TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republicans are set to nominate a new House speaker in December as the current House speaker prepares to retire from the state Legislature.
Republicans House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, Rep. Ron Ryckman and Rep. Russ Jennings are vying to succeed Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Republicans control 85 seats in the 125-member House. They will make nominations for the position by secret ballot next month before an official floor vote, which includes Democrats, takes place in January.
The next speaker will have to deal with several issues, including a more ideologically diverse chamber, since moderate Republicans and Democrats made gains after the recent election. The prevailing candidate will also face the projected $349 million budget hole for Kansas’ current fiscal year and a projected $583 million the following year.
“There will be decisions that are probably not popular but will be necessary to make sure we stay in the right side of the column sheet,” said Ryckman, who also spent two years as budget committee chairman.
Vickrey said he expects the new Legislature will probably review income taxes, but mentioned that an increase in sales tax should be avoided.
“I think the environment and the culture needs to change in a way where we are open to listening to and hearing what others have to offer and not being dismissive just because who offered the idea,” said Jennings, one of the more moderate House members. “My leadership approach would be let the process work and develop a solution that people buy into without having their arms broken getting there.”
The speaker can control committee assignments and decide which bills to bring to the floor for a vote in the House. The position is third in the line of succession for governor, after the lieutenant governor and the Senate president.
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