TOPEKA – (February 23, 2021) – Seven senior leaders in the Legislature and executive branch today proposed amending the state Constitution to strengthen oversight of rules and regulations issued by executive-branch agencies and officials.
The proposal from the state’s attorney general and the six top Republican leaders in the Legislature 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.
Attorney General Derek 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.
“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.”
This type of oversight authority was adopted by Kansas statute prior to 1984 but was ruled unconstitutional that year by the Kansas Supreme Court. Similar statutes in several other states also were struck down, but it survives in states that adopted the authority in their constitutions. The constitutional amendment proposed today, if approved by two-thirds of the members of each house of the Legislature and adopted by Kansas voters, would renew that legislative oversight authority in Kansas.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Since 1984, thousands of new rules and regulations have been imposed on Kansans through this unchecked power,” said Finch. “While many of those rules may be fair and necessary, others may need more oversight to ensure our state government is not placing an unfair and undue burden on our families and our livelihoods. It’s time to restore oversight as Kansans had intended.”
“Rules and regulations have an impact on how Kansans operate their businesses and go about their daily lives, and they should have a say in their implementation through their elected representatives in the Legislature,” Suellentrop said. “This proposal would achieve that purpose.”
“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,” Hawkins said. “I applaud General Schmidt’s efforts to empower the people of Kansas.”
The text of the proposed amendment, which is being introduced in both chambers, can be found at https://bit.ly/2P6VVgL.