Kansas House Dems Shuffle The Deck

By John Celock

Kansas House Democrats will head into the new session with new ranking members on nine committees.

House Minority Leader-elect Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City) kept in place the top Democrats on the Appropriations and Taxation Committees, while putting a new ranking member on the top of the powerful Federal and State Affairs Committee, which handles social issues. Burroughs also concentrated leadership over education policy in the hands of one legislator. In committee assignments announced last month, House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) installed eleven new chairmen.

“We have a seasoned mix of legislative experience and professional expertise in the House Democratic caucus,” Burroughs said in a statement. “Kansans need strong voices in the Capitol fighting for fiscal responsibility, fair taxes and strong public schools as we tackle the tremendous challenges that are coming in 2015. I know that Kansas House Democrats are up to that task and will offer valuable insight to the committee process.”

The geographic distribution of the top Democratic posts shows that 11 will go to lawmakers along the Kansas City to Topeka corridor on I-70, but Wichita is home to seven ranking Democrats for the new session. Kansas City is home to five ranking members, Topeka four and Lawrence two. The distribution showcases the geographic base of the House Democratic caucus, along with the dominance of northeast Kansas lawmakers in the Democratic leadership in the House. Lawmakers from Cummings, Winfield, Manhattan and Frontenac each hold a ranking position.

Rep. Jerry Henry (D-Cummings) will retain the Democratic slot on the Appropriations Committee as the budget-writing panel takes up likely budget cuts this year. Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita), a former minority leader, will continue in the top slot on the House Taxation Committee along with the top slot on the Elections Committee.

With the state’s school finance formula taking center stage, Burroughs has concentrated education policy in the hands of Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) who will be the top Democrat on the Education Committee and Education Budget Committee. Winn had previously been the top Democrat only on the education budget-writing panel.

While Merrick did not name any GOP lawmakers to hold more than one committee leadership slot, Burroughs tapped three Democratic legislators to hold the ranking slots on two committees. In addition to Winn and Sawyer, Rep. Annie Kuether (D-Topeka) will continue as the top Democrat on both the Energy and Environment Committee and the Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.

A Complete List of House Ranking Member Changes

Children and Seniors: Rep. John Wilson to Rep. Ponka-We Victors
Federal and State Affairs: Rep. Louis Ruiz to Rep. Annie Tietze
Vision 2020: Rep. Carolyn Bridges to Rep. Pam Curtis
Veterans, Military and Homeland Security: Rep. Melanie Meier to Rep. Harold Lane
Corrections and Juvenile Justice: Rep. Jan Pauls to Rep. Boog Highberger
General Government Budget: Rep. Harold Lane to Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore
Transportation: Rep. Emily Perry to Rep. Adam Lusker
Judiciary: Rep. Jan Pauls to Rep. John Carmichael
Education: Rep. Ed Trimmer to Rep. Valdenia Winn

Meier and Perry both did not seek reelection in 2014, while Pauls became a Republican in the spring. Perry resigned her seat in the fall.

House Assistant Minority Leader-elect Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) will be giving up the top Democratic slot on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in favor of Rep. Annie Tietze (D-Topeka). Among the House Democratic leadership team, only Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield), the new minority whip, will hold a ranking slot, on the Pensions and Benefits Committee. Trimmer did cede the top slot on the Education Committee to Winn.

House Democrats traditionally do not give leadership members ranking slots on committees. On the Republican side, House Majority Whip Ron Ryckman Jr. (R-Olathe) is chairing the Appropriations Committee, while Assistant Majority Leader Mario Goico (R-Wichita) will chair the veterans panel. Two GOP leaders, Speaker Pro Temp Peggy Mast (R-Emporia) and Caucus Chairman-elect Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco), will both serve as vice chairs, of the Social Service Budget Committee and the Federal and State Affairs Committee respectively.

Burroughs reappointed Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) to the top Democratic slot on the Health and Human Services Committee. Burroughs had defeated Ward in the race for minority leader. Ward will also serve on the pensions and judiciary panels.

Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita), the Democratic agenda chairman-elect, said that he is excited about the new committee assignments, saying that they will help grow the state. Whipple will continue on the Utilities and Telecommunications Committee and the Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee while picking up a seat on the Taxation Committee. He had previously served on the judiciary panel.

“We have an incredible group of smart and experienced legislators who are committed to serving the people of Kansas,” Whipple told The Celock Report. “We face tremendous challenges this session as we work to balance the budget, invest in our schools and fight for a tax plan that works for every Kansan. I know our members will be a strong voice throughout the committee process. I am fortunate to work with such a talented group.”

Democratic Committee Assignments in Kansas House

Appropriations

Ranking: Jerry Henry
Barbara Ballard
Sydney Carlin
Gail Finney
Kathy Wolfe Moore

Children & Seniors

Ranking: Ponka-We Victors
Pam Curtis
Jarrod Ousley

Energy & Environment

Ranking: Annie Kuether
John Carmichael
Boog Highberger
Harold Lane

Federal & State Affairs

Ranking: Annie Tietze
Broderick Henderson
Nancy Lusk
John Wilson
Valdenia Winn

Pensions & Benefits

Ranking: Ed Trimmer
John Alcala
Jim Ward

Utilities & Telecommunications
Ranking: Annie Kuether
Stan Frownfelter
Ed Trimmer
Brandon Whipple

Veterans, Military & Homeland Security
Ranking Harold Lane
Carolyn Bridges
Adam Lusker

Vision 2020
Ranking: Pam Curtis
Roderick Houston
Jarrod Ousley

Agriculture & Natural Resources Budget

Ranking: Sydney Carlin
Jerry Henry

Commerce, Labor, & Economic Development

Ranking: Stan Frownfelter
Louis Ruiz
Annie Tietze
Brandon Whipple

Corrections & Juvenile Justice

Ranking: Boog Highberger
Gail Finney

Education

Ranking: Valdenia Winn
Carolyn Bridges
Nancy Lusk
Ed Trimmer

Elections

Ranking: Tom Sawyer
John Alcala
John Carmichael

General Government Budget

Ranking: Kathy Wolfe Moore
Harold Lane

Health & Human Services

Ranking: Jim Ward
Broderick Henderson
Roderick Houston
John Wilson

Local Government

Ranking: John Alcala
John Carmichael
Pam Curtis

Transportation

Ranking: Adam Lusker
Barbara Ballard
Jarrod Ousley
Ponka-We Victors

Agriculture & Natural Resources

Ranking: Ponka-We Victors
Sydney Carlin
Adam Lusker
Ed Trimmer

Education Budget

Ranking: Valdenia Winn
Jerry Henry

Financial Institutions

Ranking: Stan Frownfelter
Tom Burroughs
Jarrod Ousley

Insurance

Ranking: Roderick Houston
Broderick Henderson
John Wilson

Judiciary

Ranking: John Carmichael
Pam Curtis
Boog Highberger
Annie Kuether
Jim Ward

Transportation and Public Safety Budget

Ranking: Gail Finney
Annie Tietze

Social Services Budget

Ranking: Barbara Ballard
Nancy Lusk

Taxation

Ranking: Tom Sawyer
John Alcala
Carolyn Bridges
Brandon Whipple
Kathy Wolfe Moore


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