Kansas House selects committee chairs and vice-chairs.

TOPEKA — Several south-central lawmakers will lead House committees in the legislative session that begins Jan. 12. The Republican House leadership announced the chairs and vice-chairs Wednesday. Wichita Rep . Jason Watkins will be vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee, which handles budget issues. He will also head the General Government Budget Committee; Arkansas City Rep. Kasha Kelley will be vice-chair. Chairs control whether bills get hearings in their respective committees and how much time is spent on different issues. An adversarial chair can kill a proposal simply by never letting it be voted out of the committee. “We are facing challenges that are unprecedented in Kansas,” said Speaker-elect Mike O’Neal of Hutchison. “I believe we have identified an excellent team of talented caucus members to address these challenges over the next two years”Other area lawmakers in top slots:

– Rep. Steve Brunk of Bel Aire will remain the chair of Commerce and Labor; John Grange of El Dorado has been named vice-chair.

– Steve Huebert of Valley Center is taking over as Elections Committee chair.

– Brenda Landwehr of Wichita will remain the head of Health and Human Services; David Crum of Augusta will be the vice-chair.

– Marc Rhoades of Newton will be vice chair of Higher Education and Social Services Budget.

– Don Myers of Derby and Mario Goico of Wichita remain the chair and vice-chair respectively of Veterans, Military and Homeland Security.

– Joe McLeland of Wichita will stay as chair of the Education Budget Committee.

The state is facing more than a $1 billion budget shortfall for the next year.

“I am confident that these chairmen have the experience to guide their committees through the difficult issues that we will face this Legislative session,” said Speaker Pro Tem-elect Arlen Siegfreid.