Kansas Retains Governor’s Appointment Power

Kansas House Democrats killed a proposal Friday to strip the governor of the power to fill vacancies in four statewide offices.

The proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution would have let political parties fill vacancies in the offices of attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

Constitutional amendments need approval by two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate and by a majority of voters casting ballots in a statewide election.

The measure needed 84 favorable votes in the House, but Friday’s House vote was 65-54 in favor. Forty-seven Democrats voted against it, and the remaining two did not vote.

Last year, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed a new attorney general and state treasurer.

The constitution allows the governor to fill vacancies in the four offices without regard to the previous officeholder’s political affiliation.

Under the proposal, when a vacancy occurred, the appointment would have fallen to the former office holder’s party. Its state committee would have nominated someone, whom the governor would have been required to appoint.

Sebelius has said she doesn’t see the need for a change, and fellow Democrats followed her lead. Sebelius spokeswoman Beth Martino said the measure was “trying to fix problems we don’t have.”

“The current process to fill vacancies in statewide offices has served this state well since 1927 and has been successfully used many times,” she said in a statement.

But Republicans who backed the measure argued that Kansans ought to be able to weigh in on the process of filling vacancies in statewide offices.

In January 2008, Sebelius named Steve Six to replace Attorney General Paul Morrison, who was forced to resign because of a sex scandal. Six and Morrison also are Democrats.

In November, Sebelius appointed Democrat Dennis McKinney state treasurer, to replace Republican Lynn Jenkins, who won a seat in Congress.