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Local legislator toppled from House committee

Staff writer

Last week’s removal of Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) as chair of the House Rules Committee will likely have little impact on Marion County’s representation, Barker and a fellow legislator said.

Barker’s district includes Durham, Lehigh, Lincolnville, Lost Springs, Marion, Ramona, and Tampa in Marion County.

House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) abruptly removed Barker as committee chair after Barker’s committee declined to debate a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 415 that would restore dog and horse racing by expanding gambling at tracks.

Barker said he was surprised by Merrick’s decision but has accepted it.

“I ruled in favor of the speaker,” Barker said. “We serve at his pleasure.”

He points out that he remains chairman of the Jucidiary Committee, which is more important than the Rules Committee.

“I don’t know what his reasoning was, we never discussed it,” Barker said. “I’ve accepted it. I’m busy with the Judiciary. We’ve got a lot of bills we need to concentrate on, and I’m just focusing on that.”

The number of people Merrick has moved around doesn’t surprise Barker.

“It’s not unusual that every two years they move people around because they want you to get the concept of the whole scope of government,” Barker said.

Barker speculates that he and Merrick differed on an issue.

Rep. Don Schroeder (R-Hesston), who also represents portions of the county, said he doesn’t believe Barker’s ouster will have any effect on the constituents in his district.

“He hasn’t been replaced on any of the other committees he’s on, so I really don’t think it will have any effect on the area,” Schroeder said.

Barker remains on the Legislative Post Audit, Veterans, Military and Homeland Security, Pensions and Benefits, and Local Government committees.

Schroeder speculated the move might have a little effect on the cohesiveness of the Republican Party in the Capitol.

“This time of the session there’s a lot of discussion that goes on between members,” Schroeder said.

Merrick has made a number of changes in committees. The same day he removed Barker, he removed Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee) — who tried to get House Bill 415 heard — as chair of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. In December, he removed Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) from a committee focusing on issues affecting children and seniors. In November, he removed three Republicans from a health committee out of concern they would vote to expand Medicaid.

Schroeder, asked if the number of committee removals has been excessive, agreed the number seems high.

Last modified March 23, 2016

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