Topeka Lawrence Republican Sen. Sandy Praeger on Monday won a leadership position in the Legislature, becoming vice president of the Kansas Senate.
Praeger's bid for the job she was unopposed was subdued compared with other leadership battles.
In the House, it took four rounds of voting by Republicans to break a tie and make Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, the new speaker.
In the Senate, Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, was unopposed in his bid for president, but Lana Oleen, R-Manhattan, won the majority leader's race by the slimmest of margins, 16-14.
Republicans and Democrats met separately to pick their leaders for the session that starts next month. By virtue of their substantial edge in the Legislature, Republicans chose the top leaders of the House and Senate.
Praeger, a 10-year legislative veteran, will replace vice president Alicia Salisbury, R-Topeka, who did not seek re-election to the Legislature.
The Senate vice president is more of a ceremonial post when compared with the Senate president, who assigns bills to committees, and the majority leader, who runs the Republican caucus.
But the vice president does preside over most of the Senate's proceedings. As a member of the leadership team, the vice president also has a tie-breaker role in the event the president and majority leader are at odds on what bills are placed on the debate calendar.
"I'm really hoping my role as vice president helps me to be a bridge-builder," Praeger said. "I'd really like to make it something more suited to my personality."
A moderate Republican, Praeger has long been a leader on health issues as chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
She said she would probably give up that seat and would like to be chair of the committee that deals with insurance and banking.
During the past couple of years, Praeger said, most health care issues have dealt with the availability and cost of health insurance.
Praeger said she hoped Kerr, the new Senate president, will lead the GOP caucus toward unity. Noting that conservative Republicans had been shut out of many issues in the past several years, Praeger said, "we can't do that anymore."
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said Praeger's new position means, "Lawrence and KU have a voice at the leadership table when major issues are discussed."
Marlin Rein, director of governmental affairs/budget at KU, said Praeger's leadership job "bodes well not only for KU but education in general. Sandy has always been a strong advocate on children's issues and health issues."
The House speaker's race turned into a battle between moderate Republicans, supporting Glasscock, and Rep. Doug Mays of Topeka, who recently jumped into the race at the urging of some House conservative Republicans, who said moderates were ignoring their candidates in other races.
Sloan supported Glasscock saying the Manhattan lawmaker has always dealt fairly with members of both wings of the Republican Party.
"Kent has established, over the last two years, a commitment toward allowing bills and ideas that he didn't support to get a fair debate," Sloan said.
Glasscock, who is sometimes mentioned as a possible GOP gubernatorial hopeful in 2002, will replace Speaker Robin Jennison, who is retiring from the House.
Rep. Shari Weber, R-Herington, was elected majority leader, the job previously held by Glasscock. Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, was elected speaker pro tem.
The GOP's moderate-conservative split also was evident in the race for majority leader in the Senate, which was captured by Oleen, a moderate, over Sen. Nick Jordan, a conservative Republican from Shawnee.
On the Democratic side, Anthony Hensley of Topeka and Jim Garner of Coffeyville were re-elected minority leaders of the Senate and House, respectively. Both were unopposed.
Two Lawrence Democrats, Barbara Ballard, caucus chair, and Troy Findley, policy chair, were re-elected with no opposition.