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Day at the Statehouse

March 7, 2011

It’s been a long time, too long, since I visited our state capitol in Topeka, Kansas. I’ve been around legislation because of work or industry groups, but far from where it gets debated, decided or left to die. Last Thursday, I found myself in the middle of it for our fourth Kansas Farm Bureau Masters Class.

My take-aways from our day at the Statehouse:

Legislation is not for the half-hearted, uninformed or those  not connected.
I’m not saying the process is rigged, just that it’s complicated — both in how it happens and how it’s influenced. It was interesting to watch freshman legislators bumbling through the protocols of presenting and debating bills. And, for better or worse, lobbyists are everywhere. They and the groups they represent are critical to the education and persuasion of elected officials.

We can impact legislation.
My representative was surprisingly open to discussions on numerous topics. He’s a former dairy farmer, so it helped that we agree on many issues. Still, making your opinion known — in person — is important.

Senate Chamber viewed from the president's rostrum. There are 28 hand cast bronze columns decorated with morning glories and roses.

The legislative process is like a grand play.
The capitol building is a beautiful theater. The grounds, House and Senate chambers and murals are stunning. The stage crew — the clerks, researchers, pages and others — keep the performance on track. The representatives and senators — the actors in this play — deliver their lines with honest passion. At least I hope it’s honest. 

That’s our role as the audience, I suppose: to keep them honest and get our money’s worth.

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