Some moderate Republicans in the Kansas House of Representatives learned Wednesday they are losing cherished committee seats.
In western Kansas, Rep. John Ewy, R-Jetmore, a college professor in broadcasting and speech at Dodge City Community College, was removed from the House Education Committee.
“I’m kind of baffled,” Ewy said.
In early 2013, incoming Rep. Ewy was asked his committee preferences.
“I put three circles around education,” he said.
“It was pretty disheartening for me to find out about it.”
He received the news in a phone call from Christie Kriegshauser, chief of staff for Speaker of the House Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell.
He said he told her he was disappointed. Kriegshauser told him he was being named to the House Transportation Committee.
“She said transportation is really important,” Ewy said.
“And it is,” Ewy said, but he is concerned about how the 117th House District’s rural schools — “small schools, I mean really small schools” — and community colleges will fare in a Legislature where more budget cuts are likely. The 117th covers territory served by community colleges based in Great Bend, Pratt, Dodge City and Garden City.
“I don’t want western Kansas to come up on the short end of the stick,” Ewy said.
Ewy said Kriegshauser was only the messenger, but he said he was blunt with her and said at one point, “I guess this conversation is over,” he said.
Merrick later sent an email to House members listing all 2016 committee assignments.
“Committee assignments are never easy. After much thought and discussion, I believe that the following changes are in the best interests of our caucus and state,” Merrick wrote.
Moderate Republican Rep. Don Hill lost a seat on the House Appropriations Committee. An Emporia pharmacist, Hill also was removed from Health and Human Services.
Retired physician Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, was taken off Health and Human Services, too, along with Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit.
Bollier and Rep. Diana Dierks, R-Salina, a real estate broker who was removed from the Education Committee, are both regarded as moderates. Ewy calls himself “a conservative with common sense.”
Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, lost a seat on the Education Committee but became vice chairman of Health and Human Services.
Currently, the Legislature is in the middle of the two-year session, and committee assignment reshuffling is not typical at this juncture.