Politics & Government

Kansas Senate president creates criminal justice panel, names two new chairmen

The Kansas Senate’s top leader has created a committee to review criminal justice issues and has named new chairmen for two other panels.

Senate President Susan Wagle said Tuesday that she formed the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee to ease the workload of the Judiciary Committee, which handles criminal justice issues and legislation dealing with court administration and civil lawsuits.

Wagle, R-Wichita, appointed Sen. Greg Smith of Overland Park, a former police officer, as chairman of the new seven-member committee.

All of the chamber’s committee leaders are Republicans, in line with the GOP’s 32-8 majority.

The House created a similar committee in 2009. Wagle said more than a third of the bills considered by the Senate this year went through the Judiciary Committee.

“It was crazy, the amount of legislation we carried,” said Smith, who has served as the Judiciary Committee’s vice chairman.

The new committee’s vice chairman is Sen. Forrest Knox of Altoona, and its ranking Democrat is Sen. Pat Pettey of Kansas City.

Wagle also appointed Sen. Rob Olson of Olathe as Utilities Committee chairman. He replaces former Sen. Pat Apple of Louisburg, appointed earlier this year to the state commission regulating utilities by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Olson gave up the chairmanship of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. Wagle gave that position to Sen. Jeff Longbine of Emporia.