Listening Tour

Rep. Richard Proehl (left) and Sen. Virgil Peck visit with area residents during a stop in Altamont on Saturday as part of a listening tour in Southeast Kansas.

ALTAMONT — Kansas State Rep. Richard Proehl and Virgil Peck conducted a listening tour in Southeast Kansas on Saturday.

Six people showed up at Altamont City Hall to visit with the legislators.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s gubernatorial vetoes were on the top of Peck’s list of topics he wanted to talk about in addition to line item vetoes in the budget bill.

Peck explained the way a veto override is conducted, whether it begins in the House or the Senate, and the number of votes it takes.

Senate Bills 50 and 55 were two he specifically mentioned from a list he handed out.

“Several of these I am confident will not be overridden. Will any of them? We don’t know. It takes a two-thirds majority in the House and two-thirds majority in the Senate to override gubernatorial vetoes. In the Senate, that is 27 votes. In the House that is 84, which can be a challenge.”

Peck said another area of focus this week will be a school finance plan, as one has not been approved yet for K-12 education.

“The House passed one, House Bill 175. It just barely had enough votes. We considered it at length, and it came out to a 20-20 vote in the Senate. For any legislation to pass, it must have 21 votes. I voted for the education finance bill. It was a little pricey, but it has some good policy pieces in it. That was the problem with the bill; some thought it was too pricey or expensive and voted no. Some didn’t like the policy pieces in it, so they voted no. … We’re going to have to get to that delicate balance so we can pass an education finance bill,” Peck said. “We have to fund K-12 education in the state of Kansas.”

Peck was asked by Ivan Eck about Senate Bill 55 and “how many guys were trying to compete in the women’s sports in the state of Kansas?”

SB 55 was a bill designed to create fairness in women’s sports by requiring female student athletic teams include only members who are biologically female, excluding transgenders.

Peck said they are in the early stages of the topic. He said they have been told there are five transgender individuals in the state seeking to join women’s teams. Peck said it is like back in the 1990s talking about homosexual marriages and people thinking it would never be allowed to happen, but today it is happening all the time.

“From my perspective, we are trying to preempt this getting out of hand,” Peck said. He is against allowing males who are “transgendering” to participate with females, not only from a moral perspective but also to protect females. He said it is not fair for females to have to compete physically against those who are born males.

When the bill was being debated on the floor, Peck said a woman athlete who was speaking about it noted that at the 2019 state track meet 50 boy athletes ran a faster time in the 3200-meter race than the top female. Also, Peck said the world record for females in the 100 meters has been beaten by 19 high school boys in Kansas alone. 

“To me, again, it’s a matter of fairness. I think we should protect young ladies’ athletics because young ladies have worked so hard for so many years to get (sports),” Peck said. “Not only from my perspective of the fairness in the athletic competition, but you participate in a sport and you go into the locker room. What’s part of the locker room experience? Showers.”

While the students are calling themselves transgender, Peck said a male could just say he is transgender.

It used to be you had to participate as a male, or female, or co-ed, he said. 

“As far as that bill being overridden on the Senate side, I suspect we will have the votes,” Peck said. “I’m frustrated. We had 26 votes. We had three Republicans that refused to vote. They didn’t vote at all.”

Eck said he understands that states that have passed the law have suffered in companies and organizations pulling out of the state and said he has boycotted all those companies.

Peck said as a legislator, he is willing to stand up and be counted for what he believes is morally right and suffer the consequences, as he is not going to let business and organizations control what his state does.

He said it is the right thing to do to protect women from men, who are physically superior, from coming into their sport and taking away their chances of competing fairly for wins.

“This is going to be one that is going to be very difficult for the House to override because the vote was 76 to 43 and we’ve got to have 84 votes,” Proehl said. “We’ve got to come up with eight more votes. I did vote for this bill, and I know there could be a financial consequence because some events  may be pulled from Kansas. I weighed that and decided I would support the girls’ athletics …. It’s going to be very difficult for us to get over the hill.”

City of Altamont administrator Audree Aguilera said she is appreciative of those voting for the bill, as one transgender male could come in and take away all the records the ladies have earned in female sports.

She said she understands the difficult position legislators are in.

Proehl said they are elected to vote, right or wrong. He said he believes he has made some wrong decisions over the years, and there are times he has wished he could go back and change a vote.

“That’s not something you can do. You have to make a decision at that point in time. We have too many people that will not vote. They had three Republicans that did not vote on that bill, and we have that happen quite frequently. They just pass,” Proehl said. “If I’m on the floor and I’m there, I’m going to vote because that’s there reason I’m there.”

“If you are in the capitol you should vote,” Peck said, unless it is something you are personally going to benefit from.

Aguilera also asked the status of Senate Bill 87 pertaining to discontinuing apportionment of a countywide retailer’s sales tax imposed for general purposes. With countywide sales taxes, the county has jurisdiction. Though it comes from within the cities, there is not any guarantee it would be passed down to the cities, she said. It would be up to each city to have an agreement with the county that a portion of that sales tax could be passed down. Peck said there was an issue with the bill. It’s been passed over for now. 

There was some discussion about property taxes in Kansas being too high, and Peck talked about legislation he and a Democrat have proposed that would freeze property taxes for senior citizens.

“It’s still, too high,” one man said.

Peck said he is also working on legislation that would exempt disabled veterans from sales tax, on food, personal hygiene items and household cleaning supplies. Veterans who are 100% disabled pay no taxes in Oklahoma — no income tax, no property tax, no vehicle tax, no sales tax. Widows have the same benefits until they pass or remarry.

“We’re working to so dome things to help people with property taxes. Now, it’s limited in scope,” Peck said. “People say we can’t give up the money. I say, ‘Yes we can.’ These people laid it on the line for us. They are disabled because of their military service.”

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