Kansas AG and Republican leaders propose a constitutional amendment regulating executive branch oversight

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and senior Republican leaders in the legislature proposed on Tuesday amending the state Constitution to strengthen oversight of rules and regulations issued by executive-branch agencies and officials.

Attorney General Schmidt joined with 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 measure.

The proposal would authorize the Legislature to repeal or suspend rules and regulations that have the force and effect of law. Under current law, the legislature is prohibited from exercising a so-called “legislative veto” over rules and regulations created by the executive branch of state government.

“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,” Schmidt said.

According to Schmidt and Republican legislative leaders, the oversight authority was adopted by Kansas statute prior to 1984 but was ruled unconstitutional that year by the Kansas Supreme Court. Schmidt in a news release said similar statutes in several other states also were struck down, but it survived in states that adopted the authority in their constitutions.

The constitutional amendment proposed, if approved by two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate and adopted by Kansas voters, would renew that legislative oversight authority in Kansas. It could go on the ballot in November 2022 or unless a special election is called sooner.

“Our government was built on the premise of three separate, but equal branches,” said Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman. “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.”

‘That’s what this proposal seeks to do,” said Majority Leader Dan Hawkins. ‘This amendment would give Kansans the ability to vote on whether they want to restore oversight authority of the rule-making and regulatory process through our state constitution.”

The proposal, says Democrats, is the latest in a series of measures aimed at curbing the governor’s power, and Republicans also are trying to build a case against Kelly’s reelection in 2022.

“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,” said Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa. “This is partisan gamesmanship at its finest, and Kansans deserve better leadership at this critical time.”

The text of the proposed amendment, which is being introduced in both chambers, can be found here or below.

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