Leadership needed

Many political and advocacy groups are spending these months between the election and the start of the Kansas legislative session (January 14, 2019!) working on their plans for next year, and 2020 after. We are doing our own work, and have attended meetings, spoken with like organizations, and begun to work with partners on plans. One certainty keeps coming up, time after time. All Kansans will have a champion in Laura Kelly as Governor, but there is a distinct need for leadership in the Legislature to understand that they, too, represent all Kansans.

We are hopeful that they will listen.

Last week, the Kansas House of Representatives selected the individuals who will lead that chamber the next two years. Rep. Ron Ryckman, who led the chamber these last two years, retained his position as Speaker of the House. He has voted with MainStream's issues only about 20% of the time. The House Majority Leader's position was taken by Rep. Dan Hawkins, also about a 20% voter on MainStream's issues. He replaced Rep. Don Hineman, who has a voting record around 80%. Already, Rep. Hawkins has cast doubt on the likelihood of expanding health care in Kansas during his tenure.

The Democrats signaled a practical stance, selecting more moderate Rep. Tom Sawyer over Rep. Jim Ward, both 100% voters on our issues. They will work in hand with Gov. Kelly and the moderate Republicans that remain to advance the issues that affect every Kansan: the economy, public schools, health care for the working poor, reasonable taxation, and responsible government.

Estimates suggest that a coalition of moderate progressives and conservatives still has enough votes, in the House, to promote good legislation with broad support, like funding schools, expanding KanCare, or lowering food taxes. On other, traditionally progressive social policies, there may not be enough votes. Republicans in the House (who have 85 seats), seem to be split with about 50 ultra-conservatives and 35 or so moderately inclined, based on leadership voting. Add to that the 40 Democrats, and estimates range from 65-75 votes for this moderate coalition, depending on the issue. 63 votes are needed to pass legislation in the House.

But leadership positions hold the final say on what bills are brought up for a vote, thus their outsized importance. Speaker Ryckman and Leader Hawkins will need to be convinced.

The Kansas Senate has not selected new leadership. It would be unusual to do so, halfway through the Senate's four year election calendar, but rumors have been spreading that Senate President Susan Wagle is interested in shuffling the deck chairs, perhaps to achieve a more conservative bent to committee leadership there. The split there is still in flux, with several Senators elected to statewide office (Sens. Kelly and Lynn to the Governor's office, and Sen. Schmidt to Insurance Commissioner), but could also trend more conservative.

Whatever the outcome, we urge Kansas lawmakers to recognize that, whatever the color of the election map in Kansas (spoiler: it's mostly purple), there are conservatives and progressives in every district, and good leaders represent ALL their constituents, regardless of how many voted for whom.

As voters, as constituents, it is our duty to stay in touch with our elected representatives, to keep them to task, and to thank them when they do their job well.

Remember, it starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

Do you like this post?
Sign Up

if you are new to MainStream.

Sign In

if you're a Member or part of our network.