Rep. John Rubin of Shawnee said Wednesday he will not resign his seat in the Legislature, a move he was considering after being stripped of an important committee chairmanship by Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick.
But he had a few choice words Wednesday about the speaker.
“What the speaker does is run roughshod over the rules when it suits his purposes,” said Rubin, a Shawnee Republican. “He’s the speaker of the House, not the king of Kansas. He operates the House like a dictatorship.”
Rubin had considered resigning, but an outpouring from colleagues in the Legislature and from the public convinced him to stay, he said, and to continue assisting juvenile justice reform and other legislation he’s championed.
“People on both sides of the aisle pleaded with me to stay on, telling me they need my counsel and advice, particularly on the juvenile justice bill,” he said.
After a rules dispute on the House floor Tuesday, it was announced that Merrick had removed Rubin as chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee.
Shortly afterward, Rubin, shocked by his sudden and public removal from the committee, said he was considering resigning from the Legislature.
Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, also stripped Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican, of his chairmanship of the House Rules Committee. Merrick, Rubin and Barker are all conservatives in the GOP-dominated House.
Rubin, a retired federal administrative law judge, is in his third term and is not seeking re-election this year. He said he’s confident the corrections committee will continue work on juvenile justice reform.
“I feel there’s still important work that needs to be done and I can contribute to it,” he said. “I can still speak on the House floor. Merrick cannot strip that away from me.”
The dispute arose when Rubin, Barker and others tried to engage a debate about adjusting the tax structure for reopening dog and horse racetracks, including The Woodlands in Wyandotte County. It’s a proposal opposed by the operators of Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.
Merrick objected, and the Rules Committee, even though headed by Barker, sided with Merrick that the bill couldn’t be debated.
Merrick said he had a “very heavy heart” in ousting Rubin and Barker. In a written statement, he cited Rubin’s attempt to “manipulate the House rules” to pull a bill out of committee.
“There is the possibility that expanding gaming in Kansas could result in the state being forced to pay over $100 million to the current operators of the state owned casinos,” Merrick said. “The Appropriations committee will give this issue a fair hearing and will allow both sides to make their case.”
Rubin questioned Merrick’s shifting of bills from the House to committees. But he said Merrick is in charge of committee assignments and didn’t violate any rules in removing him.
“I serve at his pleasure,” Rubin said. “But he serves at the pleasure of the majority of the House of Representatives. And he needs to remember that.”