Lawmakers not on Kansas Chamber list defended

8/2/2013

By MARY CLARKIN

By MARY CLARKIN

Special to The Telegram

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce does not regard state Sens. Jay Elmer and Carolyn McGinn, and Reps. Steven Becker, John Doll, J. Russell Jennings, Don Schroeder, Don Hineman and Marshall Christmann III as "pro-jobs legislators."

Business and development leaders in those lawmakers' home districts beg to differ.

"We've been adding a lot of jobs," said McPherson Mayor Tom Brown, and Emler, R-Lindsborg, has been "a big supporter" of that effort.

"I would say that he's very much involved," Brown said.

Finney County Economic Development Corp. President Lona DuVall said of Garden City Republican legislator John Doll: He "absolutely" stays in touch with the agency. Jennings, R-Lakin, has part of Finney County in his district, and DuVall said he's "wonderful," too.

Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce has "a great relationship" with the Reno County delegation, which includes Becker and Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, according to Chamber President Jason Ball.

Pauls also did not make the "pro-jobs" list, but no Democrat was among the 24 senators and 71 representatives touted by the Kansas chamber.

Ball said the Hutchinson/Reno County chamber does not characterize legislators as "pro-job or not pro-job." He further pointed out the local chamber was entirely separate from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

All legislators representing Reno County have been "very supportive of job growth," Ball said, and they participate in chamber-sponsored forums in Hutchinson, he said.

Christmann, a Republican from Lyons, toured the JACAM plant outside Sterling a couple of weeks ago "and was very supportive of the growth that is taking place there," according to Jill Nichols, Rice County Economic Development director.

Christmann has said if there is anything he can do, to let him know, Nichols said.

Trego County was added to Dighton Republican Hineman's district in 2012, and Trego County Economic Development Director Jody Zeman said she "just never" hears from Hineman, R-Dighton.

However, Katie Eisenhour, executive director of Scott City Area Chamber of Commerce and Scott County development committee, said they "often" have contact with Hineman.

McGinn, R-Sedgwick, is "fabulous," and Schroeder, R-Hesston, is "a very strong advocate for jobs," according to Harvey County Economic Development Council Executive Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean.

Fornaro-Dean considered Harvey County "very, very fortunate" to have McGinn and Schroeder in its delegation.

80 percent

The Kansas chamber did not specify which votes kept legislators off the list.

Emily Mitchell, director of communications and special events for the Kansas chamber, said the organization made its legislative agenda known.

The agenda describes issues but does not mention specific bills.

"The list of Pro-Jobs Legislators identifies lawmakers who voted at least 80 percent of the time to support a wide range of business issues and ensure the state's economic health," said Kansas Chamber President Mike O'Neal, a Republican and former Hutchinson legislator, in a statement.

The issues of concern to the Kansas chamber included taxes, health care costs, workers' compensation and unemployment compensation, regulations, and the legal structure, according to Mitchell.

"The business community thanks these individuals for working to limit government and create jobs in Kansas," O'Neal said in the statement.

'Not far right enough'

"It confuses me," Doll said of his absence from the list.

Doll said he has talked with city and economic development leaders and has "been bugging" investor leaders to spur job growth in southwest Kansas.

Schroeder said he had no idea how the list was compiled and what criteria was used. He declined to speculate why he would or would not be on the list.

Hineman said there were eight specific bills on which the Kansas chamber sent messages via email, requesting a "yes" vote.

Hineman voted yes on six of the eight bills — amounting to 75 percent support.

Becker was prepared to challenge O'Neal in a 2012 GOP primary if O'Neal had not opted to retire and is considered a moderate Republican. Becker said he was not surprised he did not make the list.

Becker said emails from the Kansas chamber during the session on some upcoming votes were the Kansas chamber's way of saying, " 'We're watching you on this one.' "

"In my view, the Chamber's designation as a 'key vote' did not make the bill any more important than any other bill and it had no impact on my vote," Becker said in an email.

Eisenhour was dismissive of the list.

The Kansas chamber has "become big business, big corporations," said Scott City Area Chamber leader Eisenhour. "We don't even like what they represent," Eisenhour said.

Finney County economic development leader DuVall said Jennings wasn't included on the Kansas chamber's list "because he's not far right enough for these folks."

"I wouldn't lose any sleep over that," DuVall said was her advice to Jennings and other lawmakers who didn't make the list.

Lawmakers on list

State legislators from the region labeled "Pro-Jobs Legislators" by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce include:

Senators:

* Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City

* Terry Bruce, R-Nickerson

* Mitch Holmes, R-St. John

* Garrett Love, R-Montezuma

* Larry Powell, R-Garden City

* Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell

Representatives:

* Stephen Alford, R-Ulysses

* Sue Boldra, R-Hays

* John Edmonds, R-Great Bend

* John Ewy, R-Jetmore

* Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater

* Reid Petty, R-Liberal

* Marc Rhoades, R-Newton

* Ronald Ryckman, R-Meade

* Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie

* Clark Shultz, R-McPherson

* Jack Thimesch, R-Cunningham

*Troy Waymaster, R-Luray

* Brian Weber, R-Dodge City*

*Resigned in June

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