Legislative Q&A’s: Sen. Steve Fitzgerald
Steve Fitzgerald, 5th Senate District Kansas Senator, R-Leavenworth, shares his views on the current legislative session. The 5th District covers the western half of Edwardsville and all of Bonner Springs, as well as portions of western Kansas City, Kan., and eastern Leavenworth County.
Committee assignments: Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, Local Government, Transportation, Ethics and Elections, Ways and Means
Occupation: Retired military
Address: 3100 Tonganoxie Road
Leavenworth, KS 66048
Q: What do you think needs to be done regarding the state’s budget?
A: The budget is a two year budget and we are entering into the second year so the work on it will be mostly fine tuning — with a couple of exceptions. This is the first time Kansas has had a multi-year budget so we are also getting familiar with that dynamic. One very important fix to the budget concerns corrections. There was a serious shortfall in that part of the budget and the Governor vetoed it. We will be working on a fix for that as a top priority.
There has been a reduction of redundancy and some merging of functions such as the placing of Juvenile Justice under the Department of Corrections and the partnership of KDOT and KTA. So far they seem to be working well — we will continue to watch them for any adjustments.
I believe that there are additional reductions in spending that can be achieved. The taxpayers need relief and that will only come with reduced spending. That said, we must dig into the education budget and make sure that we are doing a better job of distributing funds in the best manner — I am convinced that we are not and that changes are necessary. I do not favor any cuts in K-12 education.
Q: Are there any bills you personally are proposing/working on? What other issues do you expect the legislation to address that would be of most interest to your constituents?
A: I am working with the committees on a number of bills. Personally I have several that are technical changes to increase the punishment for burglary and reduce it for minor drug offenses; also, I am trying to change the law to legalize bingo and similar games for charitable organizations. These and a few other bills have been suggested by the district attorney.
Q: Are there any pushes for a bill or law that you think would negatively affect the state or your constituents?
A: At this time the only bills that I know of are clearly detrimental are the elimination of lobbying by government entities - including school districts and the change of local elections to partisan elections. I understand the rationale behind these bills and I am somewhat sympathetic with the intent but discussions with a wide range of people have convinced me that they would do more harm than good and I will oppose them.
Q: What do you think of Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal that the state provide $80 million over five years to fully fund all-day kindergarten — is it plausible? Are there any other changes you’d like to see for K-12 funding or higher education funding?
A: Governor Brownback is very serious about improving the reading skills of children in the early grades and I believe he sees all-day kindergarten as one way to achieve that goal. I am not convinced that the additional funds for all day kindergarten will in fact increase the literacy of the children. There is considerable evidence that some temporary improvement is possible but that meaningful improvement is not likely. Children at that age need to be playing more than focusing on academics. The result is taxpayer support for what is really quality babysitting. I also believe that most school districts have sufficient funds to pay for this initiative if they want to and this is a matter for local prioritization.