The people have spoken. The Brownback policies have failed, and the voters said strongly that change is in order. For that to translate into real action starting in January, strong leaders from both parties—who are ready to address problems and start turning things around—must be selected for these leadership positions.
I served a two year term as Speaker of the Kansas House many years ago, and I am well aware that much has changed. But what hasn’t changed is the power the speaker has in controlling the agenda. The speaker controls the committee makeups, who will chair each committee, what bills ever come up to the floor, and in what order. Individual members, knowing those facts, can more easily be persuaded to support the Speaker. On the Senate side, there has been much change. The President of the Senate now has as much power as the Speaker, making who these two people are very important.
In the Senate on Monday, it appears there will be limited change. The moderate coalition does not have the votes to really influence the outcome. But on the House side, the story is very different. The race for Speaker, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader are very much contested, and from all appearances, they are all very close. One thing that is clear is that the large number of new House members will control the outcome in both parties. And my message to them is to keep in mind the people who helped get you to where you are. Most were elected to help bring changes that a strong majority of Kansans want. Therefore support those candidates with the best capacity to help lead the next steps in restoring Kansas.
Now if you are reading this and live in a district where a new moderate was elected, you might remind the new legislator that who they elect Monday will not just make a difference to them, but most importantly, will be key to any hope of needed change. This is just one of many ways in which we citizens must take a much more active role. Only an activated citizenry can really help mobilize the changes Kansas needs. Elected officials are in a stronger position when their constituents are informed and involved.
The legislative leadership election yesterday brought a mixed bag of progress and holding on to the past far-right direction under Governor Brownback. In the Senate, there was little change on the surface, with one exception: Senator Vicki Schmidt of Topeka, a key moderate, was elected to the leadership team. Despite limited success, the balance in the Senate now stands at 20-20. This should allow the moderate Republicans and Democrats to be much more effective. In the House, aside from electing another very conservative Speaker, the moderate Republicans prevailed. Combined with the Democratic election success, the moderate coalition now holds a significant majority. This means the Democrats, now led by Jim Ward of Wichita, have the opportunity to play a much more significant role.
The summary of all this comes down to the top leader in both houses still having significant power to control the agenda, but the moderates will have the power to stop whatever they so choose. What that means is that, at some point, compromise must play a strong role in both houses for Kansas to take positive steps forward.