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My Two Cents of Common Sense
"Northwest Kansas holds some truly inspiring scenery, contains a wealth of Old West history, possesses some of the finest educational institutions, promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to some of the most hard-working, genuine people I've ever met!"    ~ Adam Smith
1970 RD 3 Weskan, KS 67762
785-821-2568 (Cell)
300 SW 10th St, Suite 512N Topeka, KS  66612
785-296-0715 (Office)
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I arrived at the Capitol at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning with a few flurries in the air... by evening it had been snowing all day and left a soft, smooth cover over the grounds. Walking back to the Capitol that evening for some office-work, I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of our picturesque statehouse!
It never gets old working here!
Broadband Internet

One of the biggest issues impacting rural communities is broadband internet service. Yes, there are many topics that are important to our local communities in many ways, but broadband is something that is mentioned in almost every conversation about rural Kansas. Consistent, reliable, high-speed internet has become necessary to perform many of the required tasks in hospitals, schools, banks, local businesses, and everything in between... not to mention the many household devices that need dependable internet access in the home.

This week, the House of Representatives has compiled a plan based on two years of cumulative work of a public/private Broadband Task Force. The plan creates a matching grant program to assist providers in deploying the infrastructure necessary to bring high speed internet into unserved and underserved areas. Many states have struggled with how to develop such a plan because there are so many different ideas on how to address this issue. Kansas recognized this and brought together a great team that represented state and local government, private providers, rural telecoms, and industry experts to work collaboratively on a solution that best fits Kansas. The result, I believe, was an impressive comprehensive plan that will provide an excellent jump-start to improving our access to high-quality broadband across the state!

The plan proposes an application process that ranks each project based on multiple factors for awarding the grant and determining the funding level. Just a few of those key factors are the reputation, longevity, and dependability of the internet provider applying for the funds, the current available speeds in the area, population density of the project area (lower density areas will be looked at MORE favorably!), and any local matching fund support in the form of city and county project support or community foundation/donation support. The Kansas Office of Broadband Development will accept applications, review and rank all of them, and award limited grants as determined by the need. The grant program also has compliance and claw-back provisions for projects that are not completed according to the grant parameters.

The funding aspect has been discussed at length as well. It has been proposed that it be part of the new transportation plan for a more stable funding source. At first, that may seem like an odd marriage - transportation and internet - but in reality, it makes a great deal of sense. Much like the transportation grid across our state, which is responsible for efficiently delivering the goods and services that help drive our economy, broadband internet is the new means of connecting us with our customers and resources all over the world! Decades ago, the internet was deemed the "information superhighway" but with the blossoming of online business, it is quickly becoming the "economic superhighway" for both retail goods and skilled labor services that can be provided off-site. The proposed amount is $5M per year, and as the program is evaluated in future years, additional funding could be considered from the State General Fund to supplement further successful implementation of the program.

Currently, the broadband development program bill and the transportation plan are being worked through the legislative process and are not yet law. I am optimistic, however! This is a giant step in the right direction for the entire state of Kansas. For once, it appears we have positive emphasis on some of the lowest-populated areas we are so familiar with in our northwest corner of the state!
The Old Supreme Court room was absolutely packed Thursday afternoon! Standing room only and many more were outside the door in the Capitol hall. The House Education committee, which I serve on, held a hearing on House Bill 2601 regarding vaccinations required for daycare and school attendance.
New responsibilities are opportunity to learn


This year, I was honored to be appointed the chairman of the House Rural Revitalization committee. Last year, I served as chair of our Rural Caucus group, which is an informal group of legislators that meet once a week to discuss issues that are important to rural Kansas. A caucus group does not introduce bills, hold hearings, pass legislation, or participate in the formal legislative process as standing committees do. So this year, stepping into the role of a committee chairman, has certainly taught me a great deal!

First of all, I will admit that one of my character flaws is a tendency to micromanage... if it's going to get done, I need to make sure it is done properly every step of the way!

Well, that lasted only a few days in my new responsibility as a chairman. I learned quickly that I do not have enough time in a day to handle all the minute details of a committee plus adequately perform all of my other duties for my constituents as well as being a productive member of the other committees on which I serve. I have learned to delegate and trust the highly competent staff we have at our disposal.

I have a new office assistant this year that also serves as my Rural Revitalization committee assistant. His name is Tony and he does an fantastic job contacting committee conferees, helping assemble and distribute testimony on bill hearings, and helping take care of other committee member needs specific to this committee... all in addition to the regular duties of the office assistant regarding answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and keeping me in line throughout the day!

Each committee also has several research and legal professionals that gather accurate information, develop and draft bills, and answer questions regarding proposed legislation and potential impacts. Each of these professional staff members serve on multiple committees in both the House and Senate and have specific areas of expertise to be as efficient as possible. I am blessed to have some of the best on the Rural Revitalization committee, and any success we have is due directly to their knowledge and dedication. These are the unsung heroes of state government. You will likely never notice them, but if not for them, hardly anything could be accomplished in the legislature!
Capitol Connection

Your source for important audio and video links (live and archived) to committee meetings and chamber sessions inside the Kansas Capitol

Video Channel (Live and Archived)
House of Representative and Senate Chamber Proceedings

Audio Channel (Live)
House of Representatives Chamber
Senate Chamber

Capitol Committee Rooms (Live and Archived)
Calendar & Committee Schedule
 
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I strive to create and maintain constituent relationships through good communication. Two-way communication is essential to my effectiveness as a legislator in promoting successful solutions for Northwest Kansas! Please consider subscribing to my contact list or send me an email and I will add you.
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