This week’s assignments of committee chairs in the 2013 Legislature further confirmed that the Senate has made a sharp right turn, as they underscored how important some newly powerful Wichita-area senators will be in balancing the clout of northeast Kansas in the House leadership.
The fiscal challenges ahead will test new Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and her choice to lead the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Ty Masterson of Andover, as well as holdover Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee Chairman Les Donovan of Wichita.
The Wichita area will be relying on Masterson to fight for it as tenaciously as did former Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick, who won re-election but was sidelined in the chamber’s conservative takeover. Another Wichitan, Mike Petersen, now will lead the Senate Transportation Committee, but the Senate Education Committee formerly chaired by Wichitan Jean Schodorf (defeated in the primary) will go to Steve Abrams of Arkansas City. Other Senate appointments will come next week.
New House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell left unchanged the leaders of the key appropriations, taxation and judiciary committees. Merrick’s committee chairmen include Wichitans Dennis Hedke and Mario Goico and David Crum of Augusta, and he made Pete DeGraaf of Mulvane the chairman of both the financial institutions panel and an appropriations subcommittee. But House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Brunk of Wichita lost his powerful spot to Olathe lawmaker Arlen Siegfreid, and consolidation of two committees under Olathe’s Scott Schwab also left Steve Huebert of Valley Center without a chairmanship.
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With the highest leadership spots in the House in both parties belonging to northeast Kansans, the pressure will be great on Senate leaders and rank-and-file Wichita-area House members to ensure the region gets the attention and funding it deserves related to air service, aviation research and training, the Equus Beds and more. That said, the 2013 legislative session will be defined less by geography than by conservative ideology.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman