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SPOTLIGHT
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Finishing the job

Published on -5/22/2012, 9:46 AM

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Constituents living in the 110th District of the Kansas House of Representatives likely should have seen this coming.

After 14 years of sending Dan Johnson to Topeka to work on behalf of Ellis, Rooks, Russell and Osborne counties, the moderate Republican decided not to stand for re-election in 2010. The search for a replacement brought outside interests into the mix. The eventual winner, Dan Collins, not only was recruited by the state GOP but earned endorsements from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Kansans for Life and the Kansas chapter of the National Rifle Association.

It was obvious forces were at work to further boost the ranks of conservative legislators in the state capital. Collins said the pro-life group wanted him because he would be "a conservative, Christian pro-life candidate."

Still, there was hope. Collins had experience as a Plainville city councilman and a zoning committee member. The retired farmer with a business education degree from Fort Hays State University said he had the interest and the time to be an effective lawmaker.

"I felt I had an opportunity to do my part as a citizen of our district," Collins said after winning the 110th seat. "To speak up for our area and try to get some things done to promote our area of the state."

During the same timeframe, Collins suggested the state was not the only governing entity with a spending problem. He said city, county and federal governments were spending too much as well.

"It's easier to hire people to do work," he said, "and pretty soon, you see them standing around."

With this mooring, Rep. Collins went to do the people's business in Topeka.

More or less. As it turned out, the well-intended legislator didn't quite carry out the mission. With the bulk of this Legislature's most important work yet to be completed, Rep. Collins returned home.

With redistricting, the budget, school financing and tax reform still being debated in rancorous fashion, Collins left the Statehouse on May 11. The Legislature continued working until May 20.

Collins laid blame on the Kansas Senate for the extended session. He felt the House had done its work, thereby freeing him to go work at home. He was steadfast he wasn't abandoning the Legislature.

"I told them if they come up with a 62-62 tie to call me," Collins said. "If they need a super-majority vote, I'll be there. I didn't run away and hide."

State lawmakers need to do more than show up to break tie votes. As distasteful as this session was, the 110th District deserved representation until the bitter end. Bicameral legislative bodies require eventual compromise. One body does not get to dictate terms and then expect the other to like it or lump it.

Yet that apparently is the position of the conservative wing of the Kansas Republican Party. And candidates who are recruited because of orthodoxy apparently buy into the philosophy. And that is a shame.

There are two good take-aways regarding Rep. Collins' inability to finish what he was elected to do. The first is his refusal to accept pay beyond May 11. The second is that he is not seeking re-election. The 110th District will expect more from his successor.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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