed. Perhaps when a young person gets a physical for school, they could also get a brief mental examination as well.
Then there is the talk of “taxes” and how Governor Sam Brownback plan calls for more income tax cuts, but the legislature is also looking at corporate tax rates but are struggling to figure out how to mesh such reductions with GOP plans for more cuts in individual income tax rates.
Representative Becker called the tax plans being discussed as a “big gamble” and wondered if there is a plan B, should the current plans fail. Senator Terry Bruce says the plans being discussed are Plan B, because of the way taxes have been handled prior to Governor Brownback taking office.
Those legislators in attendance also asked about the elimination of some deductions on mortgages and how that would effect homeowners. Representative Siewert argued that it isn’t fair to renters because they can’t get a deduction for the rent they pay. But, most argued that it wouldn’t be that big of a factor at the state level.
Then came school finance and the decision of the 3-judge panel in Shawnee County who ruled in favor of districts who say the state isn’t funding enough money for schools which is required under the state constitution. Senator Bruce who is the Senate Majority Leader this year says that decision is being appealed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Representative Becker who is of course a former District Court Judge says he believes the judges made the right decision. That brought applause from those in the audience, and he was the only one to get applause for statements he made.
State Senator Bruce on the other hand questioned who has the authority to make that decision. He says it’s the legislature, not the courts.
The next forum will be on February 23 at Wesley Towers. These forums are co-sponsored by the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce and AT&T.