What Amendment 1 ballot issue could mean for Kansas voters

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KCTV) - The Amendment 1 question on the Kansas ballot could shift some power dynamics between the legislative and executive branches of government.

The amendment, also called the “Legislative Veto or Suspension of Executive Agency Regulations Amendment,” would allow the state’s house and senate to overturn certain actions or policies implemented by the governor or state regulatory agencies.

The ballot description puts it this way:

“he purpose of this amendment is to provide the legislature with oversight of state executive branch agencies and officials by providing the legislature authority to establish procedures to revoke or suspend rules and regulations.”

Greg Vonnahme, a professor of political science at UMKC, described the issue as an institutional conflict, one that could shift some political power from the executive branch to the legislative branch.

“For the voter it comes down to do you want a strong legislature and a relatively weaker executive, or do you want to preserve that existing balance,” Vonnahme explained.

Most Republican lawmakers in the state supported the measure. Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), characterized it as a way for legislatures to address state regulations and policies that may not be working as intended.

“It’s not taking power from anyone,” Baumgardner said. “It’s simply a fix when the rules and regulations aren’t in keeping with the law.”

As an example, Baumgardner mentioned a recent KCTV5 story about a family struggling with state adoption policies. She said she believed lawmakers may have been able to bring a faster resolution to the issue the family faced.

Some agricultural and manufacturing groups have voiced support for the issue, too.

“Instead of waiting for years for a law change we’re able to address it and get that regulation or that rule to be changed,” Baumgardner said.

Opponents of the amendment such as Stephanie Clayton (D-Overland Park) point out that there are already processes in place for addressing policy changes.

“I don’t see a need to change the constitution because we already have a system where the legislature can make those changes if need be,” Clayton said.

She called the amendment a shift in the basic checks and balances of government.

“Anything that moves the balance of power around to benefit a small group of folks, that’s where we’ve got concern,” Clayton said.

Vonnahme added that the practical partisan effect of the amendment shouldn’t be overlooked either.

“The Kansas legislature is overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans but right now the governor is a Democrat,” he pointed out. “It hasn’t been uncommon for Kansas to split that way so that Democrats will occasionally control the governorship. By taking that party away you relatively strengthen Republican control over the state.”