Kelly’s three nominees to Board of Regents headed to confirmation votes in full Senate

Committee endorses Ice’s nomination, neutral on Lane and Winter

By: - February 10, 2022 9:27 am
Sen. Beverly Gossage. R-Eudora, said she was disappointed former banker and one-time state Sen. Wint Winter had fallen down as a Republican and insisted on an explanation during his confirmation hearing for a seat on the Kansas Board of Regents. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Beverly Gossage. R-Eudora, said she was disappointed former banker and one-time state Sen. Wint Winter had fallen down as a Republican and insisted on an explanation during his confirmation hearing for a seat on the Kansas Board of Regents. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Republican-led Senate Education Committee offered unqualified support Thursday for only one of three nominees to the Kansas Board of Regents submitted by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

The committee unanimously recommended Senate confirmation of former BNSF Railway executive Carl Ice to the higher education board. Cynthia Lane, a retired school district superintendent from Kansas City, Kansas, and former banker and one-time state Sen. Wint Winter were forwarded to the Senate without recommendation. The committee’s options were to pass out the nominations favorably, without recommendation or unfavorably.

The votes came in wake of three days of protracted and unusually tense hearings on Kelly’s latest nominees to the Board of Regents.

In June, the bipartisan Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee unanimously recommended the full Senate confirm Winter, Lane and Ice. Each has been serving as a voting member of the nine-member higher education board the past seven months.

The Senate Education’s Committee intervened based on what was described by legislators as emergence of new information about the nominees. The committee’s interview Monday with Ice followed the tradition of focusing on a nominee’s professional, education and personal experiences guiding their service on the Board of Regents, which has oversight of more than 30 public universities and colleges.

The education committee’s approach when evaluating Lane on Tuesday and Winter on Wednesday took a different tone. They were questioned about higher education as well as issues as diverse as abortion, K-12 school finance, Marxism, parental role models, COVID-19 vaccination mandates, attorney ethics, critical race theory, college sex crimes, special education, federal banking regulations, dyslexia and partisan politics.

“Where’s the Wint Winter I used to know?” said Sen. Beverly Gossage, a Republican from Eudora. “Do you support the Republican Party platform?”

She said it was troubling Winter was nominated to replace Helen Van Etten, who served as Republican National Committeewoman for Kansas when appointed to the Board of Regents in 2013 by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. Excluding the three Kelly nominees awaiting confirmation votes, three of six members of the Board of Regents previously served in the Kansas Legislature.

“Senator, I am a Republican. I have every intention of remaining a Republican,” said Winter, who served in the Senate for a decade and later worked with a group opposed to Brownback’s re-election as governor in 2014. “It’s the wide range of thoughts that make the Republican Party stronger, not weaker as some others may claim.”

Sen. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, asked Winter about Federal Reserve Board action in 2017 regarding allegedly deceptive residential mortgage practices by Peoples Bank of Lawrence. At that time, Winter was president and chief executive officer of the bank. A consent order signed by Winter to close the case led to the bank’s payment of $2.4 million to about 2,300 people.

Winter said the bank’s lawyers disputed the Federal Reserve Board’s novel assessment of mortgage lending practices at Peoples Bank, but he agreed to sign the consent order to avoid protracted and expensive litigation.

“I’m shocked to my core about any allegation that we did anything intentionally wrong. None of the allegations involved me personally or any of our employees,” Winter said. “It’s very, very difficult to fight the bureaucracy, the entrenched bureaucracy, particularly the federal government. If you’re a small bank, it becomes nearly impossible.”

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, said Lane made a lasting impression on her by recommending more than 10 years ago that the Kansas City, Kansas, public school district become a lead plaintiff in a school finance lawsuit against the state of Kansas. Lane was a prominent witness during the district court trial, which eventually led years later to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that state funding of K-12 public education was unconstitutionally inadequate. That case was resolved when the Legislature agreed to increase state aid to public schools.

“As that slice of the pie continues to increase for K-12, what it has done is that it has squeezed the slice much smaller for our regents universities,” said Baumgardner, a critic of the Supreme Court decision. “We are one of the highest taxing states in the United States so we can pay that K-12 bill.”

Lane said the K-12 funding lawsuit was important to the future of impoverished children suffering from lack of educational spending by the Legislature.

She said she would strive to improve communication among higher education officials and legislators as a member of the Board of Regents.

“The reason we were in that position (as a plaintiff) in the first place was because we went to our corners and we didn’t communicate with each other,” Lane said. “You have a firm commitment from me in this work to communication, to problem solving, to finding some way forward we can all feel good about — to do what’s right for Kansas and Kansas kids.”

Baumgardner said Lane had failed at leadership while KCK superintendent by not publicly defending a child with disabilities who was improperly restrained in a school. The senator asked if Lane would take a stand against Kansas high schools graduating students not academically prepared, against student rapes on university campuses or in support of implementation by colleges of a specific dyslexia curriculum.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.