A crowd of about 30 people joined area legislators on Saturday morning at the Salina Chamber Annex for the first of three updates on state issues being discussed in Topeka.
State Senator Randall Hardy, and Representatives Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys briefed everyone on their work in committees, then shifted for a Q & A session with the audience. Questions from the gallery ranged from concern about the state budget, medicaid expansion, medical marijuana to legalized sports betting in Kansas.
Governor Laura Kelly’s proposed budget is recommending $19.8 billion in expenditures for Fiscal Year 2021, with a plan to expand medicaid to an estimated 150,000 low-income Kansans. The $17.5 million dollar expansion has found bipartisan support in Topeka.
“We need to do what’s best for the community,” Dierks said. “There have been too many hoops to jump through for too long and it’s frustrating.” Hardy says he is for the plan, while Claeys commented that the piece was already passed in the house and is awaiting action in the senate.
Hemp Now, Medical Marijuana Next?
As medical marijuana continues to be available in neighboring Colorado, all three Salina area legislators see it as a viable option here. Representative Claeys said opening up lanes for the medical side of the plant makes sense with Dierks agreeing as well. Hardy commented that it will continue to be an important issue to solve in the future.
Kansas may be poised to press go on allowing sports betting. Senator Hardy explained SB 283 would allow each of the state’s four casino operators to be licensed and each agreement would allow mobile betting as well. Hardy says he will also push to have Greyhound racing added the bill to encompass breeders in Abilene. Both Missouri and Nebraska have bills being tuned up to propose sports wagering, while Colorado has already approved the move which goes into effect on May 1st. Representative Claeys was in favor of moving ahead quickly to get sports wagering and online sportsbooks underway.
Legislators will be back in Salina for their second meeting on Saturday, March 14 while the third and final update is scheduled for April 25 at the Chamber. Area Representatives Steven Johnson was unable to attend Saturday’s meeting because of a scheduling conflict.