To the editor:
This letter is in response to Sen. Jeff Pittman’s letter to the editor of April 16, 2021.
I very much appreciate Sen. Pittman making my point for me: Politicians have been promising us a veterans’ home in northeast Kansas – an idea that originated with our veterans’ service organizations – for years, without results.
Topeka is a Republican town. When we send a Democrat to represent us in Topeka, we get nothing. Democrats can’t carry bills. Democrats can’t get in the room with Republican leadership, who decide what does and what does not get to the floor of the House and Senate, to advocate on behalf of priorities for Leavenworth.
We sent Sen. Pittman to Topeka over four years ago. I challenge him to name one piece of legislation with his name on it – not a feel-good resolution but an actual bill that effects the actual lives of Kansans – that he has passed. He cannot because in five sessions in the Legislature, four as a representative and one as a senator, he has never passed a bill with his name on it.
Here are the facts. I call HB2021 “my bill” because it has my name on it, along with the names of the five representatives who graciously agreed, at my request, to sign on as co-sponsors – Johnson, Neelly, French, Croft and Ellis (a fact I clearly stated when I first wrote about this bill in these pages on Jan. 11).
Jeff Pittman’s name appears nowhere on this bill. If it had, the bill would have gone nowhere, just like it did last session. Sen. Pittman wasn’t there when I went to Topeka before I was even sworn in and filed this bill. Sen. Pittman wasn’t in the room when I was negotiating with the House majority leader, the speaker of the house or the chief of staff for the president of the Senate, to get this bill votes on the floor. I didn’t see Sen. Pittman in the room with any of the committee chairs that I had to negotiate with in order to get this bill hearings in the House and Senate. It was my co-sponsors and me that contacted witnesses to testify in two hearings on this bill, not Sen. Pittman. Sen. Pittman wasn’t in the room two weeks ago with me, Congressman LaTurner, Sen. Moran and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs McDonough when I was advocating to get the federal matching funds to build this veterans’ home.
In fact, Sen. Pittman only showed up to one of the two hearings to testify in favor of the bill. While there, he tried to convince the Senate committee to tack an additional $20 million on to the measure, knowing full well that that would kill the chances of it getting back to the House floor for a vote. I had to go back to the committee leadership behind him to clean up his mistake.
If anyone is playing politics with this important priority for our veterans, it’s Sen. Pittman. I guess Sen. Pittman is claiming, what, he “loosened up” the Legislature for me? As a seasoned legislator, Sen. Pittman is well aware that that is not how the legislative process works.
If any of my facts are in error, I challenge Sen. Pittman to write another letter and dispute them. Otherwise, I look forward to his letter of apology in these pages for accusing me of stolen valor, an interesting charge coming from him.
Rep. Pat Proctor represents District 41 in the Kansas House of Representatives.