Hays Chamber and HPL host last Legislative Coffee of the year


Tiger Media Network

The Chamber in Hays and Hays Public Library hosted another Legislative Coffee event on Saturday, with state Sen. Rick Billinger and state Rep. Ken Rahjes present to answer questions from constituents.

The event was the last Legislative Coffee until next year when the legislature begins its 2025 session in January. Legislative Coffee is typically held once a month and allows legislators and constituents to have conversations about current issues in the state.  

“The main goal for us as a chamber is to serve as a conduit between elected officials and the constituents they represent, and make sure they have the ability to stay on the same page and express concerns,” Chamber President/CEO Sarah Wasinger said. “(The legislators) also appreciate the opportunity to better understand the people they represent. It’s good for us to make more progress together.”

Additionally, the event is a way for members of the public to stay informed.

“Everybody’s entitled to have an opinion, but when you have an informed opinion it’s probably a better one,” Wasinger said. “The more people can do to put themselves in situations such as this, where they can learn more about the legislative process, I think it helps us be mindful of the different challenges they face and how we can come together to make a positive difference.” 

Billinger and Rahjes touched on the budget, higher education and recent vetoes by Gov. Laura Kelly. One main focus was healthcare, in particular the recent conversation about Medicaid expansion. 

They discussed Kelly’s recent visit to HaysMed, where she spoke about the importance of Medicaid expansion. Neither Billinger nor Rahjes were able to attend the visit.

“I’ve been having issues with my state email all session long,” Rahjes said. “I heard through the media that Ellis County representatives were invited to be with the governor on Wednesday, I found that out after the fact.”

While Billinger did receive an email, he said it was a day and a half before the visit and his schedule was already full.

“It was nothing intentional by the representatives or myself, some things work and some things don’t,” he said.

The two legislators gave differing opinions on the issue. Billinger is supportive of it, while Rahjes said he is not sure about the specifics of the current expansion bill and sees it as a political tool.

Though there are different viewpoints at Legislative Coffee, Wasinger believes the opportunity is what’s important.

“We know that those who attend are also going to have different thoughts and opinions on the matters that are brought up,” she said. “We may not always be able to agree to disagree, but at the end of the day it’s about giving each other the space to be heard.”

The next Legislative Coffee will either be in January or February of 2025.