Legislator vows to fight for city
State Rep. Kenny Wilk talked for about 20 minutes last Wednesday to Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce members. But he saved the best news for last.
During the 2002 session of the Kansas Legislature, reapportionment will be a hot topic. Because of population shifts, legislative districts, including Wilk's 42nd House District, will be redrawn.
"I have no intention of giving up Tonganoxie," said Wilk, a Lansing Republican who has represented the 42nd District for the past nine years. "I have grown fond of this community."
Wilk's comments elicited applause from chamber members attending the lunch meeting at the VFW Park.
The legislator also discussed the lengthy 2001 session.
"It was not a pleasant experience from a professional standpoint," he said. "It was the most challenging session I've ever dealt with."
He said finding consensus among legislators was particularly difficult. But legislators did find common ground on numerous topics, including juvenile offenders.
"There is some indication we may be getting ahead of that problem," Wilk said.
He said legislators have agreed to make juvenile offenders' initial contact with the justice system as traumatic as possible.
"We have to make sure that is not a pleasant experience for them," he said.
On particularly contentious topic funding for public education Wilk said the relationship between education lobbyists and legislators is at an all-time low. Wilk said he was not willing to support massive amounts of money for a funding formula that is flawed. He said he hopes the Legislature will study the formula and make changes to it so that it is more equitable to the state's 304 school districts.
In the future, Wilk said, the state will benefit from planning under way now on the Kansas Comprehensive Strategic Plan, an economic development effort. The plan calls for a workforce development plan, use of natural resources such as wind and wider use of information technology.
Four research institutions the University of Kansas, the KU Medical Center, Kansas State University and Wichita State University are working on research and development initiatives to ensure those institutions can become world leaders in several areas. Funding for those initiatives will likely come from the state and federal government, as well as private investments, Wilk said.
At Kansas State, research is under way on food safety and security. At Wichita State, it's possible Boeing will team up with college researchers to develop a new wind tunnel. And at the medical center, a consortium of researchers from area hospitals are working on a variety of advances.
"It's one of the best investments we could make in the state in some time," he said.