LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:   Phone funding debated

Rep., 74th District

We are in week three already and things are picking up. Most of the committees have been working and a few bills are already up for House floor action.

The Utilities and Telecommunications committee has been learning about universal service funds (USF) that are used to subsidize phone service in high-cost areas, which are primarily rural areas. In 2009 the federal government passed laws that allow using the USF for broadband Internet service, but I was surprised to learn that implementation of most of that policy has not yet occurred.

As we dig deeper into the use of service funds, I hope to find out when some action can be expected to improve internet services to rural areas as many areas, especially in Marion and eastern Harvey County, are seriously underserved.

Agriculture continues to be a hot topic with the drought and water issues of major concern. If the drought continues into another year or more, questions remain as to how municipalities and farms will operate. There is little question that the normal operating methods will have to give way to methods that use less water.

Our aquifers seem to be holding their own fairly well, but even those are declining somewhat with the heavy usage. Obviously, the streams and rivers are suffering greatly from dry weather. It’s a good time to clean out stock ponds to increase holding capacity, but some serious rain is needed this spring to refill those ponds.

I am not on the taxation committee this year and rather miss what is happening there. There is much debate about eliminating the mortgage tax deduction and keeping the higher sales tax. The entire taxation issue was thrown into some disarray last session and the uncertainty continues. Some real concerns in future years are how the state will pay for basic services and schools if some major adjustments are not made. How all the moving parts will eventually fit together is unknown at this time.

It is again a privilege and an honor to represent a portion of central Kansas in the legislature. The issues we vote on do not become any easier over time, but take study and thought to make the best decision for the 74th District. Sometimes, we just have to agree to disagree.

As always, if you have concerns you wish to express an opinion on, my Topeka phone number is 785.296.7500, the email is don.schroeder@house.ks.gov, or look on the Kansas legislature website to find email and other contact information.

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