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Ag producers hear about issues that affect them at the state level


By Dave Bergmeier

Topics that impact Kansas agricultural producers got on the radar screen during a recent legislative forum in Dodge City.

State lawmakers said they can accept that climate change does occur, but they also said they have to be reasonable in their actions and have to temper present needs as well as future needs.

Rep. Bud Estes, R-Bucklin, said he knows there are people who do not accept that climate change occurs and there are others who take a very progressive stance on it. Philosophically he believes he’s somewhere in the middle, as it is a complex scientific issue.

“I’m not way out in left field or right field,” Estes said.

The United States has made considerable effort to curb harmful emissions and pollutants, he said.

A constituent asked lawmakers if they supported being part of a multi-state compact to stop the Barack Obama administration from imposing tougher regulations on power plants or environmental standards that could hurt agricultural producers and consumers. The lawmakers were in agreement that no language has been offered in any bills they had read.

Sen. Garrett Love, R-Garden City, said weighing the pros and cons is essential. He said that when tough environmental mandates are implemented, ultimately users and consumers pay for the mitigation and that has an impact on a local economy. Harmful regulations in which costs are passed through could hurt senior citizens and the southwest Kansas economy in general.

Rep. John Ewy, R-Jetmore, said he worries about the cost of energy because it impacts the quality of life for people who are on Social Security or have limited incomes.

The Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum was March 1 at the High Plains Journal Communications Center.

Love said lawmakers and Attorney General Derek Schmidt need to develop a way to prohibit calls on cellular phones that meet the definition of the no-call list for landlines. The state Senate has passed legislation and it will be headed for the House. The measure has bipartisan support, Love said. If legislation is approved and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, it would become law on July 1.

A bill is being proposed that if a poacher is convicted of illegally harvesting deer, the antlers that are seized by authorities could be given to the landowner instead of turning them over to the state, Love said. The legislation, which originated in the House, has received growing support from landowners passionate about land rights.

Estes said the state is looking into joining a compact with other states for health insurance. Estes said such talks are very preliminary. He said while there were pluses, there were concerns on how it might impact Medicare, a system that he says has proven to work well in Kansas. A multi-state compact in which Medicare benefits would stay unchanged may gain traction.

Medicare is a federal health care insurance program for people aged 65 and older, and the disabled. Eligibility is based mainly on the eligibility for Social Security. It is different from Medicaid, a federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled and for low-income families with children. A state determines the eligibility and which health services are covered.

A bill to better define fundraisers as they pertain to raffles is working its way through the Legislature. If approved, the law would help provide clarity. The legislators said in rural areas many churches and schools have fundraisers to help families who need help with medical expenses.

The issue has been one that has festered in Kansas for many years, Love said, as prosecutors have been reluctant to enforce the law because they raise monies for charitable reasons. The Kansas senator said trying to write a definition that makes practical sense will be the goal of the committee tasked with the issue.

Ewy said the Legislature is continuing to look at monies for community colleges to help with training programs so that someone who is certified in a trade such as power distribution would also graduate with a commercial driver’s license, which would enhance their employment opportunity.

The two House members said they did not receive much support to change spring elections to the summer and fall. Traditionally, local city commissions and mayors, school boards and hospital boards are selected in spring elections.

Love did say it was an idea with some merit because of turnout is much lower in spring elections than in ones in which voters elect a governor or a president. Estes, a former mayor of Bucklin, said local elections tend not to be defined by political parties but instead by issues, and he was not supportive of the change. Ewy said he has not received any grassroots support to change the process.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached by phone at 620-227-1822 or by email at dbergmeier@hpj.com.

Date: 3/10/2014



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