New editions of the State Legislative Tracker and The Policy Tracker available now!

Kansas State Legislature

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Kansas State Legislature

Seal of Kansas.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 12, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Susan Wagle (R)
House Speaker:  Ray Merrick (R)
Majority Leader:   Terry Bruce (R) (Senate),
Jene Vickrey (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Anthony Hensley (D) (Senate),
Tom Burroughs (D) (House)
Members:  40 (Senate), 125 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art 2, Kansas Constitution
Salary:   $88.66/day + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
125 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
40 seats (Senate)
125 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Kansas Legislature has control
The Kansas State Legislature is the state legislature of Kansas. It is a bicameral assembly, composed of the lower Kansas House of Representatives, and the upper Kansas State Senate, with 40 Senators. Republicans comprise a super-majority in both houses.

The State Legislature meets at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

As of April 2015, Kansas is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Kansas House of Representatives, Kansas State Senate, Kansas Governor


Bleeding Kansas

The Kansas Territory was created out of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. In several of the provisions of the act, the law allowed the settlers of the newly-created territory to determine, by vote, whether Kansas, once statehood was achieved, would be entered as either a free state or a slave state. The act created a rush of both abolitionist Northern and pro-slavery Southern immigrants to the territory, hoping that strength through numbers would place Kansas in their camp. Animosities between the newly-arrived sides quickly turned into open violence and guerrilla warfare, giving name to this period known as Bleeding Kansas.

The Bogus Legislature

During Kansas' first elections for a territorial government on March 30, 1855, nearly 5,000 Missouri "Border Ruffians" led by federal Senator David Rice Atchison and his followers, crossed the territorial border to stuff ballot boxes with votes for pro-slavery candidates. Using their overwhelming numbers, the Missouri Border Ruffians elected 37 out of 38 candidates for the Territorial Legislature. Free-Staters immediately called foul, naming the new Kansas Territorial Legislature, the "Bogus Legislature." Upon convening in Pawnee and shortly later at the Shawnee Methodist Mission, the Legislature began crafting over a thousand pages of laws aimed at making Kansas a slave state.

The Four Constitutions and the Battle for Legitimacy

In response to the illegitimacy of the Bogus Legislature, Free-Staters convened their own unauthorized shadow legislature and territorial government in Topeka, crafting their own Topeka Constitution in late 1855. While the document was debated and submitted to a vote to the territory, it was never accepted by the federal government as it considered the Free-State body illegitimate and in rebellion. The pro-slavery Legislature's response to the Free-Staters and growing violence was the writing of the Lecompton Constitution in 1857. Due to an electoral boycott by abolitionist groups and the questions regarding the validity of the Legislature itself, it never officially became law.

While the Lecompton Constitution was debated, new elections for the Territorial Legislature in 1857 gave the Free-Staters a majority government, caused in part by a boycott by pro-slavery groups. With this new mandate, the Legislature convened to write the Leavenworth Constitution, a radically progressive document for the Victorian era in its wording of rights for women and African-Americans. The constitution was adopted in 1858, though it too suffered the same fate as previous documents when the U.S. Congress refused to ratify it.

Following the Leavenworth Constitution's defeat, the Legislature again crafted a new document the following year, dubbed the Wyandotte Constitution. A compromise of sorts, it outlawed slavery in the territory, while removing progressive sections on Native Americans, women and blacks. The Legislature successfully passed the document, and submitted it to public referendum. It was passed by the Kansas electorate on October 4, 1859.

Statehood and the American Civil War

Following long debates in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, on January 29, 1861, President James Buchanan authorized Kansas to become the 34th state of the United States. It had entered into the Union as a free state. Only six days later, the Confederate States of America formed between seven Southern states that had seceded from the United States in the previous two months.

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Kansas
Partisan breakdown of the Kansas legislature from 1992-2013

Kansas State Senate: Throughout every year from 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Kansas State Senate. The Kansas State Senate is one of 13 state senates that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final three years of the study, Kansas was under Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Kansas State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic party was the majority in the Kansas State House of Representatives for the first year while through the last 21 years the Republican Party was the majority. The Kansas State House of Representatives is one of nine state Houses that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final three years of the study, Kansas was under Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Kansas, the Kansas State Senate and the Kansas House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Kansas state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Kansas state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Kansas has never had a Democratic trifecta, while it has had a Republican trifecta in two separate periods of the study (between 1995 and 2003, and again beginning in 2011). The state cracked the top-10 in the SQLI ranking once in 1992. Kansas’s most precipitous drop in the ranking occurred under divided government between 1993 and 1994, when the state fell nine spots. The state’s largest gain in the SQLI ranking occurred between 2007 and 2008, also under divided government. Kansas reached its lowest point in 1999 (29th) under divided government.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 20.90
  • SQLI average with divided government: 19.09
Chart displaying the partisanship of Kansas government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).


Article 2 of the Kansas Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 8 of Article 2 states that the Legislature is to convene on the second Monday of January of each year. Section 8 also limits the length of regular sessions in even-numbered years to ninety calendar days, but it allows these sessions to be extended by a two-thirds affirmative vote of both houses. In 2010, this kind of extension occurred, moving the session's adjournment date from March 30 to May 28.

Bills may be pre-filed between sessions in odd years and sessions in even years for consideration during the following sessions.[1]


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is projected to be in session from January 12 through late May.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include closing a projected $279 million budget shortfall, K-12 funding and a possible privatization of public employee pensions.[2]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 13 through May 30.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included school funding, changing the state's court nomination system and Medicaid expansion.[3]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 14 to June 20.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included school funding, a settlement between tobacco companies and the state, mental health funding, KanCare, illegal immigration, pension system changes, shifting taxes to the local level, and liquor sales.[4]

Drug testing

Legislation introduced in the state house and state senate would bring punitive measures against drug users receiving government benefits if there is "reasonable suspicious" drug use exists. The measures would apply to both welfare recipients and Kansas lawmakers, although the legislation is unclear as to what would happen if a legislator tested positive for narcotics.[5]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was scheduled to be in session from January 9 through May 14. However, due to infighting among Republicans, the session had to be extended through the 20th. Major issues which remained unresolved included education funding, state employee pension reform, redistricting and the budget. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) stated, “I think it’s reasonable for people to say they should have gotten things done in 90 days. My hope is that they wrap it up here pretty soon.”[6]

Major issues

Alongside the budget, legislators considered reforming the school financing formula and expanding Medicaid's managed care system.[7]


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 10 to June 1.

Session highlights

Business tax deductions

In the 2011 session, the legislature allowed "expensing," a way for businesses to receive larger tax deductions for start-up costs such as new equipment and software.[8]

School funding

In July, state revenue officials forecast a revenue surplus of at least $175 million for FY 2011 (July 2010-July 2011), a pleasant windfall for policymakers that had cut $800 million out of the FY 2012 budget not six months ago. In response, state education administrators petitioned lawmakers to restore some of the funding for schools that was eliminated as part of Governor Sam Brownback's austerity measures.

Board of Education member Sue Storm was pessimistic about the prospect of reversing the cuts, which saw aid to Kansas public schools drop about $232 per pupil in the 2012 fiscal year. Others argued the board should ask for only a percentage of the funds back as a way to improve relations with austerity-minded legislators. Given the Republican legislative majority had proposed eliminating the state's corporate income tax entirely in the 2011 session, a measure that would cost the states about $200 million annually, House Majority Leader Paul Davis saw little reason to substantial increases in funding. He also noted the funding increases would need to be approved during the 2012 session in the midst of an election campaign, when legislators would continue to advocate for tax cuts.[9]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature's regular session was scheduled to last from January 11 to March 30. However, the session was extended, and it did not adjourn until May 28.[10]

Role in state budget

See also: Kansas state budget and finances
Kansas on Horizontal-Policypedia logo-color.png
Check out Policypedia articles about policy in your state on:

The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[11][12]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in June.
  2. State agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in September.
  3. Agency hearings are held in November.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature on the eighth calendar day of the legislative session. For new governors, this deadline is extended to the 21st calendar day of the session.
  5. The legislature typically adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to adopt a budget. The fiscal year begins in July.

Kansas is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[12]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced proposed budget. Likewise, the legislature is legally required to adopt a balanced budget.[12]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Kansas was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[13]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[14] According to the report, Kansas received a grade of D- and a numerical score of 50, indicating that Kansas was "lagging" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[14]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Kansas was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[15]



See also: Kansas House of Representatives elections, 2010

Elections for the office of Kansas House of Representatives were held in Kansas on November 2, 2010.

Legislature pay cut

Kansas House members voted Feb. 9, 2010, to cut their pay and the salaries of other top elected and appointed officials by 5 percent to help balance the state’s fiscal year 2010 budget.[16] State Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, proposed the cuts in an amendment to legislation ratifying cuts made the previous year by Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat.

Neufeld estimated the measure to cut the pay of all elected state officials, judges, cabinet secretaries and appointed state officials by 5 percent would save the state $1.5 million by the end of the current fiscal year June 30. Revenue estimates prepared in early February by the Kansas Legislative Research Department showed that declining revenues would likely leave a negative balance of $39 million in the 2010 budget. The pay cut became effective March 11, 2010.


See also: Redistricting in Kansas

The Kansas Legislature handles redistricting. Both chambers have a Reapportionment Committee that presenst plans to the chamber at large. Gubernatorial veto is not present, but all plans must be reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court. Kansas uses adjusted census figures to account for non-residents in school or the military.

2010 census

Kansas received its local census data on March 3, 2012. The state grew by 6.1 percent to over 2.58 million, with growth concentrated in the northeast corner of the state and the remainder largely showing slight declines. (The adjusted total was about 14,000 less than the federal figure.) Wichita grew by 11.1 percent, Overland Park grew by 16.3 percent, Kansas City decreased by 0.7 percent, Topeka grew by 4.2 percent, and Olathe grew by 35.4 percent.[17]

The Legislature attempted redistricting in its 2012 session. Against custom, which had the chambers passing their own maps, the Senate passed revisions to a new House map, and the House passed a map for the Senate; neither chamber was amenable to the other's actions. On May 20, the Legislature adjourned amid deadlock, meaning the courts would have to decide the new boundaries.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Kansas legislature are paid $88.50/day. Additionally, legislators receive $118/day per diem tied to the federal rate.[18]


As of 2011, when pensions are calculated for Kansas legislators, their normal annual salary is inflated by nearly $78,000. This is composed of $32,982, which comes from multiplying their daily salary by 372 (the number of days they would work if in session every day and if every month had 31 days), $45,756 from adding in their daily per diem (also based on 372 days), and $7,083 from expense payments. According to Sen. Steve Morris, this is intended as compensation because of low legislative salaries which are seen as difficult to raise.[19]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Kansas legislators assume office the second Monday of January after their election.


The Kansas Senate is the upper house of the Kansas Legislature. It is composed of 40 Senators representing an equal amount of districts. Each member represents an average of 71,328 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[20] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 67,210.[21] Members of the Senate are elected to a four year term without term limits.

Like other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the federal U.S. Senate, the Senate is reserved with special functions such as confirming or rejecting gubernatorial appointments to executive departments, the state cabinet, commissions and boards.

Leadership of the Senate

The President of the Senate presides over the body, appointing members to all of the Senate's committees and joint committees, and may create other committees and subcommittees if desired. Unlike other states, the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas does not preside over the Senate. Since a 1972 amendment to the Kansas Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor's duties have been severed from the legislative branch, and is active in other areas of the Kansas state government such as commissions on military affairs and health insurance. In the Senate President's absence, the Vice-President presides.

Current make-up

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 8
     Republican Party 32
Total 40

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Kansas State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Kansas State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Kansas House of Representatives is the lower house of the Kansas Legislature. It is composed of 125 Representatives from an equal amount of constituencies. Each member represents an average of 22,825 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[22] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 21,507.[23] Representatives are elected to a two year term. Like the Kansas Senate, the Kansas House of Representatives does not have term limits.

Leadership of the House

The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. The Speaker is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the full House through the passage of a House Resolution. In addition to presiding over the body, the Speaker is also its chief leadership position, and controls the flow of legislation and committee assignments. Other House leaders, such as the majority and minority leaders, are elected by their respective party caucuses relative to their party's strength in the chamber.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 28
     Republican Party 97
Total 125

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Kansas State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Kansas State House.PNG

Joint Legislative Committees

See also: Public policy in Kansas

The Kansas State Legislature has 13 joint standing committees.

See also

External links


  1. Kansas Legislature, "Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives," March 2013 (Referenced Rule 4(i))
  2. Associated Press, "Fiscal issues to drive Kansas lawmakers' session," December 28, 2014
  3., "Issues that will dominate the 2014 legislative session," January 12, 2014
  4. Lawrence Journal World, "Key issues expected during the 2013 legislative session," January 13, 2013
  5., "Dopey law: KS lawmakers who use drugs could get special treatment," accessed December 24, 2013
  6. Kansas City Star, "Republican infighting forces Kansas Legislature to extend session," May 12, 2012 (Archived)
  7. Topeka Capital Journal, "Legislative session to start Monday," January 8, 2012
  8., States balance budgets with cuts, not taxes, June 15, 2011 (Archived)
  9. Kansas City Star, "Kansas Education Board wants state’s school funding restored," July 17, 2011 (dead link) (dead link)
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Session Calendar," October 30, 2010 (Archived)
  11. National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  13. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  15. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  16., "Kansas House votes 5 percent pay cut for officials, judges" 9 Feb. 2010
  17. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Kansas' 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," March 3, 2011
  18., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  19. USA Today, "State lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't," September 23, 2011
  20., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  21. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  22., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  23. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001