Hey, we get it. Conservative Republicans aren’t having a good time in the state house. Coalitions of moderate Republicans and Democratic party members have introduced and run with legislation on things like Medicaid Expansion, public rights, Due process for teachers and more. So, what can you do to stop all of this reasonable-ness?
Rep. Patsy Terrell, D-Hutchinson, has yet to carry a bill, and the odds don’t favor that happening this year. This month, the office of Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, instructed committee chairmen not to have Democrats on their committee carry a bill, according to House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita.
“The Speaker’s throwing a temper tantrum,” Ward said.
“After we passed Medicaid expansion, due process for teachers and overrode the governor’s veto (of a bill to raise income taxes), he made a dictate to the chair of the committees that no Democrat should carry a bill,” Ward said.
Concerned that Democratic party members were getting credit for.. well, anything, the speaker of the Kansas house moved to change the procedures so that no Democratic member on a committee could present a bill to the floor. Only the Republican leadership on that committee could do so.
In other words, while a Democratic member could present the legislation to committee, testify on it’s behalf, and promote the outcome, they in the end, could not be the one who could take a success in committee and bring it to the floor.
Eric Turek, communications director for Ryckman, told The News Monday that the ban against Democrats carrying bills would remain until House Republican leadership could regain trust in Democrats.
Turek also said he thought former Speaker of the House Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, had been more restrictive of Democrats carrying bills.
“ ‘I’m terrible, but the last guy was worse,’ “ Ward said, “says a lot about the character of that office.”
Less than 20 minutes after The News asked Turek about Ryckman’s ban, Turek told The News reporter to stop sitting in the back of the House chamber. Since January, the reporter, with the approval of officials maintaining order in the chamber, has sat where television cameras are positioned when in the chamber.
When pressed about why this change was made, rather than respond to the press question, leadership threatened to throw the press out.
Like many state houses, press attendance is often low — thankfully for the Kansas state house, great print journalists continue to walk our hallways. Without their existence, many Kansans would be unaware, as even at major happenings television and video journalists are seldom in the building.
The move taken by house Republicans represents not just an attack on the Democratic brand, but an attack on the way the public sees what happens in the state house. By controlling the way in which the public sees the outcome in the state house, conservative Republican leadership is moving to control the narrative — and deny the public any real insight into how the state house works.