Kansas Sen. Vicki Schmidt is regaining the chairmanship of the state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for next year.
“I’m certainly excited to chair public health and welfare again and excited for the opportunities to explore issues that are very important to Kansans,” Schmidt said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Schmidt, a Republican pharmacist from Topeka, last chaired the committee during the 2012 legislative session, when the chamber was led by moderate Republicans.
Senate President Steve Morris and other moderates were replaced in the 2012 Republican primary by more conservative candidates who had the backing of Gov. Sam Brownback and some lobbying groups. Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, was elected Senate president after that.
Wagle then appointed Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee, to chair the health committee. But the two had a dispute last year over Pilcher-Cook’s tactics for opposing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and Wagle gave the chairmanship to Sen. Michael O’Donnell, another Republican from Wichita.
O’Donnell decided not to run for re-election this year and instead won a seat on the Sedgwick County Commission.
Wagle was re-elected Senate president for the upcoming 2017 session. She has forged a new coalition of centrist and center-right Republicans, including moderates who weathered 2012 primary challenges like Schmidt and Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Republican from Sedgwick.
Schmidt is happy to see that, while she will head the health committee again, Wagle has also appointed McGinn to chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. McGinn last held the post in the 2012 session.
“We’ll look forward to the experience she’s also had chairing that committee previously,” Schmidt said. “I believe that she did a really good job chairing that committee.”
Schmidt says she had no agenda for the Senate health committee yet. But she says the committee traditionally hears licensing issues from medical providers. She is also sure that medical marijuana legislation would be introduced in the Senate. Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City who has introduced medical marijuana bills in each of the last two legislative cycles.
Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso.