Legislature has new twist
By RANDY GONZALES
Freshman legislators Sue Boldra and Travis Couture-Lovelady will not only share an office, but they also share a desire for less conflict and more compromise in the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature.
Boldra, a Hays Republican, and Couture-Lovelady, a Republican from Palco, will be sworn into office Monday in Topeka. Boldra, who defeated Democratic incumbent Eber Phelps, will represent the 111th District. Couture-Lovelady won an open seat in the 110th District, defeating Democrat Philip Martin.
"I hope that we are committed to getting something done and not be so divisive," Boldra said.
Couture-Lovelady said the arguments started getting personal in recent sessions in Topeka and thinks there is the possibility that will change.
"I think we'll see a lot more productive Legislature moving forward," he said. "All of us new people coming in with a clean slate, we don't have those personal vendettas."
Couture-Lovelady, 29, said this Legislature has the most members younger than 35 than any other state.
"I'm really excited to see young people take ownership in their communities and their state," he said. "That's how we're going to get rural Kansas back on track, get younger people to get involved in local and state government."
Boldra understands it will be an uphill fight to get western Kansas concerns heard. Of 125 members in the House of Representatives, only 13 come from western Kansas. Those representatives form the western Kansas caucus.
"We're going to have to work hard, and we're going to have to sell," she said. "We're going to have to work hard to make sure our needs are met."
Boldra will serve on four committees: education; agriculture and natural resources; energy and environment; and utilities and telecommunications.
Couture-Lovelady also will serve on four committees: rules; federal and state affairs; commerce, labor and economic development; and taxation.
Couture-Lovelady envisions working closely with Boldra.
"We're on different committees, different areas of expertise," he said. "That's going to be a benefit for the area."
Couture-Lovelady admitted the taxation committee could be a hot topic as the Legislature likely will seek to make changes in Gov. Sam Brownback's tax bill.
"There's going to be a lot of work done there," he said. "I asked for a challenge, ran for wanting to make a difference. I'm happy the speaker gave me that challenging assignment as a freshman. I'm looking forward to that."
Other than the tax plan, among the issues the Legislature could address this session are the budget and judicial reform.
Boldra said House and Senate leadership have "emphasized the fact we need to really hit the ground running."
"We can't wait until the last two weeks or last month to consider major legislation," she said. "We need to start work right away."
Boldra vows to be an independent voice in the Legislature. Her constituents come first.
"I told them from the beginning I'm not a 'yes, man.' I have my own ideas," Boldra said. "I think there might be some head-butting pretty early."
Still, Boldra is awed to be part of the Legislature.
"That first day, when we met in early December -- when we talked about decorum in the chamber and had our pictures taken -- that was such a roller-coaster day for me," she said. "I was so humbled."