Topeka — A Kansas legislator who stood up to Gov. Sam Brownback and tried to preserve state funding of the arts received a national award Monday.
State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, was the recipient of the 2011 Public Leadership in the Arts Award, which was presented by the National Conference of State Legislatures and Americans for the Arts.
During the past legislative session, Reitz fought Brownback's executive order that essentially eliminated the Kansas Arts Commission.
Reitz was able to muster bi-partisan support in the Senate to reject the executive order.
He then helped secure $689,000 in funding for the Arts Commission in the budget that was eventually approved by the Legislature.
Brownback, a Republican, however, used his authority to line-item veto the funding, making Kansas the first state in the nation without a state-funded arts agency.
Brownback has argued that state funding of the arts is not a core function of state government and that private funding will replace state taxpayer assistance.
Reitz said he was honored to receive the award. "The award draws attention to the value of consistent public funding for artistic education," he said.
Robert Lynch, president and chief executive officer of Americans for the Arts, said Reitz displayed political courage, and his stand "has served as a rallying cry for other arts advocates across the country."
Lynch added, "His advocacy for the arts in Kansas not only demonstrates his commitment to public funding for the arts but also to the people of Kansas who -- had the funding for the Arts Commission been saved -- would have continued to benefit from the arts and the financial benefits they provide for all of the state's communities," he said.
Reitz received the award during the annual NCSL meeting in San Antonio. The annual award honors a public official who has shown outstanding leadership in the advancement of arts at the state level.