Lawmakers speak during forum – News – The Leavenworth Times – Leavenworth, KS

Education funding, poultry legislation and hemp were among the topics discussed during a legislative update forum in Leavenworth.

Education funding, poultry legislation and hemp were among the topics discussed during a legislative update forum in Leavenworth.

The event, which took place Saturday morning, featured state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald and state Reps. Debbie Deere, Jeff Pittman and Jim Karleskint. The forum was organized through the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.

The Kansas Legislature is in the middle of its 2018 session, which began in January.

Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said the primary issues moving forward in the session will be taxes and education funding.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a school finance system approved last year by lawmakers is unconstitutional. The court set an April 30 deadline for legislative remedies.

Later this week, legislators should have a report from a Texas A&M University professor who has been studying education funding in Kansas, said Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie.

“It’s going to be a challenging issue to resolve,” Karleskint said.

Fitzgerald said there are a lot of competing interests for state funding including resources for mental health care and roads.

During the forum, lawmakers were asked about a bill that amends a state law to expand the number of birds allowed on concentrated chicken farms.

At the time of Saturday’s forum, the bill already had been passed in the Kansas Senate but was awaiting a vote of the full House of Representatives.

The bill passed in the House on Monday. Deere, Karleskint and Pittman voted against the bill, according to a state website.

Passage of the bill comes after Tyson Foods proposed last year to build a $320 million poultry complex south of Tonganoxie. Following local opposition, Leavenworth County commissioners rescinded a resolution that had expressed an intent to issue industrial revenue bonds for the project. Tyson Foods officials then announced the company was putting its plans for Leavenworth County on hold. In November, company officials announced plans to build a poultry complex in Tennessee.

Fitzgerald said Saturday he was one of a small number of people to vote against the bill in the Senate.

Fitzgerald said he supports improving agricultural operations in Kansas. But Fitzgerald said he had wanted an amendment approved that would have given communities more input.

Deere, D-Lansing, said she received a lot of emails from people in Leavenworth County regarding the bill.

Deere said she had wanted the bill to require more local control and greater road setbacks.

“It really is about local control here,” said Pittman, D-Leavenworth.

He said agriculture is exempt from county zoning rules, so rules set at the state level impact everyone in Kansas.

Lawmakers also were asked about legislation concerning cannabidiol hemp oil and medical marijuana.

A bill that would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes is pending in the Legislature.

Deere said industrial hemp “is another economic opportunity for Kansas agriculture.”

Pittman expressed support for industrial hemp, calling it a no-brainer.

Deere said she also supports allowing people to purchase cannabidiol, or CBD, hemp oil.

“It is a health issue,” she said.

Deere said she was open to a debate regarding medical marijuana.

Karleskint said he supports industrial hemp and CBD hemp oil. He said more research is needed regarding medical marijuana, but he expressed concern about opening the door to recreational marijuana.

Fitzgerald said he supports industrial hemp. Fitzgerald said he supports legislation that would allow non-intoxicating cannabinoid medicines.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

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