Kansas Senate selects commitee chairs and vice-chairs

TOPEKA — Two south-central Kansas lawmakers will head the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which handles the budget for the chamber.

Sen. Jay Emler of Lindsborg was appointed chair of the committee. Sen. Carolynn McGinn, of Sedgwick will be the vice-chair.

The Organization, Calendar and Rules Committee makes the appointments, but those chosen reflect the wishes of Senate leadership. The chamber’s majority party controls the top committee positions, so all chairs and vice chairs are Republicans.

Chairs controls if bills get hearings in their respective committees and how much time is spent of different issues. An adversarial chair can kill a proposal simply by never letting it be voted out of the committee.

McGinn and Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita retained their positions as chairs of the Natural Resources and Education committees respectively.

Wichita Sen. Les Donovan assumed the chairmanship of the Assessment and Taxation Committee. He will no longer head the Transportation Committee, a position he had held since 2001. That chairmanship went to Sen. Dwayne Umbarger of Thayer who used to lead the Ways and Means Committee.

In the reshuffling, the organizing committee changed the title and scope of the Elections and Local Government Committee to Election and Ethics Committee.

It created a separate Local Government Committee, of which Wichita Sen. Susan Wagle will be vice chair, but eliminated the Health Care Strategies Committee that she used to head. Wagle unsuccessfully challenged Senate President Stephen Morris of Hugoton for the chamber’s top slot.

Sen. Mike Petersen of Wichita will be the vice chairman of the Utilities Committee.

The committee also appointed new senator Rep. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, as ranking minority leader on two committees: Federal and State Affairs and Elections and Ethics.

The organizing committee will meet again Dec. 19 to appoint members of committees.