By NATE KING
After securing his re-election in the midterm election, Clarke Sanders, State Representative of the 69th Kansas House District sat down for an exclusive interview with Salina Post. Sanders talked about the possibility of legislation that would allow for medical marijuana, the partisan divide between the state legislature and Governor Laura Kelly, rural broadband access, and his reflections on his campaign.
According to the unofficial election results provided by the Kansas Secretary of State's Office, Sanders won the race with 4,420 votes, to his Democrat opponent Sarah Crews, 2,202 votes.
Issues likely to be discussed this legislative session
Each legislative session, a myriad of bills, acts, and resolutions make their way through the halls of the statehouse. A vast amount of the votes held, according to Sanders, are bipartisan, involving support by both political parties.
"What people need to understand is on 80 to 85 percent of the things we vote on, passes in the Kansas House with overwhelming majorities 121 to three or 117 to six," Sanders said. "I mean, but these are things that you don't ever hear about."
Like House Resolution 6027—a resolution that congratulated the 2021-2022 University of Kansas men's basketball team for an outstanding season and for winning the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, which passed without even a roll call vote.
Sanders pointed out that the selection of the state's official fruit, the Sand Hill Plum, only had had five votes against it. Representatives had jokingly opposed the measure in favor of fruit suggestions made by schools in their districts.
Sanders however, did not deny that both political parties in the state have disagreements with one another surrounding social and appropriation policy. One issue likely to be discussed this session is the legalization of medical marijuana.
"I want to make my position clear on this. I'm definitely in favor of medicinal marijuana. I'm sure that's going to come up this legislative session," Sanders said. "I'm going to be voting in favor of medicinal marijuana. I am not sold at all on recreational marijuana, but there are a lot of drugs, morphine would be at the top of the list, that have good uses when they're in a controlled situation. I think that marijuana falls into that category. From what I understand. It's a real good reliever of pain without the nausea."
Kansas legislators on the joint Special Committee on Medical Marijuana met on Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 to read through and discuss the medical marijuana legislation. This comes after Wichita City voted during first reading of a motion to do away with hundreds of marijuana possession prosecutions. By po in the second largest metropolitan area in the state.
This year, several attempts were made to pass medical cannabis legislation, including Senate Bill 158 and Senate Bill 560. Senate leadership managed to obstruct those efforts and both bills failed. Senator Robert Olsen, representing the 23rd Kansas Senate District and Representative John Barker representing the 70th District in the Kansas House of Representatives are advocates of medical cannabis and plan to introduce legislation in the 2023.
Rural broadband access
According to a Kansas University research study conducted from January 2021 to January 2022, more than 1 million Kansan's live in a ZIP code where average download speeds are below 100 Mbps download speeds and 20 Mbps upload speeds. Sanders said that more is needed to be done by the legislature to address this issue.
"Another thing that we're going to address that is absolutely critical is rural broadband access. There are vast areas of this state where you don't have an internet connection, and if you do it isn't very good," Sanders said. "If we're going to attract population, to this state, somewhere other than northeast Kansas - we don't have any trouble attracting population there, but to the rural areas of this state, the areas that I and several of my colleagues represent, we have got to have rural broadband access. And so that's something I'm going to be working on."
Sanders said that the campaign cycle this election was more amicable than the last time he ran for office.
"Last time, there was a lot of rancor. You know, I'm sure that I participated in that to somewhat of an extent, but I was really being attacked last time. I appreciate that. Sarah Crews didn't run a campaign that was interested in doing that. We pretty much stuck to the issues."
Now that the door-knocking, campaigning and stump speeches are over, Rep. Sanders said that he was surprised that of the doors he knocked on, many of his constituents didn't have much to say.
"A lot of times, people aren't really that interested in talking to you [the candidate.]" Sanders said. "I mean, they're pleasant, they're not impolite by any means - but they say, 'Oh, thank you, or I'll consider on voting for you or whatever.' You don't, hear that much at the doors, which is kind of surprising."
Makeup of the 2023 Legislature and closing remarks
Of the 125 representatives in the Kansas House, 85 of them will be Republicans in the 2023 legislative session, that is one less than they had last session.
"It would have made a world of difference if Derek Schmidt had been elected governor, and from my perspective," Sanders said. "If you've got same party governor, then you need 63 votes to pass a piece of legislation in the House, and there's a strong possibility the governor is going to sign it. If you have a Democrat governor, like we will continue to have you can pass legislation with 63 or 65 or 71 votes or at 83, but if she vetoes something, then we've got to muster at least four votes to override Kelly's vetoes."
Sanders said that getting four people to be on the same page on controversial bills is hard to do, which means Republicans in Kansas have a slightly steeper hill to climb to override Kelly's vetoes.
"She is probably the most veto-overridden governor in our history. Two sessions ago, she had nine overrides in one morning, nine pieces of things she had vetoed, we overrode. And we didn't do quite as well, this past time around," Sanders said.
"I think that we have a more like-minded group this session," Sanders said. "It's not necessarily all well, some of us - a lot of us, would've liked to be at 90 or 92. But that is not the reality."