Bill stripping governors of appointments advances

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A plan that would strip Kansas governors of their power to replace vacancies for two statewide offices moved out of a House committee on Tuesday.

The House Elections Committee voted 8-2 to send to the full House a bill that would turn the appointment authority for treasurer and insurance commissioner over to the state’s political parties of the officeholder.

The replacements would be picked at a state party delegate convention, similar to how local conventions of precinct committee members fill openings in the Legislature.

The convention would be called by the chair of the state party and the convention be required to meet within 21 days of notice that the vacancy occurred.

The legislation comes shortly after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers as treasurer when Republican Jake LaTurner was elected to Congress.

Democratic state Rep. Brett Parker tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill so the new officeholder chosen by a political party would have to stand for election soon after being appointed.

Parker proposed having the governor call for an election within five days after the vacancy occurred and voters going to the polls 75 to 90 days later – similar to how replacements for Congress are chosen.

Currently, a new treasurer or insurance commissioner appointed by the governor can fill out an unexpired term before standing for election.

Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckelman asked for the change, saying it would bring consistency to the process by letting the political party of the person who vacated the office choose the successor.

The Legislature has the power to change the appointment authority for treasurer and insurance commissioner by passing a bill.

Abolishing the governor’s ability to fill vacancies for attorney general and secretary of state, however, would require a separate constitutional amendment that would need support from two-thirds of the Legislature and a public vote.

A separate piece of legislation addressing vacancies for attorney general and secretary of state has been filed in the House. The bill is not expeted to see action this session.

Trading out Republicans holding statewide office for Democats is not unusual in Kansas.

Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed Democrat Dennis McKinney as treasurer to replace Republican Lynn Jenkins after Jenkins was elected to Congress.

And former Gov. Mark Parkinson named Democrat Chris Biggs as secretary of state after Republican Ron Thornburgh stepped down.

Sebelius also got to name Democrat Steve Six as attorney general after Democrat Paul Morrison resigned awash in scandal.