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John Carlin, Kansas

Interview of John Carlin, June 14, 2019

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
This 2019 interview focuses on the experiences of John Carlin during his legislative career in the House of Representative from 1971-1978 where he led his caucus to achieve the majority party status, and his becoming only the second Democratic House speaker in the 20th Century. The interview contains anecdotes about his experiences in 4-H which he believes developed his leadership skills as well as the issues he embraced during his terms in the House. Carlin also candidly discusses the challenges he faced in working to overturn a veto of a governor of his party. Issues discussed in this interview included Show Moreprisons, the death penalty, reorganizing government, due process for teachers, court unification, centralization of the welfare system at the state level and the politics of roads and transportation. Carlin points to livestock judging as training for making decisions. Carlin believes learning to make fast, accurate decisions contributed to his political success. 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
Audrey Langworthy, Kansas

Interview of Audrey Langworthy, October 18, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
This 2019 oral history interview of former Kansas State Senator Audrey Langworthy covers her first race to unseat long-time State Senator Norman Gaar, a race she won in 1984 and her four subsequent terms--a total of 16 years. Some of her new colleagues in the Senate steered her to the Assessment and Taxation Committee which she ultimately chaired and loved. Langworthy's tenacity comes through in the interview as she talks about the steep learning curve when she got to the Senate and to the Tax Committee. She received death threat letters after her vote on capital punishment which she sent Show Moreto the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. This interview includes an interesting discussion of strategy developed to pass the 1999 transportation plan and Langworthy's role in it. Her depiction of her views on leadership, her "personal first bill" on the Oregon Trail, and the Bi-state Cultural District bill are worth reading for insight into how Langworthy operated in the Senate and how the increase in the number of women Senators changed the culture of the Senate. Show Less
Janis Lee, Kansas

Interview of Janis Lee, October 14, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Former State Senator Janis Lee's 2019 oral history interview covered her 22 years in the Kansas Senate as well as several years on the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals (formerly the Board of Tax Appeals and later returned to that name). The interview covers many topics, including how she campaigned in a rural district that increased in area over those 22 years, driving as much as 45,000 miles in an election year. Lee developed expertise in tax issues that was important to the agriculture community and in funding rural schools. Water supply was an important issue in her district, Show Moreas was adapting federal regulations so they would work in rural communities. She witnessed the shift to a more conservative legislature and more anti-abortion legislation. Funding for schools dominated most sessions. 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
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 Joe Knopp, October 15, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Joe Knopp's interview takes place 33 years after he left the legislature in 1988 after losing a close election and short-circuiting his political career. His recollections are still vivid and his interview describes a legislature that has changed considerably in recent years. Knopp served from 1981 through 1988 and during that time as chair of the House Judiciary Committee was involved in many significant issues: medical practice, corporate hog farming, changes in the DUI law, death penalty, reapportionment, severance tax. As Majority Leader he dealt with a growing split in the Republican caucus --led by the Rebels. Show More He tried to get votes for a special session on a new highway plan. He describes in detail the process of getting elected to a leadership position and how he won by one vote. He talks candidly about balancing his personal views with those of his constituents, particularly on liquor and gambling issues --and he speaks analytically about losing the election in 1988 and again in 2012 when he ran for the Senate. Good insights for anyone contemplating a run for public office. Show Less

Interview Series of Don Hill, Spring, 2017

Interviewed by Janice Huston
In a wide-ranging series of interviews conducted by Jan Huston of the Lyon County Historical Society, former Representative Don Hill talks candidly about his experiences over 14 years of service to the 60th district in the Kansas Legislature. During those 14 years Hill experienced a sea-change in legislative culture as well as saw a profound shift in political philosophy among its leaders. Hill worked closely with three governors - Sebelius, Parkinson, Brownback--and several Speakers of the House. His interviews reveal the intricacies of creating public policy and making change happen. For students of Kansas government, this Show Moreset of manuscripts will be invaluable in understanding the shifts in leadership which occurred during this period, as well as policy failures and successes with tough issues such as Medicaid expansion, a 10 year highway plan, passing a compromise to allow the coal-fired plan in the Garden City area to proceed. Show Less
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