Question 1: Since the college experience has changed, what can the State do to lower college costs during the pandemic and in the future? And what can the State do to help defer, forgive or pay for current student loan debt during the pandemic?
I’d like to start first by thanking the Derby folks for inviting us and giving this information. I appreciate that. And thank you to my constituents who’ve elected me. I’ve tried to do my best to make sure I represent them and this helps convey the feelings that we have and what we’re going to be working on.
First of all, the college experience, it definitely has changed. In my opinion, I could see with the up-front cost, with the virtual, remote learning and those kinds of things, it could be expensive. I would expect that to get more efficient down the road. We’re learning new techniques and how to do things remotely. It’s just like working and not going to work, you save the gasoline costs and those kinds of transportation expenses. There’s always savings in there that we can take advantage of and I hope that we would do that.
As far as the paying for student loans, unless there’s some federal money designated for that it would be tough for the state because I know of none earmarked for that particular project, unless we’d come up with some funds from somewhere else outside the federal government.
Question 2: Last session a big issue pushed by legislators was a Pro-Life amendment to the Kansas Constitution, which narrowly failed. Leadership has indicated it will again be a high priority. Do you agree or disagree with the Value Them Both Amendment and how will you vote?
This a really a big issue we spent a lot of time on last year. Leadership designated what route we were going to take. I supported that. I will support the Value Them Both Amendment and I voted to go back to the constitution and say that abortion is not a right. If that was on the ballot by itself I definitely would support that. With both components, I support that. To save unborn children is the highest priority I have and whatever we can do to do that or protect that, I’m for that.
Question 3: How do you feel the State has done funding and dealing with the COVID-19 issue and what do you think could change and improve as we move forward?
I think the state moved into, like everybody else, a learning curve that took place. And I think the idea of federal money is definitely important – we couldn’t do without that. I think that having the task force set up to shadow and find out where that money is going and where it’s going to be spent. There is also a group in the Governor’s office, the Senate and the House of Representatives, all those in the task force have a duty to find out where that money will go and how it is being used. Which I think is critical because we have to know how the dollars are spent and do it right.
With the unemployment situation, the labor department is out of control. It’s unfortunate that it’s turned out. They made some progress but the bulk of my calls are for unemployment problems, and people who can’t get their money, can’t get processed and if they get processed they lose an appeal or something. It’s just ongoing, and that’s the unfortunate part about that. I think they’re trying the best they can to help those folks, and we’re getting them through the tough problems but there’s far too many of them.
We’ll have to see what the federal government does down the road, as far as appropriations, and if there’s any extra money we can see where that ends up being. But I’m glad we have a state finance council working with the Governor and then we also have this task force to see how the federal money is being spent. So that’s very important.
Question 4: What makes you the best candidate for the job and what do you offer?
I’d like to say to that question that I guess I am the best because there’s nobody else. But, I always try to do my best. I came to the Legislature and spent four years in the House and eight years in the Senate, and as an advocate for agriculture and rural folks, and life in the county.
I also have no problem helping with the urban side of things. But we are a minority in agriculture, and our representation at least. As chairman of this Senate agriculture committee, we’ve reached milestones, which were accomplished through industrial hemp – now being a product for farmers to use. We’re not all the way there yet but we’re getting close.
The issues we have concerning water are so critical and important. We want to be at the table working with the federal government and the state to make sure that works out. In the area of conservation, we’ve done a considerable amount, whether it’s in wildlife and parks which covers our territory and the department of agriculture. That’s critically important.
Most of all, we deal a lot with regulations, federal regulations that make it difficult for producers to farm and work with chemicals and we want to make that compatible, making it easier for producers to grow their crops, feed their animals and take care of their livestock and do a good job. So, I like doing that and I hope that our records show we’ve focused on those things always to help the producer and the consumer both.