Kansas voters to consider amendment strengthening legislative oversight

The ballot question in November will ask voters to give the Kansas legislature oversight and the power to overrule the governor and state agencies.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 4:52 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas voters are starting to receive mailers talking about another constitutional amendment, this one to appear on the general election ballot in November.

In the August primary, voters turned down a proposed constitutional amendment concerning abortion rights in the state. Residents voted “no,” preserving Kansas’ constitutional protection of abortion rights.

The ballot question in November will ask voters to give the Kansas legislature oversight and the power to overrule the governor and state agencies. This power is known as “a legislative veto.” It would give state lawmakers the power to reject or suspend state rules or regulations. It would only apply if a majority of Kansas voters vote “yes” on the amendment. Nothing will change if a majority of voters say “no.”

The Republican-supported amendment targets the state’s executive branch and the agencies it oversees, dealing with topics like health, education, agriculture, social services, and the regulations and rules it creates.

“What happens is the legislature passes a law and then the executive branch, the administrative branch, kind of fills in the details of the regulations. Well, many times, those regulations go well beyond or even counter the law that was passed,” said Kansas Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb.

The amendment is getting support from some businesses and agricultural groups, including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

“(The amendment) evens the balance of power between the legislative and the executive branches of government, where the legislature can come in, look at a regulation and say, ‘that is not our intent,’” said Kansas Grain and Feed Association President Ron Seeber.

If the amendment on November’s ballot passes, the Kansas legislature could vote on specific rules and regulations. If a majority of lawmakers in each the House and the Senate approve, they can block or suspend those rules and regulations.

“It’s hard to repeal a regulation. You have to go all the way and go through all this process,” Cobb said.

State Democratic lawmakers voted to keep the constitutional amendment off November’s ballot, saying it distorts the balance of power.

“(It’s a) power grab by the legislature to take some of the power away from the executive branch, and I believe pretty strongly in the separation of powers,” Kansas House Minority Leader Rep. Tom Sawyer said.

Sawyer pointed to the process already in place that reviews new rules and regulations. The Kansas attorney general checks to make sure they’re legal. There is also a legislative review committee.

Sawyer said lawmakers also have a way to address the regulation.

“I think those safeguards are good enough,” he said. “In fact, we have a legislative committee that reviews all of those regs all the time. If there is something we don’t like, it can go back to the legislature and we can pass a bill and make a change.”

The Kanas Chamber has been lobbying for a legislative veto since 2018. There is another amendment on November’s ballot in which a “yes” vote would require the election of county sheriffs statewide.