Prairie Politics

Kansas Senate Republicans to hold closed meeting ahead of 2016 session

Senate chambers (Jan. 22, 2014)
Senate chambers (Jan. 22, 2014) File photo

Senate Republicans will hold a closed meeting in Topeka on the evening before the Kansas Legislature kicks off its 2016 session.

The meeting, which will take place at the offices of the Kansas Bankers Association at 5 p.m. Sunday, will not be open to the media or public.

The Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce’s office said in an e-mail that holding a private meeting before the session is a tradition that dates back several years.

“From what I understand it is a Senate Republican tradition that pre-dates the last two Senate leadership teams and allows Senators the chance to re-orient themselves before the beginning of session,” said Katrina Abraham, legislative director for Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican.

“That’s not uncommon for the Senate Republican caucus. They have been notorious over the years for closing their caucus,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “I don’t think it’s right, but unfortunately our rules, the Senate rules, allow for that to be done.”

Republicans hold 32 of the 40 seats in the Kansas Senate. A constitutional majority needed to pass legislation is 21 votes.

The meeting takes place before lawmakers gavel in for the 2016 session Monday. Closed meetings are rare, but Kansas lawmakers are not legally required to hold open caucus meetings.

Controversy erupted during the 2013 session when Senate Republicans closed a caucus meeting to reporters ahead of an important vote on taxes.

Democrats, who hold eight seats in the Kansas Senate, also plan to meet Sunday afternoon before the opening session, but the meeting will be public, according to a spokesman for Senate Democrats.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3