Each week during the 2023 Kansas legislative session, we will provide Shawnee Mission area lawmakers the opportunity to share their thoughts about what is happening in the state captiol.
Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Linda Featherston of Kansas House District 16 in Overland Park.
Republican Rep. Chris Croft and Democratic Sen. Pat Pettey were also given a chance to submit columns this week.
The views expressed in each Capitol Update are solely those of the lawmaker.
The Kansas Legislature returned to Topeka last week with calls from the governor to put aside political hostility in order to work for the betterment of Kansans. Religious leaders called on us to care for children, protect voting rights, find a solution to the water crisis, value women and be a light in the darkness.
These are calls I heard on doorsteps across the district throughout the summer as I knocked thousands of doors and spoke to constituents. Constituents repeatedly told me they were tired of extremists playing politics with their lives and their money. They asked me how the Legislature could be forced to be more moderate and act like regular Kansans.
I told them that we needed to break [the Republican] supermajority, which enables one party to pass any legislation or override any veto they wish. Breaking the supermajority forces everyone to take one big step towards the middle, which is where most Kansans’ politics lie.
Despite gaining three seats in Johnson County [in November’s election], Democrats failed to break the supermajority in the Kansas House. This has led to questions from my most recent opponent about how well districts like mine will be represented.The bigger question really is how well are Kansans being represented in the Legislature?
My priorities: schools, Medicaid expansion, sensible budgets, and public safety (among other things) mirror the priorities of most Kansans. They just don’t mirror the priorities of extremist special interests that seek to defund our schools, take control of women’s private medical decisions, eliminate taxes on large foreign corporations and exceptionally wealthy individuals, and oppose any attempt to require background checks on all gun sales.
Being in the political minority gives me one giant privilege: I answer only to my constituents. Extremist special interests are never going to support me, so they can’t attempt to sway my vote. They are always going to pour thousands of dollars into my opponents’ campaigns, which means I will always have to run on my good name, the work I do for constituents and the personal interactions I have with voters. It’s really quite freeing.
Does being in the minority mean that I don’t submit legislation or ask tough questions in committee? Of course not!
It just means that if I want to submit a bill, I need to talk to members of both parties that serve on the relevant committee and be prepared to answer their questions and hear their concerns. I have been fortunate to serve on and work with committees whose chairs allow everyone equitable opportunities to speak, and I expect that to continue this year. I try to look at every day in Topeka as a clean slate with new opportunities to help others.
It is the honor of a lifetime to serve in the Legislature. I am on the Local Government, Water, Education, and Agriculture committees. If you would like to receive my newsletter or have questions, please contact me at Linda.Featherston@house.ks.gov