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Kansas State Senate District 20

The Kansas Senate is the upper house of the Kansas Legislature, the state legislature of the U.S. State of Kansas. It is composed of 40 senators representing an equal amount of districts, each with a population of at least 60,000 inhabitants. Members of the Senate are elected to a four-year term. There is no limit to the number of terms that a senator may serve.

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  • Candidate picture

    Brenda S. Dietrich
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Rachel Willis
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

With all of the issues facing Kansas brought about by the COVID-19 virus, what would be your first priority?

Would you support overturning the SAFE Act that was put into place creating barriers to voting by Kansans? What changes to Kansas election laws and voting systems would you support? Please explain why you would support those changes.

What is your position on expanding Medicaid? Why? What would you propose to ensure health care availability in rural areas?

What is your position on gun control and the issue of gun violence? What, if any, changes would you propose to current laws?

How can changes be made to current House and Senate rules that allow for Chamber Leaders to control Committee leadership?

Will you support changing the House and Senate rules to allow a transparent system for determining which proposed bills are heard, debated and voted on? If not, why not?

Issues with DCF and foster care, plus antiquated computer systems in the Departments of Labor and Education have made news. Do you feel that our current agencies are funded at a level that they can carry out their missions? If yes, what is the problem? If no, how can it be addressed?

How can Legislators address the issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Kansas?

In the current politically-polarized environment, how can Senators and Representatives work together to govern Kansas?

New legislative districts are drawn by the Legislature during the second year following the Census (2012, 2022, etc.) Would you vote in favor of an amendment that would create an impartial committee to draw the new legislative districts in Kansas?

Personal Biography I am a lifelong Kansan, born in Colby, KS, graduated from McPherson High School (1971) and KSU (1975). I have been married to Jerry Dietrich for 40 yrs. We have 1 daughter, Lauren. I am the oldest of 7 children and my mother still lives in McPherson. I was an educator for 40 years..teacher, principal, Superintendent.. most recently serving 14 years in Auburn-Washburn, retiring in 2015. I attend Trinity Presbyterian Church, Topeka. I was first elected to the KS House in 2016 and again in 2018.
Campaign Phone (785) 221-3853
Campaign Email dietrbre@gmail.com
Education B.S. in Elementary Education- 1975 M.S. in Education Administration - 1984 Ph.D. in Education Administration - 1991
Community/Public Service I have been on the Boards of the United Way, Junior Achievement, Family Service and Guidance Center, Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Heartland Visioning Steering Committee, and currently serve on the Jayhawk Area Council of Boy Scouts, Topeka Shawnee County Library Foundation, and STARBASE. I am also a member of Topeka South Rotary. At the state level, I have been the Chair of Leadership Kansas, a Governor’s Appointee to the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice, an Advisory Board Member for the KS/MO Superintendent’s Forum, and President of the Kansas Association of School Administrators (2010). At the national level, I was elected to the AASA Governing Board in 2011.
Address 6110 SW 38th Terrace Topeka, KS 66610
I think my highest priority would be bringing back our economy, balanced with sustaining the recommendations of our public health officials who are focused on the health and safety of our state. Safety is one of the fundamental roles of government and is certainly an important priority. The pandemic has reset how we function as a society right now and has had a debilitating impact on our economy. We have lost jobs and businesses that we will never get back and unemployment is at historically high levels. I spend most of my time trying to help constituents navigate unemployment benefits. We have to get our economy thriving again to be able to provide essential services to Kansans and, at the same time, take personal responsibility to keep everyone safe so schools and businesses can re-open.
At this point in time I would not support overturning the SAFE Act because, on the most elemental level, you have to have your ID for simple things, like cashing a check, renting a car, renting an apartment, getting on a plane. I don't support creating barriers to voting, but I am not convinced overturning the SAFE Act is the best course of action. We want to prevent voter fraud, but we also want to encourage Kansans exercising their right to vote. What is the best system to do both of those things? I don't have all the answers, but I am willing to listen to possible solutions.
I have always voted to expand Medicaid. Some folks try to politicize this as voting for Obamacare. Nothing could be further frorm the truth. Our local hospitals keep their doors open to serve everyone in our communities, including the un-insured. Medicaid expansion will allow those local hospitals, especially in rural Kansas, to keep their doors open to provide services to their community. We have been subsidizing Medicaid benefits in other states who have expanded....it's now time to keep those dollars in our own state and help Kansans who cannot afford health insurance. These folks are likely to be the working poor. There are ways to make sure the dollars and who recieves the expanded medicaid benefits go to the people they were intended to serve. It is the right thing to do.
I respect the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear firearms. Having said that, I think we need to ensure we have responsible gun ownership procedures in place and I would like to see the legislature exercise good judgement when it comes to making sure our children and grandchildren are safe and that background checks are not circumvented. I have supported a common sense approach to require training and background checks for those with a concealed carry permit. I have also supported expanded mental health services in schools and in communities because gun violence is usually a result of mental instability. How do we help the few that cause such horrific violence when the issue is not that they own a gun, but that they are mentally ill and have access to firearms. My family members are all hunters and outdoorsmen. I have been around guns all my life. I think we need to understand the root cause of the violence and then work to find ways to mitigate those causes.
Each Chamber has its own Rules of Governance that are adhered to, and then there are the Joint Rules that provide protocols and procedures to be followed by both Chambers in certain circumstances. The Rules are voted on at the beginning of the Biennium. The only way to change the rules is to bring amendments to the floor. Leadership normally crafts any changes to the rules and the Chamber is not aware of what's happening until it's brought forward for a vote. The Minority Leader in each Chamber would be key to alerting those that are willing to collaborate on changes, what changes are being proposed, the unintended consequences, and then work with other legislators to address the ones that are most problematic and conversely, bring forward changes that are beneficial to the question you posed.
I am always supportive of transparency in the Legislative process and have voted to add layers of transparency to state government and to local government. I would need to see what rules would need to be changed and how changing them would positively impact the governance process. As I have mentioned in another question, before I say, "yes" or "no", I need more details. Generally speaking, I would likely be supportive of this issue.
State agencies were seriously underfunded during the Brownback administration and during the recession in 2008. I was not in the Legislature at the time, but I have a report that says 3,000 jobs were eliminated in State Government over the past 10 years, prior to the current administration. Because revenues were significantly declining and the state was deficit spending, devastating budget reductions were made to all agencies. We were just starting to bounce back with a robust ending balance and opportunities to set priorities for our agencies and fund those priorities.....then the pandemic stopped us in our tracks. Our agencies are probably not funded or resourced at necessary levels to carry out their missions and functions. It will be very difficult to restore funding and staffing until we have an ending balance that will allow us to provide the funding needed.
First, I think we need to agree on definitions. I think diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. Equity involves striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Inclusion is the intentional act of creating environments in which any individual or group can on an ongoing basis be welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate with their voices being heard. If we can agree on definitions and identify barriers, then we can work on practices and policies at the state and local level to address them. I would like us to do more to support local control and let local communities work on what works best in their own unique areas.
Great question. I have been a part of the Legislative group working on Civil Discourse this session. We clearly need to find ways to be much better listeners. In our jobs as legislators, with so few anchors in our work environment and so many variables we can’t control, it’s important to double down on the things we can control…like how we listen to others. Our state depends on legislators who choose to listen to sound advice and govern with the benefit of that knowledge gained from others. Working together for our common good needs to be central in democratic government. We share in a community in our legislature, and as we return home, we share in leading our communities. The pandemic reminds us that for better or worse, we are all inextricably connected. We are all in this together and sometimes legislators forget their purpose in government in an effort to push their own agendas.
I would need to know more about the details surrounding an "impartial" committee before I answer this question with a "yes" or "no". Re-drawing these new legislative districts after the census is a huge job, very contentious at times, and a challenge for a partisan legislature. I have seen supposed impartial committees staffed in such a way they are no longer truly impartial. Therefore, I would need more details on what this new committee might look like and who chooses the members, before I make a decision. On the surface, I would appreciate an impartial committee, of course, but I would need to know more about this option.
Personal Biography Rachel Willis is a fifth generation Kansan. She grew up on a wheat farm in a small, conservative town in Central Kansas with a dream of attending Washburn University and working at the Capitol. Rachel has proudly called Topeka home for the past 15 years. She fulfilled her dream of graduating from Washburn and went on to the University of Kansas for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She now works as a lobbyist with more than a decade of experience in educational nonprofit management.
Campaign Phone (785) 250-1792
Campaign Email rachelforkansas@gmail.com
Campaign Web Site http://rachelforkansas.com
Education Bachelor's: Washburn University Master's: University of Kansas
Community/Public Service Board President: Heights of Learning Preschool
Address 4021 SW 10th Ave # 162 Topeka, KS 66604-1916
I believe there are multiple issues lawmakers must focus on to help Kansans through the COVID-19 crisis. My first priority will always be the health and well-being of the citizens of District 20. The last thing Kansans need to worry about right now is if they would have access to reliable health care if they were to need it. My first focus would be to expand Medicaid. Not only would this allow nearly 150,000 Kansans to have access to healthcare, it helps keep hospitals and clinics open, keeping much needed jobs available.
I would support overturning the SAFE Act. Proof of citizenship should not be required to vote. First, the claim that noncitizens are voting in large numbers is false, as there is no evidence to prove this. Requiring proof of citizenship results in many registered citizens being blocked from voting simply because they do not have access to these very specific documents.
I strongly support Medicaid expansion. Not only does it ensure more Kansans have reliable health care coverage, it keeps jobs available in the state for hard-working citizens. We must keep up with the states around us in expanding Medicaid and taking care of all our citizens. To ensure health care availability in rural areas, I would support expanding public transportation options into rural areas of Kansas. It is time for our state to have more widely accessible transportation that can be used at little cost, which would aid citizens without personal vehicles or who live in rural areas in keeping jobs and visiting health care providers.
I support the right of citizens to own guns, but I also support common sense gun laws. I believe that the level of gun violence in our country, especially at schools, is unacceptable, and reasonable gun control laws such as background checks on all sales could substantially decrease incidents of gun violence.
Appointing committee leadership could be a separate committee. This committee would be responsible for appointing committee leadership. I also would support a rule change that would allow for a majority vote in the committee to overrule the Chairperson for holding hearings on proposed legislation.
Yes, I would support changing House and Senate rules to allow for a transparent system for determining which proposed bills are heard, debated and voted on. Transparency allows for everyone to be held accountable.
No, I do not. I feel that agencies such as the Departments of Labor and Education should be given adequate funding to support the citizens of Kansas, and it is clear their current budgets are not enough. I have spent my career working in nonprofit management. I understand the value of every penny and the importance of saving for emergencies. As state Senator, I will be just as dedicated to using taxpayer dollars wisely to benefit all Kansans. The state needs to have a balanced budget while supporting our citizens so they can thrive.
One substantial way Legislators can begin to tackle diversity and equality issues in Kansas is having genuine conversations with consitutens about their experiences and concerns. Kansas should be a place where all citizens can thrive, regardless of factors such as race, gender, and age. Listening to where constituents feel there could be changes in the current systems, whether that’s in schools or the workplace, can help Legislators understand where their focus should be to ensure Kansas is an accepting place for all.
Above anything else, the citizens of Kansas must be prioritized. While we are members of certain political parties, we are all Kansans, and our differences must be put aside to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our constituents. Especially in light of the pandemic, all decisions must be made with the citizens in mind. I believe Senators and Representatives must remember why they are in their position-- because the people trusted them to take care of them. That is more important than alignment with a specific party.
Yes, redistricting should be done in a nonpartisan manner.