Jan 15, 2020 12:30 AM

The Latest: DHS briefs Kan. lawmakers on business, ag threats

Posted Jan 15, 2020 12:30 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators say they have been told in secret briefings that foreign governments are trying to get proprietary information about business and agricultural assets in the state. Participants in the first briefing Tuesday said the extraordinary events involved a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official.

Lawmakers also said they were warned to be careful about opening emails from foreign sources. But they also said they did not hear about immediate threats. Legislators saw the briefings as highly unusual because they were conducted on a former Air Force base south of Topeka. Reporters and legislative staffers were not allowed to attend. 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is giving Kansas legislators extraordinary private briefings about undisclosed security issues.

Kansas House members boarded National Guard buses Tuesday for a briefing at a former Air Force base south of Topeka involving DHS and arranged by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office. Democrats had a separate briefing first, followed by Republicans.

Reporters and staffers were not allowed on the buses before they left the Statehouse. Deputy Attorney General Jay Scott Emler, a former state Senate majority leader, said in a letter Tuesday to the Kansas House speaker that the briefings should be given in closed party caucuses, which are allowed under the state’s open meetings law.

Emler’s letter said only that the briefings concerned issues that legislators “may encounter in the course of their official duties.” Lawmakers knew little about the content ahead of time.

“We’re anticipating it’s something to do with cybersecurity, but we don’t know,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, told reporters ahead of the GOP briefing.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat and the Legislature’s longest-serving member, said he cannot recall a similar briefing in his 44 years as a lawmaker. Senators expect their DHS briefings by next week.

Democrat State Rep. Stephanie Clayton who represents the 19th District wrote on twitter, " Heading back from a routine security briefing at Forbes Field. It was nice to tour the facility, but somewhat anticlimactic, given the buildup. "

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Jan 15, 2020 12:30 AM
Kansas Farm Bureau Insight: Stronger together

By GLENN BRUNKOW, Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher

We have flipped the calendar to a new year, and that also means the “silly season” of politics is starting in earnest. This year promises to be an even sillier year than most because of state and national elections.

More than just about any year I can remember, there is more at stake for our nation, state and, most importantly, for rural Kansas.

Increasingly we are seeing our population drop in most of rural Kansas, which means our political influence also is shrinking. We are seeing a shift of political power swing to more populated portions of the state. This could spell trouble for agriculture as many of those in more urban areas are more removed from agriculture and often don’t fully understand our point of view or how issues affect us.

That is why it is so important for us to tell our side of the story, for us to let our views and stances on critical issues be known. If we don’t advocate for ourselves no one else will, and our interests will be forgotten.I know many of you are like me. I feel like I am so bogged down in my day-to-day activities and work that I don’t have time to get involved. It is hard to know how to make your opinion heard and even harder to know how to make your vote count. It seems awfully lonely out here in rural Kansas and in agriculture.

I agree — it is hard to make your voice heard as a lone citizen. It is possible, and it is something we should not ignore. But often a lone voice is not very effective. That is why being a member of Kansas Farm Bureau is so critical for all of us in agriculture. It is a way for us to combine our voices and make them louder.

When we come together as a group, we magnify our power and influence. However, this does not lessen the importance of each one of us or our individual influence over our own elected officials. That is why it is also important to not only join Kansas Farm Bureau but to be an active member. In the coming weeks and months we will have an opportunity to voice our opinion and to help educate and influence our elected officials. Through the elections we will also have the chance to decide who many of those officials are.

I ask that you take the time to find out how you can be an active part in the efforts of our Kansas Farm Bureau. Sign up for alerts and contact your elected officials. Kansas Farm Bureau is the most influential farm organization in our state, and that is because we are a grassroots organization of farmers and ranchers who band together for a stronger, louder voice.

"Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.