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Garden City area's first Legislative Coffee of 2021 held Saturday

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
The Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Southwest Kansas Legislative coffee virtually Saturday in preparation for the legislative session in Topeka.

Seven members of the Kansas government participated in the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce's first Legislative Coffee of 2021.

The event took place virtually on Saturday via the Chamber's Facebook page and Zoom with participating legislators Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City; Rep. Shannon Francis, R-Liberal; Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin; Rep. Marty Long, R-Ulysses; Rep. Jim Minnix, R-Scott City; Rep. Boyd Orr, R-Fowler; and Rep. John Wheeler, R-Garden City.

Each representative gave their thoughts on what will be the focus in the 2021 legislative session.

Doll talked about the 2021 budget and how he expects there will be some difficult cuts for the 2022 budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He predicts that the cuts will come from the Kansas Department of Transportation and possibly education, which will be a hot topic, and he's unsure how that will be handled.

Doll also said property taxes will be a big issue.

"I've been a proponent of doing whatever we could to help local governments being able to have better control of their property tax," he said. "I don't favor the tax lid whatsoever, there's just legislation that is coming out that takes away the tax lid but I think puts burdens on local governments. I'm anxious to hear, when this does come out, from local governments."

Francis agreed that property tax will be a big issue in this legislative session, with a spotlight on property tax transparency.

He feels that the Legislature needs to do something about the state's unemployment system, as flaws in the system were highlighted in 2020 because of the pandemic with people not receiving their benefits.

"I'm tired of making excuses for why people can't get their unemployment benefits, but we've got an antiquated system," he said. "Our technology across the state is antiquated, it's obsolete, somewhere we need have to make a real adjustment there."

Francis also believes understanding between legislators on both sides of the aisle needs to happen to make things work this year. They need to stop vilifying the people with whom they don't agree.

"I don't think we always listen to their positions in good faith, I think even in Topeka we think our position is right, they're wrong, and if they would just listen to us they would see it," he said. "I think that happens across the board and we have to work together and those that don't agree with us we have to understand that they're arguing in good faith just like we are."

Russ Jennings said he hopes water will be a topic of discussion as he will sit on a newly created water committee.

"It's a big deal in the long-term and quite often the legislature convenes and we tend to look one year to the next without some long-term thought and planning and this is one area where it would really reap some long-term benefits," he said.