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Update from Topeka with Rep. Shannon Francis


The Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) program took place in Topeka this week. Our inner district has two participating leaders: Carl Clawson of Plains and Eli Svaty, executive director of the Seward County Economic Development Corp. This program is a two-year program that identifies, prepares, and connects aspiring leaders to ignite action that will have a positive impact Kansas agriculture and rural communities. Below is a short list of some other leadership programs available in our area and in Kansas. These programs can help you transform our community. If you are interested, I encourage you to apply to the one that best meets your needs and interests. Some have virtual options. Let me know if I can help connect you or support you with a letter of recommendation. Liberal has its own local leadership program called LEAD. LEAD teaches 21st century leadership skills so participants are better prepared to strengthen and transform our community. It is a six-session, semester-long leadership training course designed to challenge and motivate experienced and aspiring leaders of all backgrounds and vocations. Leadership Kansas is a statewide program designed to enhance and motivate future leaders of various Kansas communities. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious statewide leadership programs in the country. Kansas Leadership Center equips individuals with any title or role to lead and engage others. And when everyone leads, individuals, organizations and communities make more progress on what matters most. Brad Bennett, president of Seward County Community College, and Luke Dowell, vice president of academic affairs, were in Topeka this week. We had a great conversation regarding the nursing program, building trade programs, commercial driver’s license program, and funding challenges. SCCC is a key provider of workforce training in our area. We also talked about unintended funding issues that may arise from a recent affiliation initiative between Ft. Hays State University, North Central Kansas Technical College and Northwest Kansas Technical College. This week in the Transportation Committee I had hearings about Kansas Railroads, the Kansas Department of Transportation, and the Kansas Turnpike Authority. There has been much discussion about how to minimize trains blocking level crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration has a website for reporting blocked intersections. The web address is: When Acting Secretary of Transportation Calvin Reed spoke to the committee, we discussed using state cost-sharing programs and the new federal BIL infrastructure program to work with local governments to build more railroad overpasses in communities. These are complex and expensive projects. I also spoke with Secretary Reed about the need to transform our major freight corridors into rural four-lane expressways.

This week the Transport Committee will hold hearings on the need to expand middle-mile fiber to bring Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) closer to open access. Currently the only open access IXPs are in Kansas City. This can increase your internet speed and reduce rural broadband cost for you! The Kansas Department of Transportation currently has funds allocated for middle-mile fiber. We will also hear about the growing use of electric vehicles and the state pilot project to study the rates for these vehicles. You currently pay 24 cents in state tax per gallon of gas for your car. We need to level the playing field for electric vehicles to help maintain our roads.

This week the transport committee is holding bill hearings on: HB 2019 Setting the conditions for when a driver is an independent contractor for a transport network company. A transportation network company is a company such as Uber or Lyft.HB 2020 Provided that the employment status of a trucker driver does not change as a result of the inclusion of safety improvements on a vehicle.

Jennifer Forrester My committee and office assistant this year is Jennifer Forrester. Jennifer has a great background as a Senate committee assistant, corrections officer, and with the National Guard. She will be the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call my office. You can reach her at [email protected] or (785) 296-7466. Pages The Page program is designed for middle school, middle school, or early high school students. Working as a page in the Kansas Legislature is an excellent way to learn more about the legislative process. If you or someone you know is interested in serving as a Page, please contact me or Jennifer for more information. Constituent Services Thank you for the opportunity to continue to serve working families in Seward and Meade County. Please contact me whenever I can help you with a state agency issue. I ask you to send me the request by e-mail. This ensures that I receive the correct information to the agency we work with. You can reach me when I’m in Topeka by email at [email protected]by phone (785) 296-7466, or by mail at 300 SW 10th Avenue, 274-W, Topeka, KS 66612

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