Topeka The Lawrence legislative delegation gained clout Monday, winning leadership positions in preparation for what promises to be a session dominated by budget cuts.
State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, was elected House Minority Leader. State Rep. Barbara Ballard held off a tough challenge and was re-elected chairwoman of the House Democratic caucus. And state Sen.-elect Tom Holland was elected agenda/caucus chairman among Senate Democrats.
With state revenues nose-diving, Davis said, “We want to try to protect education and social services and things that we’ve fought for for many years from massive budget cuts.”
Davis will replace Dennis McKinney of Greensburg, who was recently chosen by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to become state treasurer.
In addition to a new Democratic leader in the House, the chamber will have a new speaker.
House Republicans ousted Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, and elected Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.
Davis said he had a “lot of respect” for O’Neal. “I hope that I can have a good working relationship with him,” he said.
Davis defeated state Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, for the top minority position, 29-18.
Ballard, who has been caucus chairwoman for eight years, faced a rush from state Rep. Josh Svaty, D-Ellsworth. But the caucus went with Ballard, 25-22. Ballard’s election then was approved by acclamation.
On the Senate side, the recently elected Holland was selected, without opposition, as agenda/caucus chair for the Democrats. Senate Republicans hold a 31-9 advantage over Democrats.