TOPEKA — Hesston Rep.-elect Stephen Owens believes state government can do a much better incentivizing job growth at small- and medium-sized businesses.
Democratic Rep.-elect Rui Xu, the first Chinese-American elected state representative in Kansas, plans to put his shoulder into education funding and Medicaid expansion before focusing on energy policy that addresses climate change.
And, Olathe Republican Rep.-elect Megan Lynn believes Kansas must get smarter about delivery of mental-health services.
The trio of freshman were among 25 newly elected representatives with no previous state government experience undergoing orientation sessions Tuesday at the Capitol. Three others elected in November — Reps.-elect Will Carpenter, of El Dorado; John Toplikar, of Olathe; and Owen Donohue, of Shawnee — are newcomers, but previously had stints in the House. Six others were elected for the first time after having been appointed to office.
Owens, who was unopposed in the November general election, said his priority was helping kick start the Kansas economy by establishing incentives that help Kansas-founded businesses flourish. It's insufficient to pour millions of dollars into drawing large employers to the state, he said, while the root of job expansion was in modest enterprises.
"Those are the ones who hold the key to our economic growth," he said. "Too often we focus on recruiting big companies from out of state with incentives that often times don't financially pan out."
Xu, the Westwood Democrat who narrowly defeated Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker, said the properly financing Kansas public education and developing a strategy for expansion of Medicaid benefits were top priorities.
"In terms of committees and what I want to focus on, it would be energy policy and climate change," he said.
Lynn, a Republican following in the footsteps of Rep. Scott Schwab, who was elected Kansas secretary of state, said her central issue would be reforming a mental health system to better meet needs of children. She has a son with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
"It's something that's very important, I think, for our kids," Lynn said. "Especially the social media. It's changing the wiring in the brains. I think it becomes like an addiction."
Rep. Michael Capps, a Wichita Republican appointed earlier this year, won election in November to the seat. He said he was committed to bringing change to the Kansas Department for Children and Families. It's personal for Capps, because was accused by DCF of emotionally abusing boys in foster care.
"I want to be a voice for people who don't have a voice in our state — the children and elderly, foster families," he said. "That agency is an agency that is in dire need of reform. We have children dying in care. We have children neglected in care."
He said the privatized foster care system in Kansas wasn't working because children in state care were reduced to a "file number and money."
"It's a bipartisan issue. Republicans have had substantial control of Topeka for years, but the Democrats have had their own influence. Neither party has done anything to fix it," Capps said.
Rep.-elect Ron Howard, R-Wichita, defeated by 130 votes incumbent Rep. Steven Crum, a Haysville Democrat. Howard worked about 40 years in the aviation industry.
He said the state's public education system would benefit from greater transparency in the budget process and by directing more financial resources to classroom activities of students.
"We have several schools around the state that are lacking. You can see it in our children," he said.