Lucas Corbin, Reporter
Earlier this month, Representative Kenneth Collins began his third term in the Kansas legislature following an unopposed election in November. Collins, a Republican, represents parts of Allen, Bourbon, Crawford, and Neosho counties in Topeka. The legislative session will run until May 22.
The Governor, as well as a bipartisan coalition of legislators, has prioritized medicinal marijuana this session; in a tweet following her election victory, Laura Kelly announced that she was “working to get [it] done come January.” In previous sessions, Collins has supported efforts to legalize medical marijuana; he successfully passed HB2540, which excluded FDA-approved drug products from the definition of marijuana, and voted for the Medical Marijuana Regulation Act, which, while it did pass the House, died in the Senate.
For the Representative, medical cannabis is a no-brainer: “As close as we are [to Missouri], that’s money going across the border. We’ll get the effects of it either way, so we might as well get some money from it.”
In November, Missourians amended their constitution to legalize recreational marijuana, and dispensaries will begin selling to customers over twenty-one next month.
As the T-WORKS plan, a decade old, six-billion-dollar package that worked to “provide multimodal economic development opportunities” across the State, finishes its final projects later this spring, the IKE Construction Pipeline, the state’s ten-year, ten-billion-dollar rolling infrastructure plan that works to repair and expand Kansas’ roads and bridges, has begun. Collins, who will be serving his first year on the Transportation Committee, plans to use IKE funds for his district; construction is currently taking place around the Arma bypass and on I-69 towards Kansas City.
In 2023, Kansas will spend an estimated twenty-seven million dollars adding shoulders to K-7 from Girard to the Bourbon County line. According to Bruce Blair, Crawford County Commissioner, the construction will help in “Reducing 18-wheeler rollovers, provide safer transportation to and from Crawford state park and improve the safety of cyclists using.” along the highway.
Taxation will be a reoccurring conversation in Topeka as Democrats, including the Governor, plan to immediately eradicate the food sales tax, which is currently scheduled to gradually reduce itself into 2025. Collins, who sits on the Committee for Local Government, will be prioritizing the reduction of property tax: “Kansas’ property tax is noticeably higher than Missouri… I would like to find a solution and some relief to that.” The majority of taxpayers’ property tax costs are from county and city governments, as the state’s tax rate is 1⅓%. Collins and other Republicans will seek to limit that.
2022 was the first test of stricter election procedures in certain conservative-dominated states following nationwide conspiracies regarding the 2020 election. Last week, Secretary of State Scott Schwab spoke in review with the House’s Election Committee, which Collins is a member of, and introduced his plan to “improve election administration processes, reduce the burden on county election staff and protect election integrity and transparency.”
In previous years, the Secretary of State’s office has been very influential to the Election Committee, which was receptive to his critiques during the 2021 and 2022 sessions. Speaking of Schwab, Collins stated: “I can’t say I’d follow it [Schwab’s plan] exactly, but, coming from him, it weighs pretty heavy on me.”
The Representative will continue legislating on behalf of his district in Topeka, where he serves his mandate until 2024.