The Southwest Kansas Coalition, city representatives from Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal, discussed legislative issues with area congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

SKC was formed to advocate for the idea that southwest Kansas should be consistently and thoughtfully considered in state and federal decisions, particularly when such decisions regard issues of importance to region residents.

Jane Longmeyer, Dodge City public information officer, said immigration, essential air service and passenger rail service were three key topics brought up during the meetings.

"The communities in the coalition all share a lot of the same challenges in immigration," Longmeyer said. "They've been successful in the past with working with the congressional delegation to bring US Citizenship and Immigration Services mobile services here. They looked at what would be the next step to enhance those immigration services. There has been interest in having a permanent office in this region. One of the topics was how that can be accomplished."

According to SKC documents, SKC believes a sensible approach to immigration is built on 1) all immigration legislation is tempered with an understanding of such legislation's economic impact for companies employing immigrants; 2) a recognition that immigrants living in SKC member cities require a reduction in time and distance barriers between the individual and his or her pursuance of legal residency; and 3) recognition that SKC member cities require additional resources to ingrate immigrants into the community.

"They are also continuing discussions about funding for improvements to passenger rail service," Longmeyer said. "They've been successful for two years now because they've collaborated well in getting federal, state, county and city funding to help improve the rails for the Southwest Chief. They looked at what still needs to be done for Southwest Chief and continued those discussions to keep that service going."

Since renewal of contracts for essential air service is this year, improvements to regional air service was also an important topic.

"They talked with congressional leaders about the situations that we've had with frequent cancellations of flights," she said. "There isn't always enough pilots because of regulations for the training hours they must have."

Last year, the coalition pointed out the local problems resulting from the Federal Aviation Administration increasing flight time to 1500 hours from 250 hours to certify co-pilots. Since newer pilots start out in rural areas, the available qualified pilots in Dodge City decreased and caused canceled flights in excess of 50 percent.

"That hasn't changed," Longmeyer said.

Other talking points included other transportation issues, USDA Rural Development and

FEMA.

"We have found these meetings to be extremely beneficial," she added. "We're excited we're able to go up there and have the opportunity to visit about these issues collectively."