Representative Connie O’Brien
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In the coming days we are presenting profiles of the candidates in the GOP Primary for the 42nd House District and 3rd Senate District in the Kansas State House. Both of these districts encompass the city of Eudora. All the GOP candidates were sent the exact same questionnaire. Today, we begin our feature with Representative Connie O’Brien who currently represents the 42nd House District.
Please tell us about your background.
Connie and her family live on a small farm in rural Tonganoxie. She is a graduate of St. Mary College in Leavenworth and has a BA in Social Studies and Secondary Education. She has taught at Basehor Linwood and before being elected to office worked as a substitute teacher at Tonganoxie, Leavenworth and McLouth. All 11 of the O’Brien children are graduates of Tonganoxie High School. The O’Brien children were active in 4-H and Connie still serves as a Home Environment Supervising Judge. Connie and her husband Ed, a retired BNSF railroad worker, will be celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary on July 20, 2012. They are active members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tonganoxie.
Representative O’Brien currently serves as Vice Chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Home Land Security Committee. Her other committee assignments include Education Budget, Federal and State Affairs, and Elections.
Please tell us about your political experience.
My active political experience began in 1992 when I was elected as a Tonganoxie Rural Precinct Committeewoman. Since that time I have served several terms on Congressional District and State Committees. I was elected as State Representative 42nd District in 2008. I served as President of the Leavenworth County Republican Women’s club and I am currently the Vice Chair of the Leavenworth County Central Committee. I’m a graduate of the Eisenhower’s Excellence in Public Service Series. The Eisenhower Series is designed to prepare women for public service.
What do you think is the most important issue that will face the Kansas House of Representatives in the next year?
There are many important issues facing Kansas but the most pressing issue is improving our economy and creating jobs.
The Kansas state budget has caused great debate in recent years. How do you plan on improving the state budget?
Kansas has come a long way already. We’re living within our means and we’re removing an oppressive tax burden. Under the previous administration Kansas went on a spending spree. At the end of the 2010 legislative session, In order to cover the increases in spending, Governor Parkinson ask for and with the help of moderate legislators passed legislation increasing our Kansas sales taxes by 18%. That was the second largest tax increase in Kansas history. That resulted in an additional financial burden on Kansas businesses and Kansas citizens. We’ve seen this failed fiscal policy on the National level and here in Kansas as well. Runaway spending and higher taxes depresses the economy and results in private sector job losses. The fiscal and tax policies of the previous administration, Sebelius and Parkinson, placed Kansas dead last nationally in private sector job creation. The elections of 2010 saw sweeping changes in Kansas. With a new administration in Topeka and the addition of several new conservative legislators we have began the process of turning things around. In less than two years we have come from dead last in private sector job creation to 13th nationally. Kansas unemployment has dropped from 6.9% to 6.1%. We passed the largest tax cut in Kansas history and we have prioritized spending. For the first time in a decade we have a general revenue ending balance in excess of 500 million dollars. That’s well within the required 7.5% ending balance required by law. A legal requirement that was ignored by the previous administration.
Education funding makes up a large portion of the state budget. Many districts have stated that state funding for education has been inadequate. What are your thoughts on education funding?
The budget passed by the 2012 legislature has a 43 million dollar increase in education spending. Currently K-12 education receives 53% of every General Revenue dollar. When you add in higher education the percentage of general revenue funds used for education in Kansas is 68%. That’s 68 cents of every General Revenue dollar. This shows that our Kansas commitment to fund education is by far the biggest commitment Kansas has. The remaining 32 cents of every General Revenue dollar is used to fund Kansas Medicaid, public safety, law enforcement, addressing the needs of the handicapped and disables, etc. etc. etc. Kansas cannot forget the most vulnerable citizens in our state budgeting process. We must ensure local – not federal – control of education and we must provide real budgetary accountability to taxpayers. I am committed to growing our state economy by reducing counter productive taxes and by eliminating antiquated regulatory burdens. This will spur job growth and business expansion and provide much needed job opportunities for our graduating students. Keep in mind that when all sources of education funding are included, state, federal and local, the average school in Kansas receives $12,000. per student. Kansas is currently being sued by several school districts which are asking for an additional two billion dollars per year in education funding. I do not approve of school districts using taxpayer money to hire lawyers to sue the state to get more of your taxpayer dollars.
Education funding and redistricting of House and Senate seats have been settled in the court system as opposed to the State House. What are your thoughts on the court system determining policies that should be settled by the Legislature?
Last February the Kansas House passed a re-districting House map by a super majority vote of 109 to 16. We also passed a Congressional District Map. The Senate rejected our maps. I feel like we did our job. The ideological division between Senate conservatives and moderates was at the heart of the inaction. It was disappointing that the Legislature, especially the Senate, was unable to do their job of redrawing the new boundaries. That being said, the three Federal Judges redrew the district maps and they were held to a stricter guideline than Legislators. Legislators were required to maintain a 5%, plus or minus, deviation in their redistricting efforts. The federal Judges only had a 1% plus or minus deviation allowance. That is why we see some precincts split between two different representative districts. Although it was disappointing to see the legislature fail to get the job of redistricting done, I believe the Federal Judges did a good job.
Health care has seen many changes from the federal government recently. These changes will affect all citizens. What are your thoughts on these changes and what will you do as a Representative for the citizens of Kansas when it comes to healthcare?
On Thursday, June 28, the United State Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), frequently called Obamacare. The Court determined the individual mandate provision in the law was constitutional. However, the provision requiring states to expand their Medicaid programs was overturned, providing the ability for states to opt out of that PPACA provision. As a result, several states are reviewing their options for opting out of Medicaid expansion and a few, Florida and South Carolina, have announced they will decline to participate in the expansion. The U.S. Supreme Court PPACA decision declared the mandate to be a tax upon the citizens of our country. This tax represents the largest tax increase in U.S. history. I supported the Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment but that amendment failed to pass the Kansas Senate. The decision that Kansas legislators will have to make will undoubtedly be affected by the outcome of the November elections.
An issue that is important to many people is abortion. What is your stance on abortion and what will you do to support your position in the State House?
I am Pro-woman, Pro-family and Pro-life. I have a 100% Pro-life voting record. I am endorsed by Kansans For Life. Life is a sacred gift from God and it’s the duty of government to protect all human life. The Declaration of Independence states, ” We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these Rights governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” I will do all in my power to protect all human life from conception to natural death.
Same sex marriage is also a popular topic in the United States. What is your position on marriage?
I totally agree with the majority of Kansans (71%) who supported the Kansas Marriage Amendment to our State Constitution stating that “Marriage is the union of one man and one woman”.
Citizens in the state hold the belief that their taxes are high. With that said, what is your opinion on taxes in the state and what are your plans, if any, to change taxes, either up or down?
We have already began the process of bringing down burdensome and counter productive taxes in Kansas. We passed legislation reducing state income taxes on businesses and citizens in Kansas. We plan to continue incrementally reducing the state’s income tax until it’s totally eliminated. Other states that have reduced or eliminated income taxes are prospering. They haven’t experienced the economic downturns that have gripped our country. Allowing businesses to citizens to keep more of their own money has stimulated business growth and been a key factor in job creation. This economic activity has also resulted in increased revenue for the state, revenues that can be applied to the various state responsibilities such as education, Medicaid, public safety, etc. People are voting with their feet. They are moving from states with high taxes to states that are providing favorable business and job opportunities. California lost 4 Congressional seats. People are leaving California and similar states that have oppressive tax burdens. Folks may go to the east coast or the west coast to vacation but I believe they will come to Kansas to live, do business, find work and raise their family. My Motto is “Job Creation, Not Taxation”.
What other issues are important to you that you plan on fighting for or against as a member of the Legislature?
Last session I sponsored three pieces of legislation expanding and safeguarding our Second Amendment Rights. The Kansas Firearms Freedom Act: The corrections officers concealed carry, a bill allowing corrections officers to get their concealed carry permits without having to retake the training already required to be correction officers: And a bill to protect Kansas firearms dealers from out of state lawsuits. Some referred to this last piece of legislation as the Bloomberg Bill. These bills failed to make it through the legislative process and I hope to re-introduce these pieces of legislation when I return to Topeka in 2013.
Why do you want to sit in the House?
We’re making progress. We’re on a road to economic recovery. We’re finally addressing issues that have been on the back burner for too long. Issues like making KPERS solvent into the future. I have been a part of that progress. I want to continue to help make Kansas a place where people will want to live, work, do business and raise a family.
As we continue our feature of the State House and Senate candidates, we will bring you the responses by the other candidates in the coming days.
The Eudora Chamber of Commerce and Eudorareporter.com are proud to bring you the opportunity to learn more about candidates in person at a town hall forum on Tuesday, July 17th at 7:00 PM. Meet the Candidates – 2012 – The GOP Primary will take place at Eudora City Hall 4 E. 7th Street in Downtown Eudora. Chamber of Commerce President Susie Pryor and Eudorareporter.com Managing Editor John Schulz will host the event. The candidates will be asked a series of questions determined by a panel from both Eudorareporter.com and the Chamber of Commerce. Citizens will also have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates.
The Chamber of Commerce and Eudorareporter.com hope that you can attend the event which is open to the public and free of charge.