Kansas Republican lawmakers, seeking more power over what one dubbed “a fourth branch of government,” are calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow them to veto regulations issued by state agencies.
The legislative veto was proposed Tuesday by senior lawmakers and Attorney General Derek Schmidt. It would allow the legislature to review and eliminate regulations put forth by executive agencies such as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Labor.
Lawmakers passed a legislative veto measure in 1984, but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that it violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. The U.S. Supreme Court made a similar determination on the federal level in 1983.
Schmidt said Tuesday, that several states with similar rulings had since adopted constitutional amendments providing for the veto. Senior GOP legislators said Kansas needed one.
“Unfortunately over time a fourth branch of government has arose and that’s government bureaucracy,” said Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican. “What the attorney general’s bringing forward today is something that restores the checks and balances and allows the people of Kansas to have a say in how to regulate.
It is the latest in a series of moves by Republicans, who hold a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, to limit Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s power since her election in 2018. This amendment, Schmidt said, would not impact executive orders
It would, however, limit the rulemaking power of the executive agencies under her control.
Lawmakers severely limited Kelly’s emergency powers after she issued sweeping stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. They have also blocked her administration’s efforts to merge the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability with the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
Kelly’s spokesman denounced the proposed amendment.
“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, they are only fixated on trying to stop the Governor from doing her job,” Kelly’s spokesman, Sam Coleman, said in a statement.
The proposed constitutional amendment must pass with a two-thirds majority in both chambers but does not need the governor’s signature. If approved, it will be one of two constitutional changes brought to voters in 2022.
In August 2022 voters will decide whether to amend the constitution to remove a right to abortion. Lawmakers have proposed that the legislative veto be placed on the November 2022 ballot.
Schmidt acknowledged that he and Republican lawmakers had become more focused on oversight and regulation following the COVID-19-related regulations issued by Kelly last year.
“This is an issue that perhaps we’ve discovered as a result of having to deal with that issue but this is an issue more generally of what should the lawmaking and rule making process look like in Kansas,” Schmidt said. “I think ultimately it ought to look much more similar to the legislative process than it does to the administrative process.”
In a statement Senate minority leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, called the proposal partisan gamesmanship.
“The Legislature already has oversight over agencies in the executive branch,” Sykes said. “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.”
Schmidt, rumored to be planning a run for Governor in 2022, did not directly answer questions about his possible candidacy. He did deny that the proposal was related to the election.
“It’s trying to get some good policy enacted,” he said.
This article originally appeared on the Kansas City Star website, here.
Paid for by The Senate Democrats Committee, Cory Sheedy, Treasurer.