But that was just a starter, for a few minutes later I discovered an implosion of both decorum and sanity had occurred in the House. Keep in mind that chamber had already just absorbed the Speaker’s dismissal of three Republican members of the House Health and Human Services Committee, all three health care professionals, for apparently daring to share their intelligence and experience. But then yesterday, on the floor of the House, Republican Representative John Rubin refused to follow the Speaker’s order to move to pull a bill from committee, and the House Rules Chair ruled the concept out of order, leaving the bill in committee and getting both fired from their chairmanships. In response, Rubin announced his resignation from the Legislature effective midnight last night. Rep. Rubin later withdrew that threat, promising to serve out his term, but not without taking time to, rightfully, express his displeasure with Speaker Merrick. It’s not just that the policy decisions being made all too often are not consistent with what the state needs, but such management practices only add to our lack of confidence in the leadership in Topeka.
All of this of course is of high interest to me, not just because I very much want Kansas to get its act together, but also—having served as Speaker of the House myself—I have memories of a much more professional and positive operating process. I do understand that our system gives the Speaker huge powers over committee membership, chairs, and the House calendar. Having had that power, I also know the importance of using that power in a responsible way. In addition to never dumping an appointed committee chair, my appointed House Rules Chair was Representative Phil Martin of Larned—a lawyer who’s still practicing there, very bright, and honorable to the core. I must admit, on occasion, I may not have been 100% thrilled with his ruling, but I never considered doing anything but accepting it and moving on.
Apparently, the current leadership is used to an environment where pushing people around—including their fellow Republicans—is seen as an acceptable way to do the people’s business. All of this discussion is just another reminder of how important our legislative races are this year and how each and every one of us has a responsibility to do our part to reject these tactics and move Kansas back to common sense and civility.