By Adam Strunk
Sen. Carolyn McGinn’s been through redistricting processes in the past and this time around, she hopes the rest of the legislature leaves her district largely alone.
“It’s not been a pretty process in the past,” she said. “Hopefully, we can make the minor adjustments that need to be made.”
District 31 covers northern Sedgwick County and Harvey County.
Every 10 years, the state legislature is responsible for changing district boundaries following census results.
The 2020 census has shown that District 31 has grown a bit, to where its population would need to be a bit smaller to be at the state’s ideal level.
“I only need to lose 2,600,” she said of the district.
She noted that removing the small chunk of Bel Aire in the district could establish the goal.
McGinn has held the district for the GOP since 2005, but the district skews a bit more moderate than some of its rural neighboring Senate districts.
That’s in part because of the political make up of Newton and especially North Newton.
Maps could be drawn in a way to gerrymander North Newton into a neighboring more conservative Senate district and in turn shift District 31 even further right.
McGinn said she hoped that the legislature and those drawing maps would continue to keep boundaries that make sense and it made sense to keep Harvey County in a single Senate district.
Outside of redistricting, McGinn said that taxes would be a big discussion point for the upcoming session.
McGinn has long been a proponent of decreasing sales tax on food.
This year, Governor Laura Kelly publicly began to push for the legislature to draft legislation to completely remove food sales tax in the coming session.
McGinn wouldn’t go as far as to say she supported the Governor’s plan, which would decrease state revenue by an estimated $450 million annually.
Instead, she noted that she’d introduced a bill in the past and still supports an annual decrease of one percentage point of food sales tax over a three-year time period.
“If you take it down partway, you can get it to where you want to and adjust,” she said, explaining why she favors her plan over Kelly’s.
On the taxing subject, she expressed concern over legislation she worried would be introduced during the session that would cap state budget, revenues or expenditure increases at a certain amount compared to the previous year.
“It takes from your flexibility to respond to a crisis,” she said of such limitations. She also said that such legislation could stymie or make regular infrastructure improvements difficult across the state.
On other issues she found important, she said that she had currently introduced a medical marijuana bill into the Senate for this session that would mirror the language of a House bill passed last session.
She said under the bill, medical marijuana is greatly regulated, but available through doctors. It would also be prescribed through pill form.
She said that she saw a need for it in a highly regulated context.
McGinn said mental health care access continues to be a high priority for her.
She said she would continue to push for more state funding to create localized beds in south-central Kansas, so families don’t have to drive to northeast Kansas for services.
“We need state-licensed long-term beds in south-central Kansas,” she said.
McGinn also said that conversations need to be had about the state’s role in funding Amtrak expansion.
Finally, on the social issue side, McGinn said she would not support initiatives that remove local control from smaller governments and school boards and instead put such control in the state’s hands.
Last session saw various members of McGinn’s party introduce bills about athletic participation and gender. She said she assumed something like Critical Race theory would be brought up as a subject of debate this session. Critical Race Theory, the idea that racism is both systemic and has a historical basis in the United States, has gotten a lot of coverage in conservative media circles, but isn’t being taught in area schools.
“The same people elected these Senators that elected those people to be local representatives, “she said. “If we believe in local control of our schools, we need to let locally elected officials make those decisions.”