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Legislators talk about health care, gun laws





Western Kansas legislators responded to concerns of local residents at Saturday's Eggs and Issues forum, sponsored by the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, and Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who are on spring break until May 8, were quizzed on topics from taxes and KanCare to gun control and education.

When asked if they would support Kansans with developmental disabilities having their long-term care administered by for-profit companies as part of the new KanCare program, Ostmeyer expressed how the issue directly impacts him.

Ostmeyer, whose grown daughter receives services from Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, said he is concerned further changes to programs for individuals with developmental disabilities could lead to declining services.

"When I visit with the Governor and the Lt. Governor, I'm not able to get an answer there," he said. "I basically plead with them.

"We've got to make sure that we take care of the people. Until the Governor can assure me that we're not going to let the services deteriorate any more, I'd have to vote to carve it out."

Both Boldra and Couture-Lovelady said they would study the issue further before making a decision.

Many of the 40-plus audience members at Saturday's event seemed particularly engaged when the issue of gun rights entered the discussion.

Boldra told the group legislators had given a four-year extension to allow leaders of public institutions to determine if they would allow people to carry concealed firearms or install security measures to detect weapons.

"I think all three of us agree that sticker on the door (prohibiting concealed weapons) is a false sense of security," Boldra said. "It really doesn't mean there aren't going to be any guns in here.

"It means there's not going to be any law abiding citizens with guns in here, and that's really all it means."

Two firearms-related bills have been debated in the Kansas House this session. House Bill 2199, called the Second Amendment Protection Act, and House Bill 2055, expanding concealed carry to apply to campuses, classrooms and the Statehouse.

"A gun-free sticker on the door is not only not a deterrent to criminals, it actually encourages them to come there because they know they will not find opposition from law-abiding citizens," Couture-Lovelady said. "If you look at the mass shootings we've had in the country, they've all happened in gun-free zones because criminals know that they won't face opposition there."

Observing the forum from the back of the room Saturday morning, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was asked by Ostmeyer to share a few words with the audience.

Moran said he was on his way to run errands, so the Senator was in casual dress and spoke informally, but he took a moment to tell his constituents his focus in Washington has not changed since his days as a Kansas senator.

"My interest in politics and public service didn't really originate with all the huge issues we face today," Moran said. "The way I grew up and how we lived our lives has always suggested to me that the way we live here in Kansas is pretty special.

"And my focus has always been on how do we make certain that our kids and grandkids have the opportunity to live and work and raise their families in the places that we all come from."