Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Republicans Re-Elect Merrick as House Speaker ; Challenge from Peck Unsuccessful; Burroughs Elected Minority Leader

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Republicans Re-Elect Merrick as House Speaker ; Challenge from Peck Unsuccessful; Burroughs Elected Minority Leader

Article excerpt

Republicans stood by Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick on Monday, ensuring the Stilwell lawmaker will retain his grip on power in the chamber for two more years.

Merrick easily overcame a challenge within the Republican caucus during a pre-session meeting in the House chamber from Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, defeating Peck by a vote of 80-16.

Merrick's re-election as speaker comes after a flap last month when he said government workers "produce nothing" while discussing economic growth in an interview. The comment produced a petition drive led by Democrats seeking Merrick's ouster.

Representatives speaking in support of Merrick praised his ability to focus the House and his role in presiding over successful sessions. Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park, said Merrick has been consistent and fair.

"He focuses on keeping the House together through listening and consensus-building. I think one of the things that strikes me most about Ray in his leadership and management style is he's constantly focusing on what's doing the right thing for Kansas," Lunn said.

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, nominated Merrick. He touted the speaker's open-door policy with lawmakers and said Merrick seeks to get things done.

"He kept the caucus informed at all times about what was happening with legislation. With his leadership, it has been reported the last legislative session was one of the most productive and successful in recent history," Barker said.

A supporter of Peck, however, expressed disappointment that there hasn't been greater access. When he nominated Peck, Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, said there had been no leadership forum this year for legislators to question candidates.

Garber also said Peck would end the practice of bill bundling, which he said leads to problems.

"Representative Peck is committed to stopping the common practice of bundling bills in conference committee reports. …

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