This week, the election finally will be over, and we wonít have to look at and hear any more campaign commercials. It will be back to life as nearly as normal as we like to live it.
But for us Statehouse habituťs who probably arenít quite normal, the next election is less than a month away. What? Yes, less than a month, but the campaigning here wonít jarringly interrupt ďDancing with the Stars.Ē
Iím talking about the Dec. 3 election for leadership offices in the Kansas House and Senate, and the campaigning will be just among the newly elected or re-elected members of those chambers. Itís the election where the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are decided, and majority leaders of each chamber are identified, and just a dab downstream from those elections, weíll learn what committees each chamber will have and who will run them.
Count on a lot of quiet campaigning here mostly among the Republican caucus members of each chamber. Democrats? If their current leaders are re-elected, donít look for much change. But the current Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, was defeated in the GOP primary election, and wonít have a desk in the Statehouse anymore, and Speaker Mike OíNeal, R-Hutchinson, didnít seek re-election. He now is chief of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and probably will roam the Statehouse halls, but wonít have a desk either.
Now, why should anyone with a regular life care about those leadership elections and eventual committee leadership and membership? Itís because the speaker and president, in conjunction with their respective majority leaders, typically decide what bills are considered, which ones make it out of committees and to the floor of each chamber ó or at least the debate calendar of each chamber.
That means the leadership races will determine to a large degree just what the Legislature does or doesnít do and to what or whom.
Itís possible for, say, a bill to be introduced in one chamber, pass, and never get a second look across the rotunda. That happened under the, uh, previous Senate leadership with abortion bills, with union regulation bills and with a measure sought by Gov. Sam Brownback that would let him, not the Judicial Selection Commission, decide who might become an appeals court judge.
Now, itís going to be more conservative on both sides of the Statehouse, the House and Senate, for the next two, maybe four years.
But thatís a danger for Republicans, as well as a test for those elected to the new leadership posts. Those new leaders are going to have to at least appear to foster robust debate on bills ó either in committees, or on the House and Senate floors ó that they know will or wonít pass, and maintain the illusion of open discussion and consideration of a broad range of issues.
Done right, Kansans will have at least the appearance of a Legislature that considers issues impartially ó the way most people think a Legislature ought to perform. Done wrong, and itís just leadership domination of the legislative process, which can appear unseemly.
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawverís Capitol Report. Visit his website at www.hawvernews.com