Archive for Monday, June 4, 2007

Board of Regents changes expected

June 4, 2007


— Deferred maintenance at state universities has been the major issue pushed by the Kansas Board of Regents in recent months.

Kansas Board of Regents

The Kansas Board of Regents has nine members, each of whom is appointed by the governor. The board oversees higher education in Kansas.Here are the board members:¢ Janice DeBauge, of Emporia, was appointed to the board by Gov. Bill Graves in 1999 and reappointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2003. She served as chairwoman of the board from 2003-04. Her term expires this month. She is a former music teacher and singer.¢ Christine Downey-Schmidt, of Inman, was appointed by Sebelius in 2005. She serves as the vice chairwoman. Her term expires in June 2009. Previously, she had been elected to three four-year terms in the state Senate.¢ Frank Gaines, of Hamilton, was appointed to the board by Sebelius in 2003. He is a former state House member and state senator. His term expires this month.¢ Nelson Galle, of Manhattan, was appointed by Sebelius in 2003. He serves as chairman of the board. He has worked in agriculture with the Hesston Corp., a manufacturer of farm machinery, and owned and managed Central Kansas Hatchery. His term expires this month.¢ James "Jim" Grier III, of Wichita, was appointed by Graves in 2002. His term expired in June 2006 but he has continued to serve. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Martin K. Eby Construction Co.¢ Dan Lykins, of Topeka, was appointed by Sebelius in 2005. He is a lawyer and longtime Kansas Democratic Party official. His term expires in June 2009.¢ Juana "Janie" Perkins, of Garden City, was appointed by Sebelius in 2005. She is a former mayor of Garden City, still serves on that city's commission and is an elementary school teacher. Her term runs through June 2009.¢ Donna Shank, of Liberal, was appointed by Graves in 2002. She is the vice president and co-owner of Al Shank Insurance Inc. Her term expired in June 2006 but she has continued to serve. She served as board chairwoman from 2005-06.¢ Dick Bond, of Overland Park, resigned in March after his term expired in June 2006. He is a former state senator and Senate president.

But while the board has lobbied for extra funds to make repairs and renovations at schools, it also faces a major makeover of its own that has been delayed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Three of the positions on the board expired last June and three more expire this month, raising the possibility that two-thirds of the nine-member board could soon be replaced.

So why hasn't Sebelius filled the slots that expired a year ago?

"I really wanted to wait through the election," Sebelius said, referring to the November election in which she was re-elected to a second term.

"We're going to have six regents appointed in the near future," she said recently, although she indicated some board members could be reappointed.

Leadership training

But Sebelius' delay in appointing regents has raised some eyebrows.

Former Regent Dick Bond said Sebelius' inaction on board appointments means some regents will be thrust into leadership roles before receiving the benefit of the experience of having served a couple of years on the board.

"There will be a new majority in July without experience, and historically the board has tried to bring people along in leadership," said Bond, a former state Senate president.

"It's helpful to be able to develop and train for leadership and continuity, and that's the problem this presents when there are not timely appointments," he said.

Bond, of Overland Park, was one of the three regents whose term expired last June. He stayed on the board until March when he resigned because he was recovering from back surgery.

Two other board members - Donna Shank, of Liberal, and Jim Grier III, of Wichita - whose terms expired last June have continued serving on the board.

Grier said he doesn't believe the service of regents beyond their terms has had any negative impact on the board, and that he would like to be reappointed. "I have expressed wanting to serve again, but no one has heard anything," he said.

Plum appointments

Regents appointments are among the most prestigious handed out by a governor.

The board has responsibility for Kansas' $3 billion system of higher education, which includes governance of the six state universities and Washburn University in Topeka, and supervision of community colleges, area vocational schools, technical colleges and adult basic education.

As an agency itself, the Kansas Board of Regents is a $200 million per year enterprise with approximately 60 employees.

There are some restrictions on who can serve on the board.

There must be at least one appointment from each of the four congressional districts, but not more than one person per county.

Plus, there must be a 5-4 political party split, and no one on the regents can be an employee of any postsecondary educational institution. Board members receive no pay, other than expenses and $85 per day to attend board meetings.

Legislative interest

Sebelius' selections are sure to attract interest from legislators, some of whom have been at odds with the regents.

During the last legislative session, several lawmakers criticized the regents for not exerting more supervision over the proposed affiliation between Kansas University Medical Center and Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's Hospital.

KUMC's main hospital - KU Hospital - argued that the affiliation with its cross-state-line rival would hurt the Kansas health system. Many lawmakers agreed.

At one point, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, urged the regents to ask hard questions of KU.

The regents defended their performance in the negotiations, praised KUMC's efforts to expand research initiatives and urged lawmakers not to get too involved.

A move by the Legislature to direct KUMC and KU Hospital to hash out their differences was approved but then vetoed by Sebelius.

During the legislative session, the regents also requested nearly $663 million to address a backlog of maintenance and repair projects at universities. The Legislature eventually approved a pared-down plan that will provide $380 million in appropriations, loans and tax credits.

Neufeld said he hopes Sebelius will appoint members who stand up to the universities.

"I would like to see a stronger board of regents that is willing to actually step up and instead of being 'yes' men for the universities, actually be regents and supervise," Neufeld said.

"I don't think there is any question that through the last several governors, over the past 20 years, it appears the board of regents is not as strong as previous to that," he said.

But Regent Janice DeBauge, of Emporia, whose term expires this month, said conflict between the regents and Legislature cannot be avoided.

"The board wants to be at one with the Legislature, but frankly I'm not sure that is always possible in order for the board to fulfill its functions - to be active and strong advocates for higher education," DeBauge said.

"We want to be responsive to legislative requests and responsive to the needs of the state. There is a push-pull that is always going to be there," she said.

In addition to the expiration of DeBauge's term, the terms of Frank Gaines and Nelson Galle also expire this month.

Ongoing process

On the issue of appointments to the regents, Sebelius' office declined to provide information on how many people have applied for the positions.

Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, said the governor's office reaches out to communities for possible nominees and sometimes receives suggestions from a current or past board member. Sometimes people apply themselves.

"This is an ongoing process in which we're looking for the right folks who meet the qualifications - plain and simple," she said.


Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 11 years ago

This is not good news. Corrupt governor, corrupt appointments. More of her Republicrat slime coating state government. What will they sell to her Missouri bosses next.

MyName 11 years ago

Just keep drinking that koolaid Uhlrick, while the best governor we've had in decades keeps up the good work.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 11 years ago

You Republicans should think that. Governor Roundheels has given all of the important positions in the party to your opportunists.

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