By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
State lawmakers were peppered with questions ranging from gun rights to water rights Saturday at the Rock Island Depot during the Liberal Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum.
Adjunct Seward County Community College instructor Kay Burtzloff shared her concerns about the law passed three years ago that will take effect in July, allowing concealed carry on college campuses.
Kansas 38th District Senator Bud Estes explained that he is pro Second Amendment, and that the law only applied to those 21 and over.
“This was agreed to by the colleges three years ago when it passed,” Estes said.
But Burtzloff, who said she had a concealed carry permit, said a person could be pro Second Amendment and have “common sense” restrictions on where guns were allowed.
Estes replied that it is highly likely there are already a number of gun carriers on campus.
Dr. Ray Allen asked the lawmakers about a dam being built in Colorado to withhold water from Kansas.
Kansas 125th District Representative Shannon Francis said water quality rather than quantity is starting to become an issue.
“Lakin has a real problem,” he said. “They are finding traces of uranium in their water.”
Estes added that the lawsuit Kansas won several years ago with Colorado only allowed enough water into Western Kansas for about six farmers.
“If a drop of water ever reached Garden City, Colorado would dam it up,” Estes said. “So did we really win?”
Chamber Executive Director Rozelle Webb asked the positions on the proposed 5-cent tax on fuel.
“That tax would raise about $90 million,” Francis said. “We are sweeping $250 million or so out of KDOT this year.”
Estes explained that while KDOT collects sales tax into their account, it is not necessarily KDOT’s money.
“They collect it, but it is not necessarily for highways,” Estes said. “It is not very transparent. But a fuel tax, that has to be used for highways. We can’t touch it.”
With little funding, highway projects have been cut across Kansas, including delays to the expansion of Highway 54 to four lanes in many areas.
Francis said the solution is to stop taking money from KDOT by correcting the state’s fiscal problems.
Estes agreed, but he said there are only so many taxes the people could bear.
“So let’s say we raise the fuel tax five cents,” he said “Okay, then we see increases in property taxes, we’re talking about raising income taxes. How many taxes can you pay?”
A question was also brought up about an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood that Francis did not support.
“It’s all a game in Topeka,” Francis said. “I supported the underlying bill, and this amendment was like the sixth amendment that failed. It would have cut health care services for organizations like the county health department. I wasn’t going to do that. But they wanted post card material, so they put up that amendment. That’s what happens in Topeka.”
At the end of the questions from the public, Sons of the American Revolution representative Darrel Long presented Francis with a certificate for his support of the organization.
The forums provide the lawmakers with concerns from their local districts.
“There is a lot of frustration about not having school budget in place,” Estes said. “And no budget. The budget of ‘18-’19 should be in place before we even talk about what taxes need raised. But we are going about it backwards. We are raising taxes and then figuring out the budget. People are frustrated by not knowing. The next few weeks, things will happen pretty quick. We have to be halfway smart about it and hope it doesn’t wreck a lot of people.”
Estes, who serves both Liberal and Dodge City, said he appreciated the approach of those in Liberal.
“The people in Liberal are very polite,” he said. “They bring their concerns.”
Francis also appreciated the opportunity to hear from the local residents.
“I think what we learned the most is what people are concerned about at home,” Francis said. “It also serves a great deal to explain why we do some of the things we do. I wish we could take more time to just listen.”