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Senate approves three nominees to Kansas Board of Regents after unprecedented scrutiny

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GOP skeptics raise alarms about governor’s selection of Winter, Lane

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TOPEKA — Bipartisan majorities in the Kansas Senate voted Wednesday to confirm three nominees to the Kansas Board of Regents recommended by Gov. Laura Kelly.

The process of considering nominations of former BNSF Railway executive Carl Ice, retired Kansas City school superintendent Cynthia Lane and former banker and state Sen. Wint Winter took on an unusually high level of political intrigue as some GOP lawmakers sought to derail Kelly’s picks of Lane and Winter to the state board with oversight of more than 30 public universities, community colleges and technical colleges.

The Senate Education Committee conducted an extensive evaluation of the nominees despite a unanimous vote of support last year by the interim Senate Confirmation Committee. The three nominees had been participating fully in Board of Regents meetings for months.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said evidence raised in the extended process resulted in a recommendation Ice be confirmed. She said the other nominees — Winter and Lane — were forwarded to the Senate without a recommendation because some lawmakers were convinced the nominees hadn’t been sufficiently transparent in answers to 44 written questions and a series of additional oral inquiries.

“They did have a fair hearing,” Baumgardner said. “It is up to this body to assure that the nomination process and the appointment process isn’t perfunctory.”

Sen. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, urged senators unwilling to vote against a nominee to consider passing on the Board of Regents nominations. That same tactic could be relied upon by senators not 100% convinced in viability of a nominee, he said. If there were enough passing and no votes to block nominees, he said, Kelly would be forced to come back to the Senate with new picks for the Board of Regents

Ice won unanimous support from the Senate with a 38-0 vote. The margin for Winter was 24-9, while Lane was confirmed 23-11. Four Republican senators passed on Winter and Lane. Two GOP senators were absent.

Before the votes, Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, delivered a speech endorsing each of the governor’s nominees for the Board of Regents.

“Having active and engaged members of this board will help in planning and oversight of secondary education in Kansas,” Francisco said. “I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically express my support for Senator Wint Winter. He was a member of the Kansas Senate for 10 years and did a good job.”

During the Senate Education Committee hearings, questions were raised by GOP lawmakers about political allegiances of the individuals selected by the Democratic governor. They quizzed Winter about his opposition to re-election of then-Gov. Sam Brownback, while Lane was questioned about her involvement in a school-finance lawsuit that led to a finding the Legislature’s approach to funding K-12 public schools was unconstitutional.

The political dimension of the Senate’s consideration of the nominees was unusual given that three of six members of the Board of Regents, aside from the three just confirmed, previously served in the Legislature.

In addition, Brownback selected Helen Van Etten, who served as Republican National Committeewoman, to serve on the board in 2013 at the same time she served in that high-level Republican Party position.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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