What’s not surprising following the November general election was that the Kansas Legislature is dominated by Republicans. However, party primaries in August saw the conservative wing of the GPO oust several moderates, including Senate President Steve Morris, who were willing to reach across the aisle to Democrats. In the House, Speaker Mike O’Neal decided to retire after 28 years in the chamber, including two terms as speaker.
This matters now as these lawmakers met Monday at the Statehouse in Topeka to choose the next Senate president and speaker of the House. The elections were held by returning incumbents and those taking office for the first time in January. Republicans will outnumber Democrats during the upcoming session 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House.
This amounts to a significant swing in the governing body’s balance of power. Coupled with a conservative ally in Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, there is a seed shift to the right in the state’s capitol.
In addition, nearly a third of the Kansas Legislature’s members will have no previous experience in either chamber when lawmakers convene in January. Good or bad? This is yet to be determined.
It could re-energize the Legislature, but will could lead to less predictability. The large freshman class will impact how lawmakers and Brownback close a projected budget shortfall and follow up on income tax cuts enacted this year.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely and there is a reason why our system of government has checks and balances. It is hoped that with the Statehouse and Cedar Crest in the same corner, that moderation can still prevail.
Also, it is hoped that with this inexperience in Topeka, rash decisions are made, decisions that Kansans will have to pay for and live with for years to come.