By Loribeth Reynolds

With temperatures well below freezing and snow falling, dozens braved the weather to attend the legislative forum that was held Feb. 28 at Wesley Towers, in Evans Chapel. Few chairs were empty.

As the public filed in, hanging their coats, many headed straight for the coffee. Others had questions on their minds, so they jotted them down on the three by five note cards provided.

Rep. Jan Pauls and Rep.Steve Becker attended, along with Sen. Terry Bruce.

Becker welcomed everyone who endured the weather to make the forum.

“I would’ve been disheartened if no one showed up!” he said.

The forum began with updates from each official. This marks the seventh week that the House and Senate have been in session. Becker explained the process the house goes through before voting on “big state policies.”

“Just this week, we started to do some heavy lifting. We’ve spent lots of time tweaking bills before we look at big state policies,” Becker said. “I suspect we’ve passed about 85% of them unanimously. We haven’t addressed a lot of controversy so far.”

The audience chuckled after Becker’s statement. Young and old gathered to attend the forum. There were KNEA members, the USD 308 superintendent, high school students and many teachers in the audience.

Education seemed to be a popular topic as the moderator read questions from the cards.

Among the education topics was a question about recent legislation, HB 2234, drafted by Rep. Virgil Peck.

It would prohibit college professors from using their official titles when authoring an opinion piece for newspapers. Rep. Jan Pauls explained the nature of the bill.

the bill. “I think Virgil is concerned because quite often, professors take a liberal stance on issues, and that doesn’t align with the general public’s opinion,” Pauls said.

“He doesn’t want the message of the professor to be tied to the college.”

Rep. Becker does not like the bill.

“I would not support this legislation. It’s very narrow and it targets newspapers and colleges,” Becker said.

“I like to read the paper, I find myself looking to see who wrote the story — it determines credibility.”

Besides education, there were other subjects addressed.

The issue of “Uncork Kansas” was discussed. The bill would allow grocery stores to carry full-strength alcohol. Sen. Terry Bruce said he is on the side of consumers.

“This bill needs some tweaking,” Bruce said, “but I am in support of it because it gives consumers more choice.”

Rep. Pauls had a differing view, saying she is concerned about “Mom and Pop” retail, as well as accessibility.

“I do not support anything that would give easier access to alcohol,” Pauls said.

The other subjects touched on included ways to make up hundreds of millions of dollars in state deficits, as well as a change in the concealed-carry law.

A proposed bill would eliminate the need for training and a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Another legislative forum will be held, Saturday, March 28, at Hutchinson Community College in the Shears Technology Center.

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