POV: Overall, how did your first term go? What committees did you sit on and what were the big issues up for debate over the course of the term?
Bill: The committees I served on were Utilities, Corrections and Juvenile Justice, Agriculture, and Local Government. A big issue to come through the Utilities committee was a proposal to charge a cellphone tax to pay for enhanced “911” emergency service. This legislation reflects the changing telecommunication system and the corresponding need and cost to change the “911” system. On the Corrections committee, we passed an important proposal that emphasized treatment programs over prison terms for drug offenders. The current drug sentences are not working. We have many repeat offenders and an overcrowded prison population. It is time to try a treatment program for drug offenders, then maybe we can stop drug abuse. Both of these pieces of legislation were controversial, however they both are serious solutions to real problems.
POV: How did you balance the extra work with your farming and ranching? Was it a challenge?
Bill: The legislative session could not come at a worse time for the ranch. Jennifer covered all my work for me at the county attorney’s office and she took care of the cattle. ( I don’t think the county Board of Commissioners or the cattle were happy to see the session end and have me come back to work; they enjoyed Jennifer.) By the time the session ended Jennifer had all the cattle in good shape and all the calves were born and ready to go to pasture. There was no balance of work on my part; it was Jennifer’s willingness to do all the work that was necessary to keep things going that made it possible for me to be in the legislature.
POV: What are you most proud of in terms of the work that you accomplished during the term?
Bill: I was most pleased about working with a bipartisan group of legislators on two tax proposals that would have gone a long way toward addressing the financial needs of the state. It was not easy working together, but the goal of trying to craft a real solution, a positive solution, kept us working together.
POV: Will you run for re-election? Are the same issues that concerned you most in the 2002 election — education funding, out-migration, etc. — still the most important issues in the 2004 election?
Bill: I am going to run for reelection. The issues that are important to me — the same issues that prompted me to run in 2002 — have not been addressed. The school finance issue, despite the efforts of the bipartisan group mentioned above, has been ignored by the legislature. The impact on rural Kansas of failing to invest in our schools will be long lasting. I think we must be responsible now in solving these problems. We know what the solutions are, the question is do we have the political will to do what is required.
And if I’m re-elected, my first campaign promise is that there will be some help for Jennifer to take care of the cows.