Proposed constitutional amendment would limit rules, regulations

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Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt and GOP statehouse leadership on Tuesday announced a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature the power to veto rules and regulations adopted by executive branch agencies.

The proposed constitutional amendment would give the Legislature “real and meaningful oversight over how regulatory agencies use the power entrusted to them by law,” Schmidt said at a news conference Tuesday.

“We think it makes good sense in terms of assuring Kansans that there is a steady and reliable regulatory environment going forward, and it makes good sense as a matter of basic democratic principles.

“You ought to have elected officials as the real power to have the final say over what the law is,” Schmidt said.

The Legislature had the ability to veto rules and regulations adopted by the exective branch in 1984, but it was later ruled as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

The constitutional amendment proposed by Republicans would go to voters in November 2022. It still needs support from two-thirds of the Legislature to get on the ballot.

The amendment would leave it up to the Legislature to decide how many votes it would take to override a rule or regulation adopted by an executive-branch agency.

The proposed amendment would not be on the ballot at the same time as the abortion constitutional amendment, which goes to voters in August 2022.

Schmidt shrugged off a question that the amendment was driven by a plan to run for governor next year.

“That would be an error,” Schmidt said in response to a question about whether this was an informal launch to his campaign for governor.

Asked about the timing of the amendment and why it wasn’t brought when he was in the Legislature, Schmidt said his office had the opportunity to review old case law in recent months during the pandemic.

“Sometimes you discover the old ideas are good again,” he said.

Sam Coleman, the communications director for Gov. Laura Kelly, said the constitutional amendment was part of an orchestrated effort to strip powers away from the governor.

“Instead of doing their constitutionally-mandated work, today’s announcement is further proof that Republican leaders have no interest in doing the serious work of helping Kansas respond and recover from this crisis,” Coleman said in a statement.

“They are only fixated on trying to stop the governor from doing her job.”

Among other things, the Legislature has limited the governor’s power during the pandemic and is now considering a law that would remove the governor’s ability to fill vacancies for state treasurer and insurance commissioner.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes echoed a similar view.

“The constitution is nothing to play games with, yet here we are again, considering another change designed to benefit the ambitions of partisan politicians,” she said in a statement.

“The proposed amendment is nothing more than yet another attempt by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Republican leadership to undermine Gov. Kelly and her cabinet,” Sykes said in a statement.

“This is partisan gamesmanship at its finest, and Kansans deserve better leadership at this critical time,” Sykes said.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said the executive branch agencies have emerged as a fourth branch of government over time.

“What the attorney general is bringing forward today is something that restores checks and balances and allows the people of Kansas to have a say in how to regulate.”