Topeka – State of the State

Daniel Anderes
Junction City

Day 1, Wednesday, January 17
Day 1 – Topeka: State of the State Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
Chair: Gimmie Jo Jansonius Scribe: Daniel  Anderes

The seminar began with Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, Linda Craighead. Linda discussed the how people are excited to leave Kansas but then they make life choices to move back. She also spoke about how we talk to our children about Kansas, asking if we speak about Kansas with pride or complain. Linda encouraged us to experience all of Kansas as many people do not experience life outside of their own county. We are sales people for Kansas and she encouraged us, whether in an airport or another country, to sell Kansas as a whole. Linda recommended that we visit the underground salt museum, the Flint Hills Discovery Center and Konza Prarie, and to go see a movie at the Elkhart Movie Theater.

The second speakers, Dale Dennis and Craig Neuenswander, discussed school finance. They spoke about the weighting system and how enrollment is adjusted. An interesting note was that the poorest district with the highest number of at-risk students is in Kansas City, KS with 85 percent of the students on a free lunch program. They discussed the Kansas lawsuit for funding of schools that is currently in the Supreme Court and legislators have until April 30th, 2018 to file briefs and then the Supreme Court will issue a decision on June 30th.

During the afternoon session, the KARL Class sat in on a discussion with Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer. Some key items from the discussion were:

  • Colyer’s positivity on the outlook of the state
  • Kansas is logistically in a good spot with its fastest-growing intermodal in the United States
  • We need to be looking for value-added products to improve the economy
  • One of the biggest challenges for the state is the accessibility to broadband in the state
  • A goal for the state of Kansas is to raise the high school graduation rate to 95 percent from 84 percent. 
  • Showing pride in rural America, specifically Kansas

The evening ended with a quick tour through the Kansas Museum of History and a reception. State Senator John Doll and Greg Orman gave a few remarks before Dr. Flinchbaugh gave his “Kings and King Makers” speech.  He is well known for this speech and it was very interesting to hear for the first time.  If you get the chance to hear it, I would recommend it.


Stephanie Symns

Day 2, Thursday, January 18
Submitted by Scribe: Stephanie Symns, Atchison
Chair: Zach Townsend

What is your KARL elevator speech? What are you going to tell someone about the KARL Program in 30 seconds?

The class was able to sit in on the joint Senate and House Ag committee meeting where Kansas State University Dean of Agriculture Dr. John Floros gave a presentation.

Dean Floros noted that Kansas State University is now in the top 5 agricultural universities in the United States. He also spoke about the Grand Challenge and the 5 points they have been focusing on.

  1. Global Food Systems
  2. Water
  3. Health
  4. Developing Tomorrows Leaders
  5. Community Vitality

He noted that the number of students pursuing a degree in agriculture education has been on a decline and they now have more openings than they can provide teachers to fill. The department is also having a problem with faculty turn over. He is seeing faculty leave for higher paid positions, state of the art laboratories and newer facilities. On the financial front Dean Floros stressed that they depend on the state funding as the base source of income because private donations fluctuate year to year. The aid from the state is around $160 million or less and the expenses are around $190 million or more.

A panel of Kansas Agriculture Organizations and their role in the legislative process included Aaron Popelka from the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), Ryan Flickner from Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) and Chelsea Good from the Livestock Marketing Association (KMA).

KLA sets their policy at their annual meeting in Wichita each year. KFB starts with listening posts at the county level, then the district level and then the resolutions are moved to the state level and are voted on to become policy at the annual meeting in December each year. The farm organizations as a whole try to maintain a united front on the public side even if they don’t always agree privately. They also work together to present a unified and compromised ask to take to legislators at the state and national level.

  1. Politics are a lot of who you know
  2. Find the Possible, Not the Perfect
  3. Maintain good relationships

The rest of the morning and into the afternoon the class took the time to meet with their legislators and had the opportunity to sit in on a few hearings. We also had the pleasure of getting our “mug shots” taken by Will Downing at KHP.

At 11 a.m. at the start of the session of the House, several members of the class were introduced on the House floor and “Diane” was given a “House Coin” because his legislator called him the wrong name.

Josh Roe, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), share information with us about KDA.

  • KDA affects every Kansan every day

The GDP whether direct or indirect includes 65 sectors of direct agriculture, support or value-added agriculture. The county with the most revenue generated due to agriculture is Johnson County. Finny, Sedgwick, and Lyon are close behind. The KDA implemented the Kansas Agricultural Growth Plan that studied 19 different parts of the agriculture sectors. From this KDA developed plans to help better utilize/develop these sectors. Looking at the poultry industry and the talks with Tyson came from some of this research. There is money and growth in value-added products the state has yet to capitalize on.

KDA does some work on their own bills but they mostly weigh in on other bills affecting ag and serve as an educator on ag with urban legislators.

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, visited with the class about his stance on voter fraud, immigration, and sanctuary areas.

Day 2 wrap up:

  • Several class members were disappointed with their Senators and their responses, but most were pleased with their representatives and felt those meetings went well.
  • Rob said he saw a big split between urban and rural legislators and less of a split between republican and democrat leaders.
  • Kurt restated that urban residents need rural residents, and rural residents need urban residents to make our state move forward together.
  • Gimmie Jo reminded us to be an advocate for ourselves and tell our stories before someone else has a chance to skew the conversation from the facts.
  • Kellen pointed to the fact that legislature is a marathon and not a sprint.
  • Brian S. suggested we make a point of meeting with legislators from different backgrounds from ourselves in the future not just meeting with those from our own districts.
  • Dinner was at Historic Fire Station No. 2 just north of the Capitol where we heard from Ron Seeber, CEO and President of Kansas Grain and Feed Association (KGFA).  KGFA was stared in 1896 and holds 99% of the commercial storage of grain in the state. In his job, Ron works as a lobbyist for multiple organizations and he had to learn agriculture quickly.
  • Ron’s two tips were to make sure everyone has a seat at the table, or skin in the game and that we are Kansas and we need to work together.


Day 3, Friday, January 19