Mission Hills Rep. Barbara Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist who has been an outspoken voice on health care issues during her six-year tenure in the Kansas House of Representatives, was among the victims of Speaker Ray Merrick’s unorthodox move Wednesday to remove a number of moderate legislators from key committee appointments.
Merrick announced yesterday afternoon that Bollier, Beloit Rep. Susan Concannon and Emporia Rep. Don Hill, a pharmacist — all moderates — were being replaced on the House Health and Human Services Committee with more conservative Reps. Willie Dove of Bonner Springs, Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee, and John Whitmer of Wichita.
Merrick’s changes to the health committee, combined with moves to replace moderate voices on education and budget committees, were quickly dubbed the “Veterans Day Massacre” by political insiders.
The three representatives ousted from HHS quickly pointed to their stance in favor of Medicaid expansion in the state as the motivation for their removal. Bollier lamented the fact that the three committee members with “the most direct health care experience” had been booted.
“This does not help health care policy in Kansas,” Bollier said. “We were removed because of our support for Medicaid expansion.”
Merrick appeared to acknowledge as much in a statement prepared for the media.
“Kansans oppose expanding Obamacare, a program that has busted budget after budget in states that have expanded it,” he said.
But, says Bollier, removing the most-experienced committee members over their position on a single issue does a huge disservice to taxpayers who depend on the committee to make informed choices on a variety of health care bills.
“While Medicaid expansion is a huge issue, it is but one of many that affect the overall health of Kansans,” she said. “Good government allows all voices to be heard, discussion to take place, and votes to be taken. We should all be concerned about the deterioration of the democratic process in Kansas.”
Bollier had served on the HHS committee since coming to the House in 2009. In that time, she has butted heads with more conservative legislators on issues that dealt with medical science, including bills to further restrict access to abortion.
It’s not the first time one of northeast Johnson County’s moderate Republicans has been shuffled out of a key committee assignment after failing to toe the conservative party line. Merrick excluded Fairway Rep. Melissa Rooker from the House Education Committee on which she had served the previous two years ahead of last session. Rooker had been a strong opponent of conservatives’ maneuvering to pass legislation that hampered teachers’ collective bargaining rights in 2014.