Category Archives: Statehouse

Emler elected Senate Republican leader

emlerTOPEKA – Sen. Jay Emler is taking over as the Senate majority leader after running unopposed for the position Monday.

Emler, R-Lindsborg, will replace former Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who was elected to be the state’s attorney general.

In addition to helping manage the Senate caucus, the majority leader also controls the flow of legislation in the chamber and decides when — or if — a bill will be debated on the floor.

Emler said he did not plan to use the position to block legislation he might not agree with or that would be contentious.

“It is not my position to bottleneck anything,” he said after the short election meeting Monday. “If the supporters for the bill can come in and show it is not an exercise in futility I certainly wouldn’t hold it back.”

Emler also said he did not expect the tenor of the Senate would change much. The chamber — which has 40 members compared to 125 in the House — is typically viewed as the more sedate and deliberative chamber.

Brownback to announce his pick for the Office of Administration

TOPEKA – Gov.-elect Sen. Sam Brownback will announce his pick for secretary of administration on Thursday morning.

The nominee will also oversee the Office of the Repealer, which Brownback promised to create during his campaign. The office will recommend eliminating statues and regulations that have “out-lived their original function, are in conflict with one another, or simply do not make sense.”

The Kansas Department of Administration oversees the state budget, state buildings — including those under lease — and other activities such as printing, computer services and purchasing.

The nominee must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

Gov.-elect Brownback announces two public safety picks

TOPEKA – Gov.-elect Sam Brownback announced his picks for the Kansas adjutant general and the superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol on Friday.

GarciaBrownback, a Republican, tapped retired Lt. Col. Ernie Garcia, 64, to lead the highway patrol. Garcia retired from the U.S. Marines, served as the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms and doorkeeper and was senior assistant to Wichita’s city manager from 2000 to 2003.

To lead the Kansas adjutant general’s office, Brownback selected state Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie. Tafanelli, 49, is a colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard, the Kansas assistant adjutant general – Army and commander of the state’s Army National Guard. Tafanelli

“These are two of the of most qualified people I think in America to lead these positions,” said Brownback during Friday’s announcement.

Both nominees must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate when the Legislature convenes in January.

O’Neal re-elected as House Speaker; House leadership votes continue


TOPEKA – Members of the House of Representatives are choosing their leaders for the next two years today.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal was re-elected for another two years on a unanimous voice vote. The Hutchinson Republican ran unopposed.

House Republicans are currently (at noon) tallying the votes in a five-way race for Speaker Pro Tem between representatives Anthony Brown of Eudora, Larry Powell of Garden City, Jene Vickrey of Louisburg, Virgil Peck of Tyro and Scott Schwab of Olathe.

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Reason Foundation ranks Kansas roads third in the nation

ksroadKansas has some of the best roads in the country according to a study released Thursday by the Reason Foundation.

The Libertarian think tank’s study looked at 11 parameters including costs per mile, congestion, pavement condition, deficient bridges and fatalities.

Nationwide, only North Dakota and Montana ranked higher than Kansas overall.

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Campaign filing deadline closed

biggsTOPEKA – When the gavel fell at noon today, 346 Republican and Democratic candidates had filed to appear on the Aug. 3rd primary ballot.

All state House of Representative Members are up for election as well as statewide offices such as governor, state treasurer and secretary of state. One U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs, which Republican Sen. Sam Brownback is vacating to run for governor – that has generated a lot of interest for several candidates.

All the state’s Congressional districts are also up for election with three of the four incumbents not returning.

Kansas Secretary of State Chris Biggs, a Democrat and himself up for election and in a contested primary, said he was pleased with the turnout.

“I am encouraged to see so many Kansans make the decision to run for elected office this year,” Biggs said. “I believe that running for office is one of the most important forms of civic engagement.”

Independent candidates don’t have to file Aug. 2 at noon, so there could be more names added to the November ballot. Libertarian and Reform candidates have the same filing deadline as Republicans and Democrats.

More information on filling deadlines and how to file for office is available at the Secretary of State’s office here.

The full list of candidates who filed is available at

Wichita’s 103rd District has a new state representative: Ponka-We Victors

Ponka-WeTOPEKA – Ponka-We Victors of Wichita essentially became the next state representative in the 103rd District in north Wichita on Thursday, replacing Rep. Delia Garcia as the sole candidate for the seat shortly before the filing deadline.

Both women are Democrats. Garcia, 33, said she was leaving to take a new position in politics but would not say what that is. She was first elected to the 103rd District in 2004.

Victors, 28, has worked as Garcia’s campaign manager in previous elections and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Wichita State University and a bachelor’s in biology from Newman University.

The two made the last minute switch Thursday shortly before the noon filling deadline for candidates wishing to appear on the Aug. 3 primary ballot.

Victors said access to health care is a major concern for her.

“Growing up in the 103rd District, I’ve always seen a need for health care,” she said.

Her only access to health care growing up was at an Indian Health Services hospital four hours away, she said. She is affiliated with the Ponca Tribe and Tohono-O’odham Nation. So if she got an earache, which she did frequently, she had to endure a painful four-hour ride to the clinic.

“I want to sit at the table to help implement what was just passed on the federal level,” she said.

As far as she knows, Victors said she would be the first Native American woman to serve in the Kansas statehouse.

Victors said she had sat on Garcia’s campaign committees for the last five years and had also been a Native American congressional intern. She said she was looking forward to listening to her constituents.

Garcia said that when she first joined the Legislature, more experienced lawmakers mentored her and she  hoped to do that for her successor.

“She has been working with me on the last three campaigns, so she is definitely the right pick,” she said.

Garcia said she would maintain a connection with the statehouse through Victors.

The last time a Republican ran in the 103rd District in 1998 against former state Rep. Thomas Klein, a Democrat. Klein won 57 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

McKinney announces run for state treasurer

mckinneyOVERLAND PARK – State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, a Democrat, formally announced Wednesday that he is running to hold on to his spot as the state’s top financial officer.

McKinney, a long-time Greensburg representative and House minority leader, kicked off his announcement tour the night before in his hometown and traveled east, stopping in Wichita and Topeka, then wrapping up in Overland Park.

He highlighted the work his office has done since he took over the position in January 2009. Among his first actions upon taking office was to cut his own salary to help save money. Since then the department has worked to do more with less money and adopted new technology to become more efficient, he said.

McKinney said the department has returned more than $14 million to Kansas families through the Unclaimed Property department, setting a new record in the number of claims and the amount of money returned for the program.

“I know that there are a lot of families out there who need to get their money back,” he said.

McKinney will face Republican Ron Estes of Wichita in the November election.

He also pointed to his work to improve the state’s housing construction loan program through working with home builders, Realtors, lenders and lawmakers to make the program more user friendly.

His work in the program illustrated his pragmatic approach to government, McKinney said.

“I hope to share with with the people of Kansas our belief in the scripture that tells us, in these hard times we may be hard pressed but we are not crushed, we may be perplexed but we are not in despair,” he said.

Holland picks Kultala as gubernatorial running mate

Holland and Kultala - Democratic running matesOVERLAND PARK – Pitching the team as the “pragmatic and moderate” choice, Tom Holland announced Kelly Kultala as his Democratic gubernatorial running mate on Wednesday.

Baldwin City state Sen. Holland, 48, said he planned to apply his experience in business to solving the state’s problems.

“In business, when there is a problem to solve, there isn’t a Democratic way or a Republican way, there is only the right way,” he said. That is how it should be in state government, he said.

The pair is likely to face off against Republicans U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and state Sen. Jeff Colyer of Overland Park in the November election in a race where the Democrats are generally viewed as the underdogs.

Kultala, 51, is a state senator from Kansas City, Kan., who was first elected in 2008. Before that, she worked with several non-profit groups and local government including the board of commissioners for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.. Read More »

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Holland to announce his running mate Wednesday

holland,tomTOPEKA – Tom Holland, the Democratic contender for governor, will announce his running mate Wednesday in a state tour starting in Overland Park.

Holland, a state senator from Baldwin City, will face the winner of the August Republican primary in November.

Republicans U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and state Sen. Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park, are facing off against Joan Heffington of Derby and her running mate Mark Holick of Wichita.

Below are the tour stops and times for Holland’s campaign kickoff:

9:30 a.m. Matt Ross Community Center 8101 Marty, Overland Park

11:45 a.m. Kansas Secretary of State’s Office 120 SW 10th Ave., Topeka

3:30 p.m. Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chisholm-Stimson Trail Room 400 West Waterman St., Wichita