Area representatives were on hand Saturday in Salina to give an update on the 2018 Legislative Session in Topeka.
A small gathering of about 20 people jotted down questions for State Senator Randall Hardy and State Representatives, Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys to respond to during the 90-minute meeting.
Topics ranged from concerns about allowing the use of recreational or medical marijuana in our state – to the growth of unmanned aviation in Kansas.
Much of the conversation centered on school funding and a much anticipated study that will be released in March that will help provide an independent measuring stick to what the Kansas Supreme Court calls inadequate funding.
“I just hate to spend money when we are trying to keep money,” Representative Dierks said.
“Two-hundred and sixty five thousand dollars is a lot of money to pay for this study. I’m hopeful that they actually find something to help us and not just come up with the same numbers we have.”
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last March that the state’s then $4-billion a year payout to the 286 school districts was inadequate.
State Senator Hardy tells KSAL News that he wants the State Supreme Court out of the process altogether, and settle the lawsuit.
“I think the only reason the Court is involved is because there is a lawsuit, brought by several of the school districts and if there was no lawsuit there would be no Supreme Court involvement,” he said.
“I think the Legislature ought to be in charge of the funding for education, that’s our job.”
Lawmakers have been tasked with writing a new school funding law before July 2018.
UAS Growth in Kansas
All four area legislators were upbeat about the prospects of the growing unmanned aerial systems industry in Kansas.
Representative J.R. Claeys told the gathering about the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) UAS Integration Program, a chance for Kansas to take the lead in customizing rules for drone systems to fly in.
Claeys explained that under current FAA regulations – restricted airspace keeps a tight lock on UAS flights, but that may soon change for five regions who are vying for a chance to write their own rules.
“What we would be able to do is to set up our own regulations for that,” he said.
“If we are one of those five that are selected – I think the door is open then for companies to come locate here because we’ll have that head start, we’ll have our own rules. We’ll know what operations look like, while other states will still have the FAA rules.”
Legislators will be back in Salina for their second update on Saturday, March 17th while the third and final update is scheduled in May at the Chamber. The event was moderated by Mark Ritter.