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Statehouse Conversations2021-07-24T09:49:37-05:00

Statehouse Conversations

About this Collection

Statehouse Conversations contains interviews with former legislators who served from 1960-2020. The collection is significant because the interviews focus on public policy issues and the dynamics of the legislative process as the starting point for legislators’ recollections. Interviewees were selected because they played leadership roles in the development of substantive public policy.

 
Marvin Barkis, Kansas

Interview of Marvin Barkis, October 27, 2017

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Marvin Barkis discusses, in detail, the various processes within the House of Representatives in its day-to-day work. He points out differences in working as the majority versus the minority party and talks about working with the governors during his terms in office. When Barkis was the minority leader, he tried to build a sense of community among party members to facilitate working together. Barkis also made changes in legislative procedures to promote efficiency. Much of the interview addresses these internal procedures. Marvin Barkis' primary legislative passion was children’s issues and the interview covers the various attempts to Show Morework on a variety of topics to aid children. He was also involved with school finance, reapportionment, and the death penalty. Show Less
Gus Bogina, Kansas

Interview of August (Gus) Bogina, February 6, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
In this 2018 oral history interview, former State Senator August (Gus) Bogina discusses his service in the Kansas Legislature, focusing on his 14 years in the Senate. Bogina reflects on his relationships with Senate leaders and governors during his 11 sessions as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Bogina also describes his storied ride with the Highway Patrol when he was brought back from Johnson County following bypass surgery to cast the deciding vote on the water plan funding. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society.
Dick Bond, Kansas

Interview of Richard (Dick) Bond, September 6, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Former Senate President Dick Bond candidly discusses his 14 year career in the Kansas Senate which followed a 25 year career in Washington DC as chief of staff for 3 congressmen. Well known in Kansas Republican circles, Bond was appointed to fill a vacancy when Senator Jack Walker became Lieutenant Governor. Bond compares the politics of Washington to Kansas. He saw the passage of liquor-by-the-drink as a boon to economic development. Bond is most proud of the renovation to the Kansas Capitol which was started under his term as President of the Kansas Senate. He Show Morereflected on the changes in the Republican party in recent years and the role the Right to Life movement played in those changes. Show Less
dick sue bond legislative wives kansas

The Legislative Wives – Conversation with Sue Bond, wife of former Senator Dick Bond, September 6, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
This short conversation with Sue Bond describes her experiences with other wives of Kansas legislators and wives of Kansas Governors. The Legislative Wives Association was formally organized in 1933 as a social medium for the wives of Kansas state legislators during sessions. The group held luncheons every week, rotating who acted as hostesses. Informally organized in 1929, the group originally met at the Topeka YWCA and later met at hotels in the city, mostly the Jayhawk Hotel. In this conversation Bond describes the Wives group as important for social support, information sharing, and fund-raising for Cedar Crest with Show Morethe sale of their Capitol Cookbook. Show Less

Interview of Bill Bunten, February 18, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
Bill Bunten's 28 years in the House, 20 of them on the Ways and Means or Appropriations committee, gave him tremendous knowledge about the state budget. He chaired Appropriations from 1983 until 1990 when he left the legislature. He returned to the state senate in 2003 to fill an unexpired term. Bunten later became Mayor of Topeka from 2005 until 2013, serving for 2 terms.
Christine Downey, Kansas

Interview of Christine Downey, August 2, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
Former State Senator Christine Downey recalls her three terms in the Kansas Senate (1993-2004) during her 2019 oral history interview. With her background as a teacher, education issues were important to her as the era of school-funding litigation continued. She was involved in water-related policy making, in particular at the nexus of water quality and agricultural practices. She recalls her service in the Senate and on the Kansas Board of Regents first developing the policy and then implementing fundamental changes to the postsecondary education system. Ms. Downey discusses numerous instances of working across the aisle Show Moreto accomplish policy objectives that did not break on strict party lines. Show Less
tim emert kansas

Interview of Tim Emert, October 4, 2019

Interviewed by Jim McLean
Tim Emert's interview covers his Senate career in the last decade of the Twentieth century, following passage of a markedly different school finance bill in 1992 and with a divided Republican caucus in the Senate--a time of big change. Emert stepped into the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary committee immediately and later moved up to Majority Leader by a one-vote margin. The interview is filled with descriptions of coalitions he formed to get legislation passed. As Judiciary chair Emert dealt with both the death penalty, which he personally opposed, and a bill restricting late term abortions which Show Moreno one liked but passed. He worked with Christine Downey to get a major policy change regarding community colleges. There are also descriptions of his work on the State Board of Education and later, the Board of Regents. Emert describes himself as neither moderate or conservative, but "a realistic Republican." As Majority Leader he talks about the "juggling act" trying to keep communication with the conservative House Speakers (Shallenburger and Jennison) and the Senate. He explains the tension in having both the poorest and richest counties in his district and trying to provide equalization of school funding. The interview touches on the renovation of the Capitol and also renovation of Cedar Crest. Show Less
Jack Euler

Interview of Jack Euler, April 22, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
Jack Euler talks about his ten years in the Legislature and the formal and informal leadership dynamics he witnessed. Euler notes the changes in the Legislature that began with initial implementation of the one person, one vote principle as the basis for legislative districts rather than the county-based system that had existed since statehood. He describes how redistricting gradually changed the urban-rural dynamic of the House. Euler also reflects on the influence of lobbyists on both legislation and leadership in the House.

Interview of Robert (Bob) Frey, August 2, 2019

Interviewed by Jim McLean
Robert Frey had considerable impact on the legal system after he arrived in 1975. Court unification had passed as a constitutional amendment; now the legislature had to implement it. Early in his legislative career Frey took on some controversial issues, such as the hearings he held in the House Judiciary committee on the Posse Comitatus to ban paramilitary training and legislation ensuring every county had a judge. This interview does not deal with the plethora of issues which originated in the House Judiciary committee under Frey's leadership, such as codification of the sexual crimes including marital rape, Show Morebut it does reveal his philosophy about the law, the courts and judges. The interview also provides a glimpse into the rise of the conservative influence from a group know as "the Cowboys." The interview concludes with a discussion of activities on the Board of Tax Appeals. Show Less

Interview of Kent Glasscock, June 11, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
As Majority Leader, and then as Kansas House Speaker, Kent Glasscock found ways to work productively with the conservative wing of the Republican caucus. The first part of the interview describes how Glasscock decided to run for office and his six campaigns. As he moved up in leadership, the interview talks about several situations where his views as a moderate Republican clashed with the growing number of conservatives in the Republican caucus. Finally, Speaker Shallenburger called Glasscock to his office and together they made peace and subsequently worked well together. Glasscock cites the school finance bill that Show Moredealt with a capital outlay for school buildings as one of his best, most long-lasting accomplishments as well as the Confined Animal Feeding legislation. Styling himself as a true "policy wonk", Glasscock's descriptions of legislative antics in passing legislation are really interesting. This interview gives a picture of how the legislature transitioned to conservative control during his 12 years in office. Show Less

Interview of Ron Hein, April 16, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Ron Hein, legislator, lobbyist, lawyer speaks about his 47 years in and around the Kansas Legislature and his impact on Kansas policy. He ran first for the House in 1974 in a 7-way primary which he won. Two years later he ran for the Senate, winning after extensive door-to-door campaigning against a well-known Senator, Bob Storey. He was just 25 when he was sworn into the Senate in 1975, He tells some interesting anecdotes about working with Speaker Pete McGill and Senate President Ross Doyen, particularly in his first years in the legislature. Hein sponsored Show Moreor cosponsored 142 pieces of legislation on a wide variety of topics. His interview recounts the difficulty he had getting the Higher Education Loan program passed when he was in the House. Ultimately it failed the first year, but passed the second. Hein noted the lack of lawyers in today's legislature is detrimental to the process, as is an increased lack of civility. The interview concludes with Hein discussing his lobbying career and why he felt he needed to leave elected office when T. Boone Pickens approached him to represent Mesa Petroleum. Hein notes that he has been more successful getting legislation passed as a lobbyist than as a legislator. Show Less
Dave Heinemann, Kansas

Interview of Dave Heinemann, July 10, 2014

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In this 2014 oral history interview, Dave Heinemann recalls his long career in the Kansas House representing Garden City, a career that spanned the years during which there were important changes in Kansas government. He served during an era when rural influence in the Legislature was waning due to fundamental changes in legislative districts. Heinemann's recollections of how legislators serve their constituents and how they worked with one another to craft legislation paint a picture of collaboration in the creation of public policy. His perspective points to the importance of personal relationships with colleagues within the chamber, Show Moreacross the rotunda in the Senate, and with the Governor's office. Show Less

Interview of Don Hineman, August 20, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Representative Don Hineman describes himself as a centrist Republican whose views were shaped by his service as a local elected official. In the interview he talks about the legislative process and his experience on the Federal and State Affairs committee passing a bill to designate the state fossil and why that was important to some of his young constituents. Hineman discusses the state's fiscal difficulties under Governor Sam Brownback and his efforts to work with House Democrat Bill Feuerborn to pass a sales tax increase, and then to override the gubernatorial veto. Hineman illustrates how the use Show Moreof power by legislative leadership can block something that the public wants using the issue of Medicaid Expansion. He concludes by talking about the decline of civility in the legislative process. Show Less

Interview of Patrick Hurley, March 23, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Pat Hurley had a wide ranging career for over 40 years as a legislator, administrator, lobbyist and lawyer where he had a profound impact on Kansas public policy and government. Hurlely's rapid rise to a leadership position in the House is unprecedented; he credits his legal training with his ability to analyze legislation. His close association with former Governor John Carlin led to his becoming Secretary of Administration and centralizing and standardizing many of the processes of that agency. While Hurley was Majority Leader, he developed working relationships that were critical to his success. The death Show Morepenalty and a proposed new prison were two issues he dealt with as Majority Leader. Hurley was attracted to working for Governor Carlin by the opportunity to manage policy issues, functioning as a de facto chief of staff to the governor while he was Secretary of Administration. Hurley developed a process for policy analysis in this role. Hurley left the governor's office after five years and began working as a contract lobbyist on big state issues such as multi-bank holding companies and several transportation plans with Economic Lifelines for several governors. He also did contract procurement work for corporations and businesses. This interview is a good look behind the scenes at how government functioned and how policy is developed and passed. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
Kansas House Speaker Robin Jennison

Interview of Robin Jennison, October 4, 2019

Interviewed by Jim McLean
Jim McLean’s interview of Robin Jennison is lengthy but full of interesting stories and anecdotes about what went on in the legislature in the last decade of the 20th Century. McLean teases out both the politics and policy from Jennison’s experiences in the House with the 1992 school finance bill and his Republican alternative. Jennison shares his philosophy on how to fund schools, lower property taxes, leadership races and his rapid rise to Speaker in the 1999-2000 sessions. The strategy he used to pass the 1999 transportation bill out of the House is clever. There is Show Morean anecdote about replacing carpet in the Judicial Center and what it took to get that appropriation passed. Jennison describes his role as Secretary of Wildlife and Parks and working under Governor Brownback. Show Less
Michael Johnston, Kansas

Interview of Michael (Mike) Johnston, February 26, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In a 2015 oral history interview, Mike Johnston recalls his time in the Kansas Senate from being a newly-elected Senator to his successful race for Minority Leader, unseating the incumbent Leader. Johnston talks about his interactions with other senators and the dynamics of the Senate in the mid-'80s. He discusses his relationship with the Governor's Office as he joined the administration of Joan Finney after deciding not to seek another term in the Senate. Johnston recalls the role of lobbyists in the legislative process and his perspective on that role when, after his retirement from the Turnpike Authority, Show Morehe represented the League of Kansas Municipalities for a short time. Show Less
Jerry Karr, Kansas

Interview of Gerald (Jerry) Karr, May 11, 2017

Interviewed by Janice Huston
This interview of Senator Jerry Karr by Janice Huston for the Lyon County Historical Society is lengthy, but gives great insight into the 18 years Karr spent in the Kansas Senate. It also covers his academic career which preceded his election and delves into rural life in Kansas. It begins with his Sierra Leone experiences teaching agricultural economics and other teaching jobs in the Midwest. Karr was elected to the state Senate in 1980 which is the time the farm crisis started boiling over in Kansas. During those first 10 years he developed legislation addressing Show Morethe farm crisis, including changing the method of selecting the Secretary of Agriculture, altering the classification and reappraisal of land, and regulating corporate hog farming. His service on the Joint Rules and Regulations Administrative committee helped him shape agricultural policy. He became Minority Leader ten years after his first election. Redistricting in 1991 ended up in the courts and spelled the end of many rural Democrats. There are numerous examples of policy making, particularly the details about the 1992 school finance legislation that amplify others’ accounts of that legislation. His examples of effective leadership and effective campaigning will be of interest to many. The interview also covers communication with constituents in a large district and has anecdotes about issues leaders have to deal with. Karr covers just about all aspects of leading a caucus and life in the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. Show Less
Dave Kerr, Kansas

Interview of Dave Kerr, August 23, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
In a 2019 oral history interview Dave Kerr recalls nearly 20 years in the Kansas Senate including his terms as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and President of the Senate. His tenure in the senate spanned the period when state resources were directed toward economic development, an effort he thought was much needed. Kerr also recalls the revamping of the public education funding formula in 1992 and reorganization of governance and oversight of postsecondary education. He observes that key characteristics of a leader are willingness to listen to various points of view and endure the Show More"slings and arrows" of leadership. Show Less
Senator Fred Kerr

Interview of Fred Kerr, March 30, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
This is the first of two oral history interviews of Fred Kerr in this collection. (Ed Flentje conducted the second interview 2018.) Kerr reflects on his 15 years in the Kansas Senate representing the 33rd Senate district. He recalls Senate leaders and fellow Senators who helped him as a freshman and the influence of those mentors on his career. Fred talks extensively about the process involved in securing a leadership position in the Senate and the dynamics of leadership races. He also reflects on the urban-rural divide in Kansas politics that during the late Show More1970s and early to mid 1980s was often more of a force than the partisan divide. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. A more recent oral history interview of Fred Kerr is here. Show Less
Senator Fred Kerr

Interview of Fred Kerr, April 13, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Fred Kerr reflects on his 15 years in the Kansas Senate representing the 33rd Senate district. He recalls Senate leaders and fellow Senators who helped him as a freshman and whose influence guided him throughout his career. Fred talks about the process involved in securing a leadership position in the Senate and the dynamics of leadership races. He observes how relationships between competitors for leadership offices affected Senators differently and how they worked together in subsequent legislative sessions. He also reflects on how decisions were made regarding tax policy both to fund highways and public schools. Show MoreFred, who ran for Governor in 1994, comments about the increasing influence of money and monied interests in state-wide politics. A previous oral history interview of Fred Kerr is here. Show Less
Wendell Lady, Kansas

Interview of Wendell Lady, December 15, 2017

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
In a 2017 oral history interview, Wendell Lady, former Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives recalls identifying early in his tenure that the important decisions were made in the Ways and Means Committee which he chaired prior to becoming Speaker of the House. Lady recalls the group of young legislators who he mentored and who became his committee chairs when he was speaker. He also recalls and puts in some historic context the long-term debate over school funding. Lady recalls good relationships with Governors and with legislators and leadership across the aisle. Despite being from Show Morethe State's largest suburban county, Lady established close ties with representatives from very rural districts. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
Jim Maag

Interview of James (Jim) Maag, July 17, 2014

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In this 2014 oral history interview, Jim Maag reflects on his service in the Kansas House of Representatives (1969-1976) including his term as Speaker pro tem (1975-1976). It was a time of significant change and modernization of the Kansas Legislature and its processes. Maag provides a view into the evolution of the Legislature into a more professional organization. He comments on the bipartisan approaches to policymaking during that era when the urban-rural split affected the dynamic more often than purely partisan considerations. He was witness to the impact of the one person, one vote court Show Morecase as well as the increased number of women legislators and the reduced number of attorneys. Jim's recollections draw a vivid picture of an institution in transition. His connection with the Legislature continued in his role of legislative liasion for Governor Bennett and later as a lobbyist for the Kansas Bankers Association. Show Less
Ardena Matlack

Interview of Ardena Matlack, April 8, 2021

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Ardena Matlack describes the Kansas House of Representatives in the 1970’s when so few women were in the Kansas Legislature. Additionally, her second term she experienced being in the majority as a Democrat—something that seldom occurred. While in the majority, she started on the Federal and State Affairs committee as Vice-Chair, and moved up to chair the committee the second year of her term. The committee dealt with the ERA, abortion, liquor and a host of controversial issues. She also served on the Judiciary committee. Her discussion of gerrymandering shows the difficulty in dealing Show Morewith reapportionment that led to her husband losing his Senate seat and encouraging her to run for the House. She also dealt with environmental issues and water issues, particularly in Sedgwick County. Matlack worked with Treasurer Joan Finney to get the first Unclaimed Property law passed. Show Less
Speaker Doug Mays

Interview of Doug Mays, September 25, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
This interview with former Speaker Doug Mays contains good insight into how the Kansas House of Representatives functioned at the end of the Twentieth Century and the first decade of the Twenty-First. The institution was changing as its membership became more conservative. Mays describes in great detail how its leadership dealt with controversial issues such as school finance and taxation. Mays cites two issues as his proudest accomplishments: passing a sales tax to lower property taxes for Washburn University and neighborhood revitalization legislation. Speaker Mays notes that every time a bill came through, he read Show Moreit. His discussion of the power of the speaker is illustrated with numerous examples. “ I believed in the process. I believed that the speaker was the keeper, the protector of the process.” He promoted civility in the body and developed a good relationship with the Minority Leader Dennis McKinney which allowed him to end the 2005 Special Session without adjourning sine die. Mays promoted greater use of technology for the legislature and tightening of deadlines to ensure smooth operations. There are several examples of his relationship with governors. Anyone interested in being a speaker should read this interview. Show Less

Interview of Dennis McKinney, August 23, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
Dennis McKinney developed many insights in his sixteen years as a leader in the minority party into how the legislature did work, and how it should work. He recounts numerous instances when things worked well because of bipartisan cooperation and compromise. McKinney's experiences on the House Energy and Natural Resources committee working with Carl Holmes and Ken Grotewiel helped shape water policy in Kansas. His experience as a farmer and rancher in south central Kansas coupled with his focus on problem solving led to his reputation as a "middle of the road legislator" who would work Show Morewith both political sides as well as urban and rural. McKinney was committed to public education as well as conservation. The pursuit of fair and balanced tax policy shaped his actions. The interview highlights the importance of leadership from the governor's office and other legislative leaders (Mays, Shallenburger, D. Kerr, Morris). There is an interesting segment about the 2005 Special Session on school finance where McKinney talks about using the courts as leverage. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of the Greensburg tornado. Show Less
robert bob miller kansas representative

Interview of Robert (Bob) Miller, November 9, 2017

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Former Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, Robert (Bob) Miller recalls his many years of service to the State. He describes his involvement with the Young Republicans at K-State, his first campaign to represent his area of Sumner County, and moving up through the ranks in the House despite not having ambition for any other elected position. Miller reflects on his sometimes arms-length relationships with fellow House members and with lobbyists. From his position as chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee he oversaw the development of implementing legislation for liquor-by-the-drink, parimutuel wagering, and Show Morethe State Lottery by building subject-matter expertise within the committee. Miller describes instances when legislators' positions on policy issues did not break along purely partisan nor on purely urban-rural lines. He also witnessed the early development of what eventually became the conservative movement in the Legislature. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
steve morris kansas senate

Interview of Stephen Morris, July 15, 2020

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Senate President Steve Morris gives a lengthy and detailed account of his twenty years in the Senate and his eight years as president. A former Hugoton school board member, Morris challenged a 16 year incumbent Democrat (Leroy Hayden) and won by a 2:1 margin in the 1992 election. During this period there were several high profile issues which Morris championed. Casino gambling passed in 2007 after a 12 hour filibuster. A coal-fired plant (Sunflower Electric) in Holcomb wanted to expand but Governor Sebelius vetoed that bill, twice. The Special Session of 2005 dealt with a Show MoreSupreme Court order to increase education funding to constitutional levels which took 12 days to develop a consensus. A 2010 transportation plan was passed during a recession. Morris initiated a three-university plan to increase the number of engineers in the state by 65 percent beginning in 2011, assisted by Senator Carolyn McGinn. Governor Sam Brownback's "tax experiment" which was passed in 2012 took huge amounts out of the transportation plan to close budget gaps. The interview contains a detailed account of the shenanigans that took place after the Senate refused to pass the Brownback bill. The Governor pleaded with Morris to reverse their action and send the bill to conference, which Morris did, only to find the House concurring to pass the original bill. Morris ran again, but was defeated in a Republican primary. Show Less

Interview of Mike O'Neal, April 16, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Former Speaker Mike O'Neal's interview covers his 28 years in the Kansas House and his impact as chair of the House Judiciary committee on the Kansas legal system, both criminal and civil. In fact, O'Neal has chaired the House Judiciary Committee three different times totaling 13 years and also has served as Chairman of the House Education Committee and a redistricting committee in 2002. He has been involved with workers compensation issues and medical malpractice. O'Neal explains his own evolution in thinking as he, and his constituents, became more conservative. He candidly discusses his race for Speaker Show Moreof the House and compares the leadership styles of other speakers with whom he served. O'Neal left the House in 2012 after finishing his second term as Speaker to take a position with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce as its chief executive officer. After four years with the Kansas Chamber he retired to open his own legal consulting and governmental relations firm, O'Neal Consulting, LLC. Show Less
bill reardon kansas representative

Interview of William (Bill) Reardon, August 2, 2019

Interviewed by Jim McLean
Bill Reardon is a story-teller, famous in the Democrat caucus for his jokes, stories and anecdotes, told with great enthusiasm. This entertaining interview is also filled with some of those stories. Reardon talks about how he was inspired by seeing John F. Kennedy in Kansas City and also by his brother and father, both political figures in Wyandotte County. There is an entertaining description of a hearing he chaired in the Federal and State Affairs committee on the Equal Rights Amendment in 1977. Reardon divides his legislative service into two periods—the bipartisan problem-solving work of the first 15 years, and Show Morea more ideologically driven, partisan era in the last fifteen years. His descriptions of developing and passing the 1992 school finance bill are consistent with other interviews of legislators serving at that time. Reardon tells stories about how leadership worked and discloses his observations about the Brownback years when he was serving as a lobbyist for the school district. He did end the interview with his story about a land turtle which was not transcribed because of its length, but if you see Reardon, ask him about the turtle story. Show Less

Interview of Edward (Ed) Reilly, July 2, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
In his 2019 oral history interview former State Senator Ed Reilly recalls controversial issues that went through the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee during his tenure as chair (1971-1992). Those issues include the death penalty, liquor by the drink, lottery, pari-mutuel wagering, and casino gambling, some of which required adoption of Constitutional amendments. Reilly attributes the acceptance of those cultural changes in part to the need to raise additional state revenue. Reilly recalls professional relationships with the Statehouse press corps and the influence of grass-roots interests. He observed the increase in the number of women in the Legislature and Show Morecomments about their contributions. Show Less

Interview of Tim Shallenburger, September 25, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
This interview with Tim Shallenburger, former Speaker and twelve-year House member is packed full of interesting anecdotes covering his philosophy of leadership, antics in the House, battles fought and won. Shallenburger was the first "conservative" Speaker following a wave of conservatives being elected beginning in the early 1990's. He candidly discusses why he ran for office in a largely Democratic district, how he moved up in the leadership and developed relationships with other legislative leaders in both House and Senate. Early in his time in the House, Shallenburger was part of a group known as the "rebels". Show More He watched other people's leadership styles and learned how to be a leader himself, first getting elected Speaker Pro Tem and then Speaker, beating Speaker Bob Miller in a "not-so-close" race. Shallenburger learned how to count votes. He doesn't see himself as having an "agenda", other than being fair as a leader. Shallenburger describes the rules changes the rebels made in the House when Jim Braden was Speaker to allow more bills to be heard or pulled out of committee. Bill Graves was Governor throughout all four years of Shallenburger' s term as Speaker. Shallenburger left the legislature to become State Treasurer. After 2010 he served as legislative liaison for Governor Brownback. Shallenburger talks openly about his relationships with numerous governors and senate leaders. The interview closes with a discussion of redistricting. Show Less

Interview of Ralph Skoog, July 17, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In his 2015 oral history interview, former Representative Ralph Skoog recalls a Kansas Legislature in transition. Ralph was initially elected to represent Topeka and Shawnee County in 1961, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's Baker v. Carr 'one-person, one-vote' decision. His first 'district' was one-third of Shawnee County. When he returned to the House in 1967 after an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1964, he represented a more equal-size district of approximately 17, 000 residents of the County. Ralph recalls a legislature very much in transition at the beginning of the decline of rural domination of Show Morethe policymaking process and at the beginning of institutional change that came to fruition after the end of his last term. He recalls passage of important highway, prison, and school district consolidation legislation during his time of service in the House. Show Less
Jim-Slattery

Interview of James (Jim) Slattery, March 6, 2020

Interviewed by Jim McLean
The 1970's marked major changes in state government. They are doing away with county welfare offices and creating the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) Concerns over lack of equalization started with Caldwell school finance case. Transportation is being centralized and modernized with the creation of the Department of Transportation (KDOT). Slattery even introduced legislation to decriminalize small amount of marijuana. Campaign finance reform (post-Watergate) and hiring non-partisan, professional staff for the legislature took hold. Slattery and another new freshman, Mike Hayden support legislation to clean up strip mines and reclaim mined Show Morelands. The first income tax reform was initiated despite the governor's veto. Community corrections is emerging as a good strategy. Slattery describes the role of abortion in civil discourse in this interview, how it started in the Dole/Roy race in 1974, and how it continues to distort the American political system in a significant way. He explains why he ran for Congress as a deficit hawk and talked about some of his Congressional experiences. The interview closes with a story about Tip O'Neil and another about former Speaker Clyde Hill who advised Slattery to be accurate when speaking at the Well of the House. Show Less

Interview of John Solbach, June 11, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
John Solbach served in the Marines, was wounded in combat in Vietnam, returned to Kansas to finish college and law school and ran for the Kansas legislature in 1978. He represented Lawrence/rural Douglas country in the House for 14 years. Solbach's interview is replete with entertaining stories, starting with his Populist ancestors' takeover of the Kansas House in 1890, to stories about how Mike Hayden helped him get a $4,000 appropriation to bring David Eisenhower to Kansas. He teamed up with Wint Winter Jr. to pass a Uniform Conservation Easement Law in spite of Sen. Ross Doyen; Show More he and R.H. Miller stopped a group of rural electric cooperatives from taking the Wolf Creek Nuclear plant out from under the control of the Kansas Corporation Commission. Solbach considers the sentencing guidelines, passed in 1992 while he chaired the House Judiciary Committee as the best legislation of his career. Show Less
Bob Storey, Kansas

Interview of Robert (Bob) Storey, February 5, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
Bob Storey in his 2015 oral history interview recalls his service in the Kansas Senate from 1969-1976. His recollection is of a senate that was in transition in terms of urban-rural influence on policymaking due to the one-person, one-vote principle enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the mid-1960s. He recalls intricacies of interactions among senate leaders and governors and occasional intrigue in senate leadership elections. He also reflects on improvements in the functioning of state government during the years when reorganization and modernization of many state functions took place.

Interview of Jene Vickrey, September 11, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Jene Vickrey talks candidly about his first campaign (where he narrowly defeated then-Speaker Marvin Barkis) as having not much money but "a lot of shoe leather." He discusses his political mentors, Melvin Neufeld and Tim Shallenburger and the advice they gave him in the early years, about lobbyists and handling hot-button issues. He learned not only from his mentors, but other colleagues who helped him, some of whom were Democrats. The interview covers bills he sponsored, many of which were pro-life legislation. He describes the "tough challenges" such as foster care systems (he was a foster Show Moreparent), school finance and taxes. He didn't support casino gambling although his constituents were in favor of it. The interview concludes with Vickrey reflecting on the changes he saw in 28 years, the growth in the number of conservatives and a loosening of the control of the House from leadership to the body itself by rules changes for more transparency as well as becoming more partisan. Show Less
Donna Whiteman, Kansas

Interview of Donna Whiteman, January 19, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Former Representative Donna Whiteman's 2018 oral history interview provides detail about how the legislature functioned from 1983-1991. She describes the culture as less demonizing, more collegial and civil than is generally assumed by the public. Whiteman rose to a leadership position fairly quickly and became Majority Leader when the Democrats gained the majority in the House in 1991. One of Whiteman's assigned roles was to work with a group of Republicans called "The Rebels" - seven to nine members who would vote with the Democrats on certain bills. Whiteman also describes in some detail her Show Moreexperiences as a member of Governor Joan Finney's cabinet, particularly on issues such as foster care, long term care, and children and families. She observes that "after all the struggling in the 1991 session, the 1992 session is the shining star of progressive activity" and that the Children's Initiative produced visible, tangible, and beneficial legislation. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
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