Les Lampe – Democrat for Kansas House, District 39

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(Photo courtesy Les Lampe)

Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.

Biographical Information:

Retired from Black & Veatch Consulting Engineers where I was a Vice-President and Director of Water Resources.  B.S in Civil Engineering from University of Kansas, M.S. in Water Resources Engineering from University of Kansas, Doctorate in Water Resources Engineering from University of Kansas.  Have served on the Board of Kansas Interfaith Action a multi faith advocacy agency for several years.

Personal Information:

Married to Karen Lampe, a retired United Methodist pastor who served at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, and now has her own business called The Caring Congregation. We have three grown children and four grandchildren.

Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:

Lampe4Kansas.com

What is your response to the Black Lives Matter movement?

I strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement and have been active in local BLM protests.  Our country has been plagued by systemic racism for too long, and it is time to address these issues and move forward.  Virtually every metric related to health, income, and rate of incarceration demonstrates that we have to recognize the issues and make positive changes.

What do you think needs to be done to promote social and racial justice?

The first step is recognition of the problem.  We must then embrace deep communication among all affected groups to determine measures that can help us move forward.  I can envision that the deep communication required will include focused programs at all institutions of our society.  Among these institutions are governing bodies, government agencies, school boards and administrations, and even private businesses or business organizations.

Are you in favor of police reform? If so, what should it look like?

As a white male, my interactions with police have been neutral if not positive. I understand my black brothers and sisters may have a different experience. It has been crucial for me to educate myself on the experiences and stories of those who do not look like me.  The state of racial equality in relation to policing practices and the criminal justice system in Kansas is improving, but changes are still needed.  We value officers’ commitment to public health and safety, but every profession needs to be held to a high level of accountability. When you look at the local statistics, it is clear law enforcement has not been held fully accountable.  Evidence of racial biases can be found in statistics kept by the Kansas Department of Corrections.  In 2018, while only about 6 percent of the Kansas population was black, 28 per cent of the prison inmates were black.  Also, it’s reported that black and white populations in Kansas use marijuana at similar rates of about 16 or 17 per cent, yet the incarceration rate for black Kansans for marijuana possession is 4.8 times higher than for whites. Major changes I would recommend:

  • More rigorous enforcement of KSA 22-4610 and requiring all law enforcement agencies to report data that defines the extent of racial profiling.
  • Set up a commission that reports to the legislature the frequency of racial profiling in the state and recommendations to minimize biased-based policing.  This commission should also make recommendations on practices to reduce the use of force by law enforcement agencies. 
  • Require every major law enforcement agency in the state to have a community advisory board actively charged with minimizing racial profiling within that agency.
  • Support practices to recruit and promote black leadership in all law enforcement agencies  

Did you or do you support business shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus?

I believe the state government’s actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were justified.  Governor Kelly’s executive order in March was appropriate at the time, and probably prevented many thousands of cases of the disease.  I also generally support the provisions of HB 2016 and the vote of the Johnson County Commission to support the wearing of masks.  Some people fail to recognize that by not following the basic guidelines, they are endangering the health of themselves and others.  Regardless, the role of state and county governments is to provide leadership that gives guidance to protect the health and safety of the people of Kansas.  I look forward to state guidance for reopening schools, places of worship, and businesses as well as providing resources for ongoing access to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing so that we can conquer this pandemic and move on to economic recovery.

Would you support another statewide shutdown if coronavirus cases continued to rise? If so, what are the factors that would lead you to that decision?

I would support another statewide shutdown if coronavirus cases continue to rise.  The factors that would lead to that decision would be tracking of the rates of news cases, positivity rates in testing, rates of hospitalizations, and death rates.  In addition, I would trust the opinions of public health experts in terms of measures that should be followed.  Comparisons to the experiences of other states and even countries dealing with the pandemic would also be instructive.

What do you think should be done to help the Kansas economy recover?

Several things can be done to help the Kansas economy recover.  The starting point would be to follow the budget recommended by Governor Kelly for the next fiscal year.  It has the appropriate balance of cuts to funding while maintaining full funding for critical items such as schools.  A key element of the budget is delaying some payments to the Pooled Money Investment Board.  It should also be recognized that enactment of Medicaid expansion would bring tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, allow health care coverage for 150,000 Kansans, create 13,000 jobs and keep many rural hospitals open.  One other measure that would help the economy would be to legalize medical marijuana and enact a tax.  In Oklahoma, this resulted in $40 million of annual revenue.

Would you cut money for social services if it means lower taxes? Would you favor higher taxes for more social services?

I would not cut money for social services to achieve lower taxes.  During the pandemic, there is a greatly increased need for all of the social services supplied by the state.  Cuts to these programs would not serve the best interests of the citizens of the state.  However, I am also not in favor of higher taxes for more social services.  We may need to increase budgets for these services when the economy has recovered and is more robust, but for now we must move forward with the same level of funding.

What should Kansas do to balance its budget? Will you support budget cuts for schools?

To balance its budget, Kansas should follow the recommendations of Governor Kelly’s proposed budget.  The major element of this proposed budget is delayed payments to the Pooled Money Investment Board.  We must also look at revenue enhancements through measures such as increase implementation of user fees and taxes on new items, such as legalized medical marijuana.  I have reviewed considerable information and discussed the impact of reduced funding with career education professionals.  As a result, I would not support cuts to K-12 funding as part of a package to balance the budget.  Investment in schools is an investment in the future of our children and the future of our state.  The state suffered disastrous cuts to K-12 funding during the eight years prior to the election of Governor Kelly in 2018.  Prior to 2010, the ranking of Kansas schools was consistently in the upper third of all states.  The ranking fell precipitously during the 2010 to 2016 period, but has now almost completely recovered to the prior high status.  We must not allow a regression back to the years when state funding for education was dramatically reduced. Because of the reduced state revenues for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Governor and State Budget Director recently proposed a revised budget that recognized the reduced revenues while maintaining current levels of funding for K-12 education.  I support her proposed budget cuts and continued support for education funding.  National rankings of the quality of schools are strongly correlated to the adequacy of state funding, and I certainly support continued full funding of schools at the level recommended in the Governor’s budget. 

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