Local lawmakers discuss 2021 Legislative session and preview upcoming matters during first legislative dialogue Saturday Featured

Pictured from right to left: 60th District Representative Mark Schreiber, 17th District Senator Jeff Longbine and 76th District Representative Eric Smith. Pictured from right to left: 60th District Representative Mark Schreiber, 17th District Senator Jeff Longbine and 76th District Representative Eric Smith. Jeanine McKenna/ Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce

The Trusler Business Center played host to the first Legislative Dialogue of 2021 Saturday morning.

The event, put on by the Chamber of Commerce's Government Matters Committee and League of Women Voters, allows local constituents an opportunity to engage with local lawmakers and receive an update regarding the ongoing legislative session. In attendance Saturday was Kansas 17th District Senator Jeff Longbine of Emporia.

Longbine tells KVOE News while the legislature will not be setting records for the number of bills passed this year, he feels the session has gone well so far. He says work continues steadily on the budget at this time and he is impressed with the amount of work that has been done on emergency management so far this session.

On the topic of budget, Longbine says he is hopeful they will have the first round of work wrapped up before the Legislature breaks in April.

60th District Representative Mark Schreiber, also of Emporia, was in attendance as well. Schreiber feels the session has been somewhat "choppy" this year due in part to recent weather conditions and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That being said he feels the Legislature has recently begun to "hit its stride."

In terms of major issues yet to be addressed, Schreiber says education funding is at the top of his list. The potential exists at this time for possible cuts to both K-12 and higher education funding, however, those items have yet to come before the House of Representatives according to Schreiber.

He says once they do, he will be very eager to see the proposals firsthand. Schreiber says the idea of taking any kind of money away from education, in general, is a concerning thought for him.

Longbine agreed with Schreiber's feelings saying the current recommendation from Governor Laura Kelly could see a cut of $26 million for higher education alone.  He says this could translate to a roughly $2 million cut locally at Emporia State University which he feels would be "detrimental" to the university as hit has already had to make several major cuts over the past three to four years. 

76th Representative Eric Smith of Burlington says it is regrettable when cuts of any kind have to occur. However; he says he understands the need for considering such action given the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the economy.

Plans are tentatively set for a second dialogue around mid-March, however, an exact date has yet to be set. Additional information is available on the Chamber's website Emporiakschamber.org or on the Chamber's Facebook page.

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