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Ouster Of Committee Chairs Stuns Lawmakers

KHI News Service

Tensions are rising at the Kansas Statehouse. On Monday, heated exchanges among Senate Republicans forced leaders to close a caucus meeting to the media. And yesterday, Speaker Ray Merrick publicly relieved two committee chairs of their duties shortly after a dispute on the House floor.

Merrick, a Republican, removed fellow Republican John Rubin as chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. He also replaced Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and retired judge, as the chair of the committee that resolves disputes over the House rules.

Rubin stormed out of the chamber and threatened to resign his seat.

Merrick says he wanted to restore order after a failed attempt to “manipulate the rules” and force a floor vote on a bill that could have been used to expand casino gambling in the state.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, is one of several lawmakers who say Merrick went too far.

“That is not leadership, it’s bullying and it’s happening too much in this building," Ward says.

Ward and others say the ouster of the committee chairs and the closure of the Senate GOP caucus meeting are indications of increasing tensions at the Statehouse.

Tensions caused by the state’s continuing budget problems and deepening differences about how to address them.

More from KHI News Service.