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Kansas House speaker names 11 new committee leaders

  • AP Political Writer
  • Published Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, at 3:40 p.m.

Kansas House committee chairs

The standing committee chairmen and chairwomen appointed by Ray Merrick:

• Agriculture and Natural Resources: Sharon Schwartz, Washington. She replaces Larry Powell, Garden City, who won a seat in the Senate.

• Appropriations: Marc Rhoades, Newton.

• Children and Seniors: Connie O'Brien, Tonganoxie. The Children and Families Committee had been led by Mike Kiegerl, Olathe, who didn't seek re-election. The Aging and Long-Term Care Committee's chairman was the late Bob Bethell, of Alden.

• Commerce and Economic Development: Marvin Kleeb, of Overland Park. He replaces Anthony Brown, Eudora, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.

• Corrections and Juvenile Justice: John Rubin, Shawnee. He replaces Pat Colloton, Leawood, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.

• Education: Kasha Kelley, Arkansas City. She replaces Clay Aurand, Belleville, who lost his seat in this year's elections.

• Elections and Local Government: Scott Schwab, Olathe, previously chairman of the Elections Committee. The Local Government Committee had been led by Steve Huebert, of Valley Center.

• Energy and Environment: Dennis Hedke, Wichita. The Energy and Utilities Committee's chairman had been Carl Dean Holmes, Liberal, who lost his seat.

• Federal and State Affairs: Arlen Siegfreid, Olathe. He replaces Steve Brunk, Bel Aire.

• Financial Institutions: Pete DeGraaf, Mulvane. He replaces Forrest Knox, Altoona, who was elected to the Senate.

• Health and Human Services: David Crum, Augusta. He replaces Brenda Landwehr, Wichita, who lost her seat.

• Insurance: Clark Shultz, McPherson.

• Judiciary: Lance Kinzer, Olathe.

• Pensions and Benefits: Steve Johnson, Assaria. He replaces Mitch Holmes, St. John, who was elected to the Senate.

• Rules and Journal: Shultz.

• Taxation: Richard Carlson, St. Marys.

• Transportation: Richard Proehl, Parsons. He replaces Gary Hayzlett, Lakin, who didn't seek re-election.

• Utilities and Telecommunications: Joe Seiwert, Pretty Prairie.

• Veterans, Military and Homeland Security: Mario Goico, Wichita.

• Vision 2020: Tom Sloan, Lawrence.

The Appropriations subcommittee leaders:

• Agriculture and Natural Resources: Kyle Hoffman, Coldwater, replacing Schwartz.

• Education: Ward Cassidy, St. Francis. He replaces Lana Gordon, Topeka, who didn't seek re-election and is now acting state labor secretary.

• General Government: DeGraaf, who replaces Joe McLeland, Wichita, who didn't seek re-election.

• Social Services: Brian Weber, Dodge City, replacing Crum.

• Transportation and Public Safety: Virgil Peck, Tyro.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The new speaker of the Kansas House has appointed 11 new committee leaders but plans to retain the chairmen of panels weighing how to close the budget shortfall, revise tax laws and change how appellate court judges are selected.

Incoming Speaker Ray Merrick said Wednesday that his selections of committee leaders were dictated by his need for a strong leadership team. His list of appointments, released late Tuesday, included 11 new chairmen and chairwomen for 20 standing committees, reflecting changes required because previous leaders didn’t seek re-election to the House or lost their seats this year.

But Merrick, a conservative Stilwell Republican, kept the chairmen of the powerful Appropriations, Taxation and Judiciary committees. He and the new committee leaders take over their jobs when legislators open their 2013 session in mid-January.

“I need to govern, and I need the best people in the jobs,” Merrick said. “I’ve got a history with most of them.”

All of the committee chairmen and chairwomen are Republicans, in keeping with the GOP’s 92-33 advantage in the House, and most are conservatives, reflecting the GOP right’s solid majority.

Marc Rhoades of Newton will return as Appropriations Committee chairman. That puts him at the center of debates over closing a projected $295 million gap between anticipated revenues and existing spending commitments for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Rhoades has held the job for two years and has been a solid ally of conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, helping to fashion spending proposals that left room for income tax cuts favored by the governor to stimulate the economy.

As Taxation Committee Chairman, Richard Carlson of St. Marys pushed for aggressive income tax cuts and ultimately supported a successful package worth $4.5 billion over the next six years. The reductions led to the projected shortfall, and lawmakers are expected to consider adjustments, though some of them want to pursue further cuts.

Merrick kept Lance Kinzer of Olathe on as Judiciary Committee chairman even though Kinzer was among Merrick’s rivals for the speaker’s job. Merrick is replacing Speaker Mike O’Neal of Hutchinson, who didn’t seek re-election to the House and is now chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Kinzer is a strong advocate of giving the governor and legislators more power over appellate court appointments, an issue Brownback pushed unsuccessfully last year. He’s also a leader among anti-abortion legislators, though the Judiciary Committee hasn’t handled that issue in the past.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said the list of committee leaders reflects “a fair bit of continuity” especially given high turnover in this year’s elections. Forty-nine of the incoming House members have not served in the Legislature previously.

Davis said running a committee can be learned on the job but, “It’s always helpful to have people who have a little bit of experience.”

Merrick replaced Steve Brunk of Bel Aire as chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee with Arlen Siegfreid of Olathe, the outgoing majority leader and one of Merrick’s rivals for the speaker’s job. The committee has handled legislation dealing with hot-button social issues that include abortion, gambling, immigration and gun rights.

Also new is Rep. Kasha Kelley of Arkansas City as chairwoman of the Education Committee. She replaces Clay Aurand of Belleville, who lost his seat to another GOP incumbent in a primary contest forced by political redistricting.

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