by: Korinne Griffith and Kansas Capitol Bureau // KSNT
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — American politics and even non-political issues are the sources of a lot of conflicts right now. It may seem like people on different sides of an issue don’t agree on anything, but some Kansas lawmakers are making sure that, despite those disagreements, work can still get done in the state.
Following the deaths of Senator John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush, Kansas Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Assaria) noticed a coming together of people, regardless of their political party. He joined forces with Kansas Rep. Kathy Wolfe-Moore (D-Kansas City) to create the civil discourse group, in the hope of continuing that nonpartisan support.
“Listening is just so important,” explained Johnson. “If we can do a little more of that, I think it can go a long way towards actually getting us so much farther in accomplishing things.”
Civil discourse is defined as engagement in conversation to enhance understanding. Johnson said that is exactly the goal of the group.
The group of lawmakers meets every 2-3 weeks while the Kansas Legislature is in session and occasionally when out of session as well. They discuss how best to solve problems and work through disagreements, while still remaining professional and civil towards one another.
Johnson said this can especially be helpful for lawmakers while in committee meetings, where most of the work is done on bills.
He added, “We just want to take that breath and say, ‘Wait a minute. Can I learn something that I don’t know by listening for a moment before I rush to be heard?’”
In January, lawmakers took part in a program from the National Institute for Civil Discourse called Common Sense American. The program focuses on civility in American politics.
The civil discourse group is open to all state lawmakers, regardless of their political party. Johnson said they will be back next session.
“It really comes down to, what do Kansas voters want across the state,” Johnson added. “That’s why having continued discussions about what people want us to do in Kansas is important.