(Updated to include comment from the Senate minority leader)
House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said Tuesday that more town hall meetings will be held this fall to discuss redistricting ahead of next year’s legislative session.
Ryckman said the meetings set for next week are just the “first step” in gathering public input into the process, which Democrats criticized over the weekend because too many meetings were being held in one week.
“It’s important to remember that redistricting is a multiyear process that starts with these town halls to get a gauge on what Kansans want,” Ryckman said.
Ryckman said lawmakers will wait until the new census data comes in – now set for Aug. 16 – before scheduling a second round of meetings for later in the year.
The new meeting schedule is still fluid.
Ryckman said the meetings wil be virtual with an in-person option to attend.
He said it is lawmakers’ intent to hold the physical meetings at the same locations where hearings are planned for next week.
A more definitive schedule with fixed dates, times and locations will be forthcoming, he said.
“This has always been a collaborative and open process in Kansas. It’s disappointing and disingenuous for the Democrats to make it out to be otherwise,” Ryckman said.
“We need input and genuine solutions from all parties. I hope they’ll be willing to participate rather than politicize.”
The 14 meetings planned for next week were announced about 6 p.m. last Friday, setting off criticism from Democrats and other civic groups that the meetings were crammed into one week without much advance notice.
They also criticized the fact that the meetings would only be 75 minutes long and would be held during the workday.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes said she was pleased with how the Republicans are responding to the concerns raised about the meetings after their Friday release.
“I would have preferred for information about future virtual town halls to have been provided in their initial announcement,” Sykes said in a statement.
“But I am glad that Republican leadership intends to respond appropriately to the transparency concerns Kansans have had in response to leadership’s original plan.”
She added, however, “I remain frustrated that Democrats continue to learn these details from the press, rather than our colleagues on the committee.”