Sisters’ delegation meets with Kansas governor
Concern for the poor, the immigrant, our earth, and the marginalized led a dozen representatives from the various religious communities in Kansas to met with Gov. Mark Parkinson at the Capitol Wednesday.
Those taking part were Sisters Beth Stover, Judy Stephens, Christina Meyer and Esther Pineda from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia; Sisters Sue Miller, Maureen Hall, Nancy Bauman, Linda Roth and Therese Bangert from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; Sister Barbara McCraken from the Sisters of St. Benedict, Atchinson; Sister Tarcisia Roths from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Wichita; and Sister Mary Ellen Loch from the Congregation of St. Joseph of Wichita. The sisters’ concerns focused on immigration, the coal-fire energy plant at Holcomb, Kan., the death penalty and the state budget.
Before meeting with Parkinson, the sisters gathered at the Kansas Action for Children building for a briefing on the topics they expected to address with the governor.
At the Capitol, Sister Judy Stephens called on Parkinson to support what she called an urgent need for “comprehensive reform of current immigration law.”
“(Immigrants) are employed in jobs not wanted by most US citizens,” Sister Judy said. “In restaurant kitchens, dish rooms, cleaning hotel rooms, digging ditches, highway construction, roofing, 24-hour dairy operations, confinement feedlot operations, etc. In the community and the census polls they are often hidden and missing.”
But, she noted, “One place where they do feel welcomed is in our Church… the four Kansas bishops have spoken publicly on their behalf.”
She ended by posing specific questions to the governor:
1) Will you continue to support the in-state tuition bill? And if a bill to rescind it comes to your desk, will you veto it?
2) Will you encourage our Kansas congressional delegation to support comprehensive immigration reform?
3) Would you veto the voter ID law, as then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius did in 2008?
Parkinson described himself as “completely aligned” with the sisters on the issue.
Sister Barbara McCracken also had specific questions about the Holcomb coal plant.
In early May, Parkinson negotiated a deal with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to allow construction of a coal plant in exchange for adoption of renewable energy legislation. That legislation was approved two weeks later.
The Sunflower-Parkinson settlement requires the utility company to build a wind farm and support pollution-mitigation projects. The new energy legislation requires net metering for small power producers, renewable portfolio standards for large producers, and mandatory efficiency rules for state buildings and vehicles. It also prevents the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from imposing regulations on air quality no tougher than contained in federal law.
Noting the potential damage to the environment and to the health of Kansans, Sister Barbara asked, “Why did you feel compelled to initiate a new deal with Sunflower for one coal-fire plant?”
“We had reached an impasse in the legislature,” Parkinson explained. “We did have enough votes to stop the building of a coal-fire plant but (without the deal) it would have been harder to pass legislation for alternative forms of energy such as the Renewable Energy Standard.”
Sister Esther Pineda asked about weakening the authority of the state Department of Health and Environment in monitoring the plant’s emissions. But Parkinson said that the state still has authority to protect Kansans’ health, “but (that) authority should not be harsher or stricter than those of the federal government.”
When the subject shifted to the state’s death penalty, the governor was less definitive.
Kansas reimposed the death sentence in 1994. According to the Topeka Capitol-Journal, there are 10 men currently on death row, but no one has been executed in the state since the reimposition of the law.
Given that, Sister Tarcisia Roths asked if the death penalty really serves as a detriment.. She also asked Parkinson whether Kansas afford the cost when research has shown that it is cheaper to incarcerate the prisoners for life and for his opinion on the possibility of an innocent person being executed.
The governor said he would be willing to reconsider the state’s death penalty law.
Before the end of the meeting, Parkinson had a topic of his own to discuss.
“The budget affects people’s life greater than any issue,” he told the sisters. “It is important to be attuned to what is happening in the state level on the budget.”
He also challenged the faith leaders to strongly advocate on social issues affecting the poor and disenfranchised of the state. Those are groups that don’t have lobbyists working on their behalf, he noted, so that responsibility falls to concerned groups like religious communities.
One thought on “Sisters’ delegation meets with Kansas governor”
Thanks, Esther, Judy, Chris and Beth for taking part in this important and justice for the poor meeting with the legislators and Parkinson, himself. May his words of concern to advocate on social issues affecting the poor and disenfranchised of the state ring true in his legislative decisions.