Gov. Laura Kelly’s office asked Ulysses High School senior Braxton Moral, 16, if he would come to Topeka for her State of the State address and if would be OK if Kelly recognized Moral in her speech, the teen recounted.

“Of course I said I would be honored,” Moral wrote in a response to the News.

Moral will turn 17 next month and will graduate in May with a high school degree and a four-year degree from Harvard. The story has been carried nationally and internationally, and Kelly said in her speech that Moral “reminds us of what young people will accomplish when given the opportunity.”

Braxton, his mother, Julie Moral, and his sister, Brittney Seger, 29, sat on the front row of the east gallery. Kelly’s husband, Ted Daughety, was two seats away from Braxton.

“It was a surreal experience getting to be part of such an amazing event and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I didn’t get to meet the Governor one-on-one that night but her staff treated us very well. I am blessed,” Moral wrote.

 

Local pastor  

Hutchinson’s First Church of the Nazarene’s lead pastor, Kent Pedersen, delivered the opening prayer of the first day of the new session of the Kansas House of Representatives on Jan. 14.

There was family in the House as Pedersen stood at the podium. His brother-in-law is Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman Jr. Heather Pedersen is the younger sister of the Speaker and teaches second grade at Nickerson Elementary School.

Heather Pederson was in House chambers two years ago when her husband was guest chaplain on opening day which marked Ryckman’s first term as Speaker. On Monday, Ryckman’s parents, former State Rep. Ronald Ryckman Sr. and Mary Ryckman, from Meade, were in the Statehouse for the occasion.

It was an honor, Pastor Pedersen said later last week. In his prayer, Pedersen said, in part: “We pray for unity, not uniformity. We know Father that you made us all uniquely different and we each think differently, but give your servants wisdom to iron out their differences for the good of the citizens of this great state.”

 

Party changes

In the last session, State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, had a Senate floor seat assignment that put Sen. Dinah Sykes, R-Lenexa, on his left. The other lawmaker in Berger's two-office suite was then Republican State Sen. John Doll of Garden City.

Last year, Doll dropped his Republican affiliation to run on the independent gubernatorial ticket with Greg Orman, and Sykes became a Democrat. Now, State Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, R-Galena, sits beside Berger on the Senate floor, and Sykes sits with the Democrats. Berger’s newly assigned office mate is new State Sen. Eric Rucker, R-Topeka.

Doll is the lone independent in the Senate. His seat on the Senate floor is between a Republican and a Democrat. His new office is in a suite shared by two Republicans who became Democrats: Sykes and State Sen. Barbara Bollier, Mission Hills.

“I don’t think it’s a vindictive move,” Doll said about his new office assignment. Senate leadership “has been respectful, as I have been,” he said.

 

Owens lands on Appropriations

Freshman State Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston, was asked to suggest six committees that fit his background and he wrote the House Appropriations Committee on that list. Seats on Appropriations are coveted and Owens was surprised to get one. He is the only freshman - of either party - on Appropriations.

“My background is accounting and business and as a longtime business owner, the Speaker (Ryckman) must feel I am qualified for the opportunity,” Owens responded to The News.

 

Rifle

Owens is an avid hunter and sportsman and his home decor is rustic western, he said. Realizing how much time he would spend in the Statehouse and wanting to make his office an extension of his home, he brought a “very early 1900 Winchester Pump 22” rifle to display on his office wall. He also has a copy of the Declaration of Independence displayed.

Assigned to the same fifth-floor office is freshman State Rep. Marty Long, R-Ulysses.

What about the decor in his portion of the office?

Long said Thursday he’s made no attempt to decorate it. “I’m sure at some point I will be inspired to decorate my walls, but for now I couldn’t even tell you what color the paint is,” he responded.

 

Highlight

The highlight of the first week in the Kansas Legislature for Long was taking the oath of office Monday afternoon. It also was an honor listening to Gov. Kelly’s State of the State address Wednesday night, Long said.

“Very nice first week,” wrote freshman State Rep. Paul Waggoner, R-Hutchinson.

Waggoner also has an office on the fifth floor, and State Rep. Trevor Jacobs, R-Fort Scott, is his suitemate.

“I am super impressed by our office staff,” Waggoner wrote in an email. “I am learning my way around, still in awe of the importance and beauty of this building,” he wrote, noting that people “are really helpful” to freshmen.