June 24, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Term limits legislation proposed in Kansas

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Rep. Ken Corbet, a Topeka Republican, is sponsoring three term limits bills, but he doesn’t think any are likely to become law.  

“The chances of getting this done at all are much worse than the odds of the Chiefs losing

Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka

in the final minute of a game,” Corbet said.

As Chiefs fan can unfortunately attest, that means it could happen, but it’s unlikely.

HB 2021 would limit the state treasurer and the Kansas Insurance Commissioner to two terms; those are statutory offices, which means term limits can be approved by legislators. The Secretary of State, Attorney General and members of the House and Senate are constitutional offices, so public approval of constitutional amendments are needed to impose term limits on those offices.

HR 5001 would limit the Kansas Secretary of State and the attorney general to two terms. HCR 5003 would limit House members to 10 years in office and Senate members to 12 years. Constitutional amendments require the support of two-thirds of each legislative body as well as support at the ballot box from voters.

The first hurdle, however, is getting the bills heard in the House Elections Committee. The committee’s chair, Rep. Bill Sutton, a Garder Republican, says the bills may receive a hearing, but he suspects all three will die in committee.

“The issue is that it is changing the constitution,” Sutton said. The bills to limit the statewide officer holders is more likely to garner a supermajority than the one to term limit legislators.

Sutton says he used to be a big fan of term limited legislators, but his position shifted after talking to Missouri lawmakers.

“You have to be really careful of the way you implement (term limits). What you end up doing is shifting the power from the electeds to the agency heads, bureaucrats and lobbyists,” Sutton said.

The bill to term limit the state treasurer and the insurance commissioner represents a smaller hill to climb. To become law, it requires a simple majorities in the House and Senate and the Governor’s signature, and Sutton agreed limiting the terms of statewide officeholders is something he would support.

“Eight years is perfectly reasonable,” he said. “I don’t see why those couldn’t be implemented, but I just don’t see them going anywhere.”

The problem, he said, is that the legislature will have more important issues to work on this year. Lawmakers will likely spend most of their time and energy hashing out a budget, and if they have a constitutional battle it won’t be over term limits.

“It’s going to be over either the appointment of the Kansas Supreme Court, or going to straight to the meat of the matter over whether the Court or the legislature should decide education funding,” Sutton said.

Corbet said he filed the bills, knowing they were unlikely to become law this year. But he said, the conversation needs to start somewhere.

“There are a lot of people who have been in the Legislature for a quarter of a century,” Corbet said. “I can assure you that if it ever gets assigned to a committee, there will be a lot to talk about.”

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