Rep. Gonzalez more comfortable with a year’s experience
by Dennis Sharkey
This week a year ago he didn’t know where his office was or even which way to go but that’s all changed.
The 2012 session of the Kansas House of Representatives began on Monday and Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry, doesn’t feel like the new kid at a new school on the first day.
“I kind of know how the flow is going to go,” Gonzalez said. “It should be a lot simpler on the stuff that gave me trouble last year.”
Last year he arrived in Topeka almost needing a map to get around the capital building with construction complicating matters further. The 2011 legislative session was the first time Gonzalez held any kind of elected office so the whole process was new as well.
Many lessons were learned for the first time legislator including the time he tried to take a simple one page bill to the House floor. A few hours later his simple bill wasn’t so simple anymore and was 17 pages long.
“I’m standing up at the podium saying, ‘What happened?’” Gonzalez joked. “That’s when I learned my lesson.”
Gonzalez has spent many hours since the legislature adjurned last May touring his district that encompasses all of Jefferson County and part of Atchison County. He has visited with all of the local school boards and attended many meetings. He believes he will hit the ground running this week.
Another lesson learned last year is attention to detail. He said lawmakers have to be aware of what is being put in front of them and ask a lot of questions.
“We’re going to have to be pretty cognizant of our decisions,” he said. “Show me what you got. We have to be aware.”
Since the last meeting of the legislature there has been discussion about hot topics such as the state income tax and education funding. Many have been critical of Gov. Sam Brownback’s education funding plan and the lack of transparency when dealing with taxes. However, Gonzalez said he wants the hearing process to play out before making a decision.
“What is the exact proposal?” Gonzalez said. “How are we going to do that? I haven’t seen the paperwork on it.
“That’s part of the session,” he added. “You have to have proposals and you have to have agendas.”
Gonzalez defended the governor’s handling of the income tax discussions and said nothing has been decided and it would have to pass both houses first.
“My comment to that is, ‘What’s a done deal?’” he said. “We don’t have all the particulars yet.
“It’s better you’re told what’s coming up,” Gonzalez says he tells people. “Once we get to the floor and start discussing it we’ll have a little bit more to go with.”
Initially Gonzalez sees some good things with Brownback’s education finance plan but also recognizes some of the arguments that rural schools will make.
“We have students out there who should be afforded the same quality of education that is being afforded to the Johnson County Schools,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘Well you guys only have x number of dollars and that’s what you’re going to have to work with.’ You have to equalize it.”
Gonzalez will hold the same committee assignments as last year. He is on the public safety, aging and long term care, elections and budget committees.
He believes the biggest debates will be during budget hearings and that the challenges that lawmakers faced last year are similar to this year’s challenges.
“We’re still looking at a tight budget and we know that everyone will come in wanting to fund their departments,” he said. “We’re going to have the same challenge we had last year which is we only have so much money and what can we do with it?
“Is it reasonable and why do you need what you’re asking for?” he added.
Gonzalez does not know how much of the Republican agenda will be accomplished this year and isn’t worried that it is an election year.
“My responsibilities are to do what I’m supposed to do during the session,” he said. “If you worry about what’s going to happen in the future you need to think about doing something else.”
A project that Gonzalez has been working on since last year is a bill that will deal with sexting. Sexting is an act of sending lewd photos via a text message to a cell phone.
He said currently there are no guidelines for addressing the issue from a law enforcement perspective.
“It’s a brand new technology,” Gonzalez said. “Do you treat someone as a felon? Do you send a 15-year-old to jail? We’re trying to make it to where it would have some parameters.”
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