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Senate committee confirms former Democratic legislator to utility regulatory board


Senate committee confirms former Democratic legislator to utility regulatory board

Sep 13, 2023 | 5:31 pm ET
By Allison Kite
Senate committee confirms former Democratic legislator to utility regulatory board
Gov. Laura Kelly nominated former state Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat, to a vacancy on the Kansas Corporation Commission. Kuether spent 25 years in the Legislature and served on the House's energy committee. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Former Kansas state Rep. Annie Kuether was confirmed as the newest member of the Kansas Corporation Commission Wednesday with a near-unanimous vote. 

Kuether, who served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 1997 to 2022, will be seated immediately. She replaces outgoing commission Chair Susan Duffy.

Gov. Laura Kelly announced she had appointed Kuether, a Democrat, last week, citing her long history in the Kansas Legislature and experience as a ranking minority member on the energy committee.

Kuether told the Kansas Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee on Wednesday that when she joined the committee early in her legislative career, she was nervous, but she found a new passion. 

“There’s quite an education and involved a lot on my part to do my homework and to do the work to understand what the issues before me were,” she said. 

The committee voted 5-0 in favor of Kuether’s appointment, with one abstention. 

Kuether faced some pointed questions from Republican members about her take on the “war on carbon, oil and gas,” siting of interstate transmission lines and the timing of her appointment as Kansas’ largest electric utility, Evergy, is requesting a rate increase from the KCC. 

Evergy proposed raising rates by 1.95% on the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, which would bring in $14.1 million in revenue. It asked to raise rates by 9.77% — or $204.1 million — in its Kansas territories outside the Kansas City metro, including Wichita, Topeka, Salina and other parts of eastern Kansas.

But staff of the KCC said last month that a rate decrease of 7.32%, or $54.1 million, in Kansas City and an increase of 1.66%, or $34.7 million, outside the metro were more appropriate. 

“It seems to me like it’s going to put you in a really tough position because there have already been meetings and different determinations made, and I just think that the average Kansan is going to wonder why this confirmation didn’t wait for a full Senate confirmation,” said Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland. Billinger was the only member of the committee who abstained from the vote.

Kuether responded that when Kelly asked her to serve, she said yes and started the process of getting a background check by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. But she said she couldn’t speak for Kelly on why she was nominated when she was. 

Kelly also reappointed Commissioner Andrew French, but the committee decided to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider his next term because his current stint doesn’t end until March.

The third member of the commission, Dwight Keen, was reappointed last year, and his term expires in 2026.