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Lt. Gov. Colyer Takes on Responsibilities of Governor Before Taking the Job

Gov. Brownback speaking earlier this year while Lt. Gov. Colyer looks on. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has yet to step down to take a job in the Trump administration, but Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer already is taking on some of the major powers and responsibilities of the office.

The delay in Brownback’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate has led to an awkward transition period. The governor had hoped to be confirmed and serving as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom by now.

Brownback has continued to carry out the ceremonial duties common to any governor. This week, he welcomed the official state Christmas tree to the governor’s mansion and dedicated a park trail system. However, the real heavy lifting on policy issues is now transitioning to Colyer.

On Wednesday, Colyer named Gina Meier-Hummel to lead the Department for Children and Families. The governor directly oversees the Cabinet and typically the governor makes nominations, rather than the lieutenant governor.

When asked by Kansas Public Radio if he was effectively the acting governor, Colyer said he consulted Brownback on the choice.

“We worked with him. The governor was very approving of the choice,” he said Wednesday.

Colyer said Wednesday that he wasn’t frustrated by the delay in Brownback’s transition.

“You just deal with what comes your way, and that’s what we’ll do,” Colyer told reporters.

A reporter then pointed out that Colyer previously had said he hoped to take over before Thanksgiving.

“Well, Thanksgiving isn’t here quite yet,” Colyer said with a laugh.

Brownback also revealed this week that Colyer is developing the state’s budget proposal that will be unveiled in January.

“He’s doing those and getting ready for the legislative session,” said Brownback, who hopes to have his nomination confirmed by the U.S. Senate before the end of the year.

Brownback wouldn’t say if he would step down as governor if there’s no vote on his nomination before the legislative session starts.

“We’re looking at what we need to do to get cleared through for the vote,” he said.

Brownback said the delay has given him the chance to reflect on his time as governor. He pointed to attracting the American Royal livestock show to Kansas as something he’s been able to celebrate.

“It’s also been giving me a chance to express appreciation and thanks to people for all the things we’ve been able to get done,” he said.

Brownback said overhauling welfare and Medicaid programs and stabilizing the state pension plan were some of his accomplishments during his time in office.

“It’s been fun to see those things actually take root and happen and move forward,” Brownback said.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.

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