Governor Laura Kelly this week vetoed the congressional redistricting map, a move that was expected, following outcry from Democrats who argued the map took away a stronghold for the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Sharice Davids.
The map splits Wyandotte County into two separate congressional districts. It also separates the city of Lawrence from Douglas County and places urban boundaries of Lawrence into Rep. Tracy Mann’s 1st Congressional District. 51st District State Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego), voted present on the bill the first time around and explains why.
“I heard from many of my constituents they were not happy with it because Wabaunsee county was moved from the first district to the second district,” Highland says. “In fact, I wasn’t too happy about it because we had become very active in the first district and enjoyed the people we were working with. So, it’s going to be a big change if that sticks.”
Geary County and other counties south and east including Lyon County, where Emporia is located, would also move to the 2nd Congressional District. Highland’s district stretches just north of Emporia. Even if Republicans in the legislature are successful with a veto override, Highland predicts a court battle, similar to what was seen a decade ago.
“If it’s overridden, it will be taken to court anyways. That’s been a promise made by the national Democrat group and their attorneys, and they will take it, and because it’s a federal map, go to federal court. So, it’s not over. It will be a while.”
If an override occurs, it wouldn’t be until Tuesday at the earliest.
Highland says there have also been other bills of hot topic lately too, including the Apex Bill.
“This is a bill where they’re trying to lure a company to move into the state and guarantee $4-billion worth of investment and 4,000 jobs,”he explains.
Highland says an amendment proposal to the bill was made on Thursday trying to make compromise. He talks more about his priorities with the bill.
“I will be studying it all weekend to try and understand it to see how much see how much money it is going to cost the taxpayers, and that’s what I am worried about, is the cost to the taxpayers.”
Highland serves on the commerce, labor, and economic development committee, which the Apex Bill has been discussed within quite often. Highland also serves as the chair of the House water committee, which has a new bill of their own currently being proofed. Highland gave a glimpse into what the bill entails.
“This bill will realign water across the state to where conservation will be the key moving forward.”
Highland says before the research they did all last year, he didn’t realize how 16 different agencies, 7 of which are federal, were involved. He says it has been a long process to get the 421 page bill where it is currently.
“We met all summer long. We took trips to Garden City and saw what’s going on out there, to include the uranium removal process for Lincoln, and then last Friday we went over to Kansas City to Water One that supplies all the water for Johnson County and that area.”
Highland says they hope to get it back next week to begin work on it.
Finally, Highland tells KMAN a bill he introduced over a year ago is making its way back through the chambers. He says the bill is called the hot water heater bill and will have great impact on hotels and motels who have hot water heaters that are 95 to 120 gallons.
“Law states that anything over 85 gallons has to be considered a boiler and because of that, requires all kinds of mechanical and electrical fastenings for your room where you have those heaters,” Highland adds. “So that bill went through; we eliminated, we called it up to 120 for a hot water heater.”
Highland adds that the bill has now passed through both chambers.
“I will review the bill this weekend and see if they made any changes. If they made no changes to the bill, I will simply concur and the House will vote on it and it will go to the governor.”
The Kansas Legislature has wrapped up its first four weeks of the session. Every Friday during the session, KMAN is joined on the morning show by a different area lawmaker. 66th District State Rep. Sydney Carlin is scheduled to join us on Feb. 11.