Sen. Vicki Schmidt will chair the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee next year, regaining a position she last held in 2012.
“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. She appointed Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee, to chair the health committee.
But Pilcher-Cook and Wagle 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, a 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 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 said she was happy to see that Wagle had also appointed McGinn as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee that McGinn last held 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 said she had no agenda for the Senate health committee yet. But she said the committee traditionally hears licensing issues from medical providers and she was sure that medical marijuana legislation would be introduced in the Senate.
Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, has introduced medical marijuana bills in each of the last two legislative cycles.