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Firm to represent city's interests

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

In anticipation of a challenging legislative session ahead, Hays city commissioners met with John Pinegar and Doug Smith of Pinegar, Smith and Associates, newly contracted lobbyists for the city's legislative concerns, during last week's work session.

Serving as the "eyes and ears" of the city of Hays will be a focus for Pinegar and Smith, who represent counties and cities throughout western Kansas.

"I grew up in Garden City," Pinegar told commissioners. "My heart is still in western Kansas, even though I've lived in Topeka for 30 years."

The turnover seen in Topeka following November's election likely will present a challenge to the lobbying firm, according to Pinegar. With 55 new House members, a 44 percent turnover, and 16 new senators, a 40 percent turnover, experience in governing will be in short supply.

Seventy members of the House of Representatives will have served one term of two years or less, and 50 will have no legislative experience. In the Senate, 11 of the 16 new senators will have less than one four-year term under their belt.

"The learning curve is going to be astounding," Pinegar said. "Not only of the issues, but just the process.

"So we're going to have to spend a lot of time educating them on what these issues are and the best way to go about addressing them."

Representation in both the House and Senate has shifted heavily toward urban areas. Seventy percent of senators primarily will represent urban communities, while 72 percent of the House will represent urban areas.

"That's a big challenge in itself that we're going to be facing," Pinegar said.

Keeping city of Hays staff and commissioners informed regarding behind-the-scene processes during the legislative session will be a priority, Smith said.

"We give you the honest scoop of what's going on and try to give you both sides of the position as we see it and try to work together to make a decision that's going to benefit the interest going forward," Smith said.

"The coming session, '13, will be tough," Pinegar said. "Let's not mince any words about it.

"It's going to be a very difficult, tough, challenging session for a lot of reasons, and it's going to be vital that you (city commissioners) are involved."