The Kansas Legislature soon will head back to work.
Funding for K-12 public schools will be atop the list of challenges, as the Kansas Supreme Court recently decided the Legislature’s latest attempt to provide constitutionally mandated state support fell short.
Problems at state prisons and within the foster-care system also are pressing concerns.
Another issue that demands lawmakers’ immediate attention would be the disturbing lack of transparency in a state government that’s been far too secretive.
Accountability took a back seat once Gov. Sam Brownback assumed office and his ultraconservative allies took control of the Legislature.
Many significant pieces of legislation passed without open discourse and debate as ultraconservatives drove through their agenda. Bills offered anonymously by state lawmakers became far too common.
The Brownback administration has been blatant in its overall disregard for public scrutiny of government operations.
Recent examples include the Department for Children and Families sweeping serious problems involving children in their care under the rug, and the Kansas Department of Transportation not being forthcoming about safety-minded projects being scrapped as the governor diverted highway funds in other directions.
While voters rightly tossed many of the troublemakers from the Legislature last year, members of the current House and Senate still must embrace ways to make government more transparent.
When the 2018 session begins Jan. 8 in Topeka, lawmakers need to be armed with input from constituents on that and other key issues.
The Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce’s legislative coffee series is one such opportunity for state legislators to have meaningful discourse with folks in their communities.
The breakfast meetings begin one week from today (Jan. 6), with subsequent coffees set for Feb. 17, March 17, April 21 and May 19. The meetings, open to the public, begin at 10 a.m. in Classroom B in the lower level of St. Catherine Hospital.
All area legislators are invited to attend. Those who do participate will share thoughts on various issues relevant to southwest Kansas and the state as a whole.
As they do, our elected representatives should be prepared to suggest ways to improve transparency and make state government more accountable to the people they serve.