PITTSBURG — Part of Crawford County’s legislative delegation spoke to the public Pittsburg Public Library Saturday.
PPL Librarian Carol Ann Robb had the idea to have the state legislators speak with the public at the library.
“The library is a place for information,” Robb said. “Why not do it here?
Robb said she was happy about the turn out.
“I’m happy about the crowd size and the amount of involvement and knowledge they had” Robb said.
State Representatives Monica Murnan (D-Pittsburg) and Adam Lusker (D-Frontenac) visited with the public about recent policies and contracts along with issues which impact Kansas residents. State Jake LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) told Robb that he could not attend the forum.
Murnan and Lusker discussed what their districts are doing and what processes the policies and contracts are at.
Murnan said things have been very productive this year.
Lusker said the legislation has a “new atmosphere” and are working on advancing the state forward.
Topics for Saturday’s meeting were the tax bill, Medicaid expansion, foster care, concealed carry on campus and mental health.
Pittsburg State University Professor of Sociology Harry L. Humphries asked about concealed carry on campus.
Humphries shared his concerns about recruitment for the school and the status of a bill making changes to the law which will permit anyone 21 and over and not otherwise barred from carrying a concealed weapon, do so on college campuses across the state. Kansas does not require a permit to carry a concealed handgun. He was concerned the bill is stuck in committee.
Lusker said the bill is not stuck and that debate is ongoing about the bill.
Murnan said to learn more about where the Kansas legislature is on this bill and bills, the public can go to the Kansas Legislative Research Department website to obtain information about who voted, when the legislators are meeting and what they are meeting for, as well as information which breaks down bills for better understanding.
Frontenac resident Becky White spoke of her experience and concerns with foster care.
“They need more background checks,” White said. “And more frequent checks.”
White said she thinks there should be more life classes — classes to help children who are aging out formal foster care services.
According to Murnan, there is a reintegration contract for foster children. This is an attempt reintegrate the child back into his or her home.
Murnan said the funding for basic family support has been eroding away— while more children are placed in the foster care system.
Murnan said talking about foster care issues will help bring it to the attention of legislators.
“A lot of people are capable of closing their eyes to this,” Murnan said.“Talking about these issues will help bring it to the front.”
Retired Addictions Counselor Jim Brumfield asked the legislators about resilience programs for children with mental health issues, including foster children.
Brumfield said if the children learn certain skills they will have a better chance in the world.
“There are six main skills that would help these children,” Brumfield said, listing focus, introspection, perspective taking, goal setting, problem solving and decision making.
Brumfield said he brought this to the attention of the legislators to make a connection and to get this idea going in schools.
Murnan said that the State Board of Education is working on improving the social and emotional issues of these children. She agreed that resilience is important for the children’s future.
Murnan said the Department of Education is to come up with a plan where the schools will be held accountable for implementing the program.
Fort Scott resident and lawyer Geoffrey Clark asked the panel about sending people in need of mental health care to Osawatomie and the process as well as the extended wait times.
“Many of those who need help are waiting at police stations or waiting, chained to a bed in a hospital for as long as 60 to 90 days,” Clark said.
Lusker said the main cause of this wait is the cut in funding — revenue.
“There is no money to distribute because we took an unsustainable tax policy in 2012,” he said.
Vietnam Veteran Rick Fulton said he is asking for an a proclamation for 2018 in observance of 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive to inform the public about what happened, why and how it still relates today.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP.