Bi-partisan. That word, in action, has been on the endangered list in the Kansas State Legislature for some time. I wanted you to know that it is making a comeback this year. I am a freshman legislator in Topeka, representing District 98, which includes parts of south Wichita and north Haysville. There are more than 40 other new representatives just like me; freshmen with little to no State political history but a wealth of other types of life experiences. We make up approximately one-third of the Kansas House of Representatives. This large number of representatives has decided that together we can accomplish positive policy and a fiscally balanced budget.
The plan to realize this belief began in December when we attended a leadership workshop in Wichita. During this training together, we realized that party politics did not have to be a major obstacle. What was important was finding solutions. When we gathered again the weekend before we were sworn into office, a plan was initiated. Led by two freshmen members, one from each party, we formed a Freshman Legislative Caucus. The last time the State had a group do this was 2002. We have met nearly every Monday since the session started. We have had speakers come and present to us on topics from where the budget is now, to school finance, to rules for the House floor and more timely issues.
Late in February, we had a lunch meeting with no presenter. This open forum style allowed for great discussion about each other, including our professional backgrounds, and the state of our state.
So, what do you get when you put Democrats and Republicans in a small room to talk about tax ideas, education funding, and the like? In Kansas’ recent history, the answer has definitely not been progress. However, the conversations we have had over these lunches & presentations were very encouraging. The encouraging thing is that with each idea, we examine pros and cons without criticizing. They are deliberated with thought and respect in a way that allows everyone to speak freely, enabling real compromise and possible solutions to come forth. I feel compelled to inform you about this group of freshmen legislators because so much of the news out of Topeka is negative. I hope that knowing you have many democrats and republicans working together to find solutions helps to bring a renewed positive outlook about where the state of Kansas is headed.
With respect and gratitude,
Representative Steven Crum
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities during the legislative session.