AG Schmidt, legislative leaders propose new Kansas Constitution amendment

(AP Photo/John Hanna)
(AP Photo/John Hanna)(KWCH)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:02 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Attorney General Derek Schmidt and state legislators have proposed a new amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would limit executive actions by the Governor.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he and seven senior Kansas lawmakers proposed amendments to the state Constitution to increase oversight of rules and regulations issued by the state’s executive branch.

“Our system of government requires checks and balances,” Schmidt said. “This proposal would check the power of the ever-growing administrative state by making sure the final power to make law rests where it should – with the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature – and restore balance by requiring real accountability for rules, regulations and executive orders.”

According to the Kansas Attorney General, the proposal would allow the Legislature to repeal or suspend rules and regulations that are signed as an executive order by the state’s governor. He said the Legislature is currently not allowed to exercise a “legislative-veto” over rules and regulations that are created by the executive branch of state government.

“The principle of limited government requires checks and balances between equal branches where Kansans are ultimately in charge,” Masterson said. “This proposal accomplishes that by ensuring the ultimate power over rules and regulations rests with the people, expressed through their elected representatives in the Legislature.”

Schmidt said he has joined Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover), House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson), House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa), Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop (R-Wichita) and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita) in proposing the constitutional amendment.

“Our government was built on the premise of three separate, but equal branches,” Ryckman said. “But, in recent years, a fourth branch of government has continued to grow unchecked. That is the unchecked power of unelected agencies to make binding rules and regulations outside the law.”

According to Schmidt, this type of oversight was adopted by a Kansas statute before 1984 but was ruled unconstitutional that same year by the Kansas Supreme Court. He said similar actions in other states have also been denied, but it survives in states that adopted the authority with their constitutions. He said the constitutional amendment proposed on Tuesday, would have to be approved by two-thirds of the members of each house of the Legislature and would also have to be approved by Kansas voters in an election.

“I believe the people of Kansas expect that rules and regulations, which have the force of law, should be reviewable by their representatives in Topeka,” Wilborn said. “This proposal is a common-sense step which ensures proper checks and balances and that the voice for the people is heard. I thank the Attorney General for proposing this important amendment.”

Democratic leaders are taking an opposite stance, however.

“The constitution is nothing to play games with, yet here we are again, considering another change designed to benefit the ambitions of partisan politicians. The Legislature already has oversight over agencies in the executive branch,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes. “Over the past year, legislative leaders have shown a keen understanding of the ways they can curb executive power under the existing constitution. The proposed amendment is nothing more than yet another attempt by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Republican leadership to undermine Governor Kelly and her cabinet while providing considerable latitude to these same politicians when they inevitably seek higher office. This is partisan gamesmanship at its finest, and Kansans deserve better leadership at this critical time.”

To read the whole amendment as proposed, click here.

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