By JAMES BELL
Area residents will once again have the opportunity to hear directly from their local legislators during the Hays Chamber’s 2023 Legislative Coffee Series.
The first of the three Saturday morning events is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Feb. 4 at the Hays Public Library, 1205 Main.
“This is one of my favorite events, actually, because it gives us an opportunity just to interact with our elected officials,” said Hays Chamber President and CEO Sarah Wasinger. “There are so many important issues that are being addressed at this local, state and national level. And really, the reason behind this event is to give our community members a chance to express their concerns and make sure that their voices are being heard.”
The follow-up events are scheduled for March 4 and April 1.
“We really try to keep it as low-key as possible,” Wasinger said. “They open up with some opening remarks, a couple of minutes each. And then really we open that up to the question-and answer-portion after that.”
Questions for the participating legislators can be submitted in advance.
“We had probably more questions submitted, actually, at the first legislative coffee last year than I've at least had since I've been with the chamber,” Wasinger said. “People are engaged. They're paying attention to what's going on, and you get to hear a variety of thoughts and perspectives from different individuals across the community. And then, of course, our elected officials will weigh in with where their heads and hearts are sitting at the moment. And it's just a good dialogue.”
The format of the sessions will be the same as previous years, featuring coffee and scones from Breathe Coffee House, with the formal program scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m.
“We usually have about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, it really just depends on how many representatives or legislators we have there that day,” Wasinger said. “And then we finish with some closing remarks.”
The sessions, she said, can also serve as a way to network with the legislators.
“I think many people oftentimes are stuck in these situations or problems, and they don't necessarily know who to reach out to,” Wasinger said. “That's when your elected officials can really come in and roll up their sleeves and do the work that they need to do to support you.
“There's definitely value in building those relationships and attending.”
Topics covered during the sessions will vary based on what is happening in the legislature and submitted questions.
“Things that we may talk about, at least what we talked about last year, was Medicaid expansion,” Wasinger said. “Obviously, education funding is always a hot topic, gun legislation, as western Kansas citizens appreciate that topic usually. And then, of course, water access. We'd be remiss not to talk about economic development and housing. Of course, childcare and ag industry, those are all things that tend to be hot topics, regardless of what is going on in the legislative session.”
So far, she said Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, and Rep. Barbara Wasinger, R-Hays, plan to attend Saturday’s kickoff event along with a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall.
“I think it'll be a great crowd, we always look forward to the answers that they will share,” Wasinger said. “I think it's interesting that everybody can kind of just understand that dialogue and conversation is important.”
Midwest Energy and the Hays Daily News sponsored the legislative coffee series.
Questions can be sent to [email protected]