Ahead of 2020 session, Rep. Mike Amyx shares legislative priorities and a few doughnuts

Rep. Mike Amyx eats a mini cinnamon roll at Munchers Bakery on Sept. 26, 2019. The Lawrence bakery is one of his favorite places to meet constituents.

Most people know Democratic Rep. Mike Amyx runs a barbershop on Massachusetts Street, but in the Legislature’s off-session, he spends only his mornings at the shop. In the afternoons, he might be found in Munchers Bakery meeting with constituents.

“I love doughnuts. It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he says, biting into one of the two miniature cinnamon rolls he ordered, alongside a carton of 2% milk. He doesn’t allow himself to order whole milk. “If my wife finds out that I come here and drink whole milk …”

Amyx doesn’t allow himself to finish that statement, either.

The smell of fresh doughnuts from Munchers, a 24-hour bakery at 925 Iowa St., wafts into the parking lot.

People are relaxed in a doughnut shop, Amyx, 66, says. That’s why he suggests Munchers when people in his 45th District want to get together to chat.

“I love to gab,” he said. At the bakery, seemingly every time the door opened, a shout of greeting was directed at Amyx, who sat in a sunlit corner facing the entrance.

“You look like you’re working hard!” one man joked.

“I’m constantly working hard!” Amyx replied.

Before being elected to the Legislature, Amyx had seats on both the Douglas County Commission and the City Commission, serving six terms as mayor of Lawrence. Amyx took his legislative seat this year, and he serves on the local government and general government budget committees.

“I loved being at City Hall. I loved being at the county. But there is really something about this job,” he says, noting that “it’s such a special deal.”

“I don’t know,” he says. “It’s hard to explain. But like I said, I just feel really privileged.”

Amyx thinks the biggest issues the Legislature will face in the coming session include Medicaid expansion, rural broadband and the recommendations of Gov. Laura Kelly’s new council on tax reform.

For Amyx, however, a new state highway plan is the most important issue.

“Let’s face it. The South Lawrence Trafficway — the improvements that are going to happen — are in my district,” he says. “Something that’s important to me is that that remains a free highway versus a toll road.”

Amyx says he will “do everything that I possibly can to make sure that that happens.”

Amyx noted that in the past legislative session, a bill was passed that would allow local communities to ask the Kansas Department of Transportation about the feasibility of financing a project through a toll road. Amyx, however, believes the highway system is the state’s responsibility.

According to him, the South Lawrence Trafficway needs to be at the top of the list of projects considered for the state highway plan “because No. 1, it moves a lot of traffic, and second, and probably more important, it’s a safety issue to the drivers that use that roadway.”

Amyx wants the South Lawrence Trafficway west of Iowa Street to be expanded to four lanes like its eastern counterpart. Since the eastern portion of the trafficway was expanded, accidents have soared on the western end. From November 2016 to June 30, 2018, 53 accidents occurred at three intersections. In the first 10 months of 2016, only four accidents had occurred at the same three intersections.

Amyx also says he would be happy to support legislation to control the cost of property taxes for older residents.

“One of the things that’s important to me, and I think it’s important to so many people throughout the state and in my district, is the cost of property taxes to seniors,” he says. “I know Senator (Tom) Holland (of Baldwin City) introduced legislation. That’s one thing that I would be happy to support.”

Amyx wants to keep people in their homes and keep taxes low for as long as possible.

In his first session, he was most proud of one of his failures. He got to take a bill to the House floor but ended up losing.

“But one of the things that was important was how much I learned in that process,” Amyx said of the Barber Act, which he carried to the House floor for the Kansas Board of Barbering.

The Barber Act, as Amyx explains it, says that an establishment at which hair is cut but that lacks a license or a barber on duty cannot display a barber pole.

Opponents considered it government overreach.

“I didn’t do it well enough to get it all the way through,” Amyx says, adding that the act will be rewritten and reintroduced.

But until the Legislature reconvenes in January, Amyx will spend his mornings at his barbershop and some of his afternoons at the bakery.

“What’s up, Mikey?” one visitor calls out.

“I’m playing golf. What’s it look like I’m doing?” Amyx responds.

He’s sitting in Munchers, his favorite meet-up spot, with an empty plate before him.

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