February 29th, 2024
L&T Opinions Page

ryckmanRYCKMAN UPDATE, Ron Ryckman, 38th District Senator


I once heard of a convention speaker who said to his audience: “I apologize for the length of my remarks, but I didn’t have time to make them shorter!” Isn’t that just the truth, though? Of course, we NEVER have that problem here in the State Senate, but there are occasions when I start to wonder. Fortunately, Week 9 of the Legislature is not one of them when it comes to my Recap, since we’re still on a glide path to “normal” and only dealt with five bills on the floor, just a 10th of what we did week before last. In my nine years here, I really don’t recall a session where the transition after “Turnaround” was so gradual, but at least there’s a sense that with all the heavy lifting at the committee level we are still making progress. It is always a good sign for you, our constituents, when we are being measured, careful, and thorough about things, so consider it a blessing there is no rush to judgment on matters that may affect you.

Not that the spectre of biological males participating in women’s sports is necessarily in that category, but for the second time we devoted more than two hours of debate to the issue this week on the House-passed version prohibiting such competitive advantages. HB 2238 eventually passed 28-11, enough to override a probable veto. While the actual numbers involved belie the great passion on the issue (according to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, only three of the some 110,00 students on sports teams statewide are transgender), strong sentiment is not uncommon when talking about identity politics and personal life choices. Not a fan of state pre-emption, I would actually be willing to let these types of social policy decisions be made locally; however, the consequences of team challenges that could result in forfeits is just too much to abide. Too bad we as lawmakers even have to be making such determinations.

I could almost say the same thing about the whole business of ESG or “Environmental/Social/Governance” principles being instilled into public and pension fund investing, but it is also a reality that has been handed to us. This has to do, of course, with the notion that no monies should be directed toward fossil fuel, greenhouse gas, and firearms firms (among others) that discriminate on the basis of race or sex, at its core another form of boycotting. The idea of pushing back against such a practice at first seemed like a bit of a “no brainer” as far as its consistency with conservative values; actually putting limits in writing, though, becomes more of a challenge, as we found out during our Fed and State hearings on SB 244 and 291. KPERS, in particular, could (we are told) face serious losses if restrictions are not done properly. Accordingly, instead of quickly moving those bills out, a special panel has been convened to explore possible solutions.

A similar “hard to get a handle on” dilemma appears to pose a potential roadblock on a measure heard Friday to permit the home delivery of alcoholic beverages through entities such as “DoorDash.” While the large box stores and free market enthusiasts generally favor the idea, I am inclined to side with small wine and spirits dealers and those concerned with age restriction enforcement, but we’ll see how everything on SB 253 shakes out. Customer convenience was also the theme of a fascinating informational briefing held in my Ag Committee Tuesday on the Healthy Food Initiative, a program sponsored by the Kansas Health Foundation to help folks in grocery store-less areas have access to the kind of fruits and vegetables my wife says I should eat. Ford, Haskell, and Meade counties currently have funded projects, one of the neatest being Grand Avenue Market in Plains. Located on the “widest Main Street in America” (155-feet, 5 inches), what a success story it is.

Not in any way descriptive of that adjective is our water situation in Southwest Kansas, a topic of discussion at last Saturday’s Liberal Town Hall and in calls I am getting from especially dryland farmers desperate for relief. I talked with my House counterparts Wednesday night and have four days of hearings next week on the State Water Plan Fund as well as personal meetings with Groundwater Management District officials. As if things aren’t bad enough already with our being in the bullseye of an “exceptional drought,” along comes a study from Oklahoma State University that the Arkansas River is getting drier, with a predicted 28 percent less flow by the end of the century. It might be a bit alarmist — and I’m always skeptical about anything that is blamed on “climate change,” so just try to think positive and hope that Daylight Savings Time and St. Patrick’s Day will fix everything. 

Thanks as always for letting me be your eyes, ears, and “voice” in Topeka.

GUEST COLUMN, Kim Baldwin, Kansas Farm Bureau


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