Archive for Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Animosity more apparent among Senate Republicans

January 18, 2005


— Moderate and conservative Republicans needed years to generate their animosity but it took only a few days of the 2005 session for hard feelings to surface in the Senate.

Fights over leadership positions, committee assignments and rules governing how legislation is handled threaten the ability of the 40-member chamber to resolve major issues such as school finance and health care.

"I think it's hard to get 21 votes when you're not including other members on that issue," said conservative Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler.

During the session's first week, when the tension was evident, moderates tried to downplay the squabbles, saying the disagreements were efforts to let off steam.

But squabbles within the GOP contributed last year to legislators' inability to agree to a funding package for public schools. This year, legislators face an April 12 deadline set by the Kansas Supreme Court to improve education funding.

Senate President Steve Morris said Republicans can work out their differences.

"I don't think it will have a significant influence on the major issues that we have to consider this year," said Morris, R-Hugoton.

But the split was evident when Republicans chose leaders for the next four years.

Morris, a moderate, was elected president over Shawnee conservative Nick Jordan. Moderates claimed all but one leadership job, assistant majority leader, won by Karin Brownlee of Olathe after eight ballots.

Conservatives received only token representation on budget and education committees but won the chairmanships of commerce, health care and local government committees.

Last year, the House approved a bill regulating abortion clinics, but the measure remained in committee in the Senate.

"We can promise fairness, but the reality is conservative issues won't stand a chance to get out of committee," Huelskamp said.

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