A leading Republican on financial matters in Kansas has decided to step away from the Kansas Legislature, just over a month after he was re-elected.
Rep. Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park said this week that he’ll step down on Jan. 10. The legislative session starts the day before.
The 59-year-old, who was chairman of the House taxation committee during his last term, said he came to the decision in the last few weeks. Hawver’s Capitol Report first reported the news.
Kleeb is getting married next week, he said, and the couple agreed they should focus on each other, family and friends.
“It just quite frankly didn’t seem right to start off a new marriage and a new chapter of life by going back to Topeka for two years, especially where I really have found out how precious life is,” he said. “I turn 60 next week, which isn’t … I’m no spring chicken.”
Kleeb said his first wife died three years ago of pancreatic cancer.
There won’t be a special election to fill Kleeb’s 48th District seat, which covers part of Overland Park. The seat will be filled through a local Republican precinct meeting at some point in the next few weeks. Kleeb has served in the Legislature since 2009.
Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said two or three people already are interested in the seat. Both Barker and Kleeb said they expect the replacement to start almost as soon as Kleeb resigns on Jan. 10.
Barker described the outgoing representative as a “cool head” and “fiscally savvy.”
“That’s a loss to the state and the party, the House,” Barker said. “He was always one of the quiet guys like (Sen. Jim) Denning that just sort of understood the money part.”
Incoming House minority leader Jim Ward said he wished Kleeb all the best.
“If his heart’s not in it then he really shouldn’t do it because these are challenging times,” said Ward, a Wichita Democrat. “We need 100 percent from everybody. While I didn’t often agree with Rep. Kleeb, I always appreciated his perspective and enjoyed working with him.”
Kleeb is retiring from the Legislature as a series of financial issues loom before state lawmakers. There’s the immediate concern around the state’s $348 million shortfall this year, with another $582 million gap during the next fiscal year. Lawmakers will also have to take on school finance during the next legislative session.
The block grant system the Legislature has in place is set to expire in 2017. And lawmakers are also waiting on a decision in the Gannon v. Kansas school finance case from the Kansas Supreme Court.
“I’ve always wanted to be solutions oriented and a contributor,” Kleeb said. “It was a difficult decision for that reason.”