State representatives update constituents on current session – Osage County Online | Osage County News

State representatives update constituents on current session

Kan. St. Reps. Corbet, Mast, Finch

State representatives, from left, Ken Corbet, Peggy Mast and Blaine Finch speak with Osage County citizens Saturday during a legislative forum hosted by the Osage County Republican Central Committee.

Due to last year’s legislative redistricting, Osage County now has three state representatives instead of one as it had for years. Voters in Osage County had an opportunity Saturday to speak to all three representatives, Ken Corbet, Peggy Mast and Blaine Finch, during a public forum at Osage County Senior Center, in Osage City.

The county’s last lone state representative, Willie Prescott, introduced Saturday’s guests and moderated the forum organized by the Osage County Republican Central Committee. Prescott, chairman of the county committee, ran in the August primary race against Bill Otto and Mast for the reformed District 76, which includes Coffey County and parts of Osage and Lyon counties.

During the forum, the legislators outlined bills under consideration during the legislative session. Afterward, they answered questions from the audience of about two dozen people.

One citizen questioned ongoing consideration of how judges are selected for the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals. A bill recently approved by the Senate seeks a constitutional amendment to change the current system, in which the governor must select one of three nominations from a nominating commission made up of attorneys, to a system in which the governor would make a selection subject to Senate confirmation. The House passed a similar bill that applies to appeals judges only, bypassing the need for voters to pass a constitutional amendment as would be necessary to change the selection process for Supreme Court judges.

Corbet said the problem with the current system, which Finch said was enacted by Kansans in the 1950s, is that attorneys have too much control over the selection process.

“Kansas has 2 ½ million people and you’ve got a few thousand attorneys picking your judges,” Corbet said. “It’s almost like a few thousand attorneys have more say than the public at large.”

Finch said he was hoping for a compromise that would allow the governor to “take those names (from a selection committee) and pick his or her appointment and let the Senate confirm that, so people will feel like they had some voice in the process.”

The audience reacted favorably to comments by Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall as he told the legislators that local property owners were tired of paying the bill for other state tax cuts.

“There are a lot of things worrying counties and locals that you are doing to us,” Kuykendall said. “You have a long history of saying ‘we’re not raising your taxes,’ but forcing the locals to raise taxes. The state’s balanced their budget on the backs of locals for years.”

He said a bill being considered to take industrial fixtures off of the tax rolls would hurt small counties.

Mast said the fixtures bill had been turned over to Legislative Post Audit because it “really messed things up” and would likely not be brought up again this session.

“I don’t think that’s going to be worked this year. I don’t know if they got it fixed,” Mast said.

Kuykendall also questioned a proposed change in how watercraft is taxed in Kansas, agreeing boat taxes are high but also provide revenue for counties.

“Every time they do something to change it, the county’s going to have to raise taxes on everyone else’s property,” Kuykendall said.

Corbet said the move to change boat taxation was due to Kansas boat owners registering their boats in other states to avoid Kansas’ tax, which he said is seven times higher than in Missouri or Oklahoma. Current legislation being considered would gradually lower watercraft’s assessed value to create a tax rate comparable to Oklahoma’s.

“If it brings back boats, the money’s going to come back,” Corbet said.

“It’s getting there that’s going to wipe us all out,” Kuykendall said.

Kuykendall also complained of “monkey business going on up there” that was “killing off the Kansas Association of Counties, and the Kansas league of municipalities, keeping them from lobbying.”

He said such organizations are the only lobbying groups available for local government.

“That looks terrible if that goes through,” Kuykendall said. “It means the state doesn’t want to hear any other opinions.”

Audience members answered Kuykendall’s statement with hearty applause.

Several people in attendance questioned specifics of the proposed Paycheck Protection Bill, which prohibits public employees from using automatic payroll deductions to make contributions to political organizations.

As described by Finch, the bill under consideration designates that “payroll deductions for dues to the organization were OK, but payroll deductions for contributions to the political action committees were not acceptable. Public employees would have to make those contributions on their own.”

Opponents of the bill have said its intent is to reduce employees’ support for unions or their political organizations; supporters have said the bill would offer employees extra protection against pressure from unions to contribute.

Before extending an open invitation to the state representatives – none live in Osage County – to visit the county any time, Kuykendall reminded them of the importance of the planned reconstruction of state Highway 31 from U.S. Highway 75 to Osage City. He said he recently spoke with the state transportation secretary and was assured the project was still part of T-WORKS, the state’s multi-year highway plan.

“Keeping that on T-WORKS is vital to Osage City and the county,” Kuykendall said.

An audience member expressed concern, saying the Legislature takes money away from KDOT projects every year.

Corbet joked, “They call it the KDOT bank.”

All three state representatives said they are available for constituents to contact them about any issues.

To contact your state representative:

Rep. Peggy Mast, District 76, Capitol Office, Room 381-W, 785-291-3500, email [email protected].

Rep. Ken Corbet, District 54, Capitol Office, Room 179-N, 785 296-7679, email [email protected].

Rep. Blaine Finch, District 59, Capitol Office, Room: 167-W, 785 296-7655, email [email protected].

Or for more information, see the Kansas State Legislature website.

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