Right now, both in Washington and here in Kansas, there is a lot of uncertainty and division about the state of our politics.
Citizens are understandably frustrated at politicians who break their promises or who seem more interested in partisan squabbles than finding solutions to the problems we face. Civility seems to have left the public square, as one can’t visit a social media site or visit a townhall forum without witnessing a heated discussion that sometimes results in name-calling rather than problem-solving.
Here in Topeka, we’ve now reached the end of the fourth week of the session, and we too face challenges. With multiple factions across the spectrum, it’s sometimes hard to envision how we will get there, which is why so many are predicting a long session. With competing agendas and so many interest groups weighing in, the lawmaking process can be a cumbersome one.
On that note, given this is just my 2nd newsletter and it was an uneventful week in terms of floor votes, I want to take some time to let you know a bit more about my approach here in Topeka, both from a philosophical standpoint as well as a relational one. In doing so, I hope it will provide you some insight into how I will make decisions, but also how I do my best to build consensus.
Visiting with Senator Caryn Tyson
The first thing I want to emphasize is the respect I have for my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle and across all viewpoints. That means listening to their viewpoints, taking them into account, and respecting each legislator here is doing the exact same thing I am doing – representing their constituents the best they can. By building respect with one another, we can have the dialogue necessary to understand the other’s viewpoints, and then when we do disagree, do so agreeably. That’s key to good legislating.
The second thing I want to emphasize is that I come to Topeka with a set of core principles, and those principles guide me to how I approach each issue. Some here choose to vote either pragmatically or based purely on how the political winds are blowing, and that’s their right. However, while I will compromise on details, I will never forsake my fundamental beliefs. Included among those are my belief in the right to life, limited government, free enterprise, traditional values, and individual liberty. If we stray too far from any of those core beliefs, I will simply cast my vote no.
Finally, the last thing I want to emphasize is that I simply always remember who sent me here, and that’s the people of my district. It’s very easy to become trapped in what some call the “Topeka bubble”, where we begin to justify bad policy because someone in the halls of government told you it was necessary. While advice from all quarters is certainly welcome, that’s different than losing your way. It really comes down to having a moral and philosophical compass, and that starts by remembering who elected you.
I hope that gives you a good idea about the kind of Senator I aim to be, and how I am approaching my job of representing you. Before I close, I do want to touch on a couple tidbits of news this week and give you my reaction:
Senate leadership has released a tax plan that involves a full repeal of the LLC exemption as well as an increase in individual income tax rates for wage earners. You may read in the media that they said it is the consensus of the Republican caucus. That may be the case with others, but it is not with me. At this point, I am highly skeptical of the plan as it goes well beyond the principles I just outlined.
The Senate Federal & State Affairs Committee rejected a bill restricting 2nd Amendment rights on college campuses. Studies have shown in other states with similar laws that there is actually a decrease in incidents on campuses that allow concealed carry, and certainly no increase in incidents with guns.
I was pleased to see that revenues in January exceeded our estimates. One of the frustrating things in past years has been the fact our estimates were so far off of actual revenues – that seems to have been corrected in the past three months, which makes the task of balancing the budget accurately an easier one.
That’s it for this week. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
After a news conference with South Central Kansas Legislators, Governor Brownback and Cowley College President Dr. Rittle.