Knowledge Is Power
There is one thing in life that can not be taken away from us, knowledge. We are among many fortunate Americans to have access to a free public education for all. It is our civic duty to understand how our government works. Here you can view a brief summary on our governmental processes, who is responsible for them, and How a Bill Becomes Law (PDF).
Executive, Judicial & Legislative Branches
The Kansas executive branch exists to uphold the laws enacted by the legislative branch. This branch consists of six elected statewide officers including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner.
The Kansas Supreme Court heads the Kansas judicial branch, which includes the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the state's district courts. These courts uphold the rights of individuals and businesses, and they decide cases by applying the Kansas Constitution, laws passed by the Legislature and case law.
The Kansas legislative branch of government is responsible for making and maintaining laws. The Kansas Legislature consists of a 125-member House of Representatives and a 40-member Senate. Representatives are elected for a two-year term and Senators are elected for a four-year term.
The Legislature convenes on the second Monday in January for an annual session and generally adjourns in early May. During the interim period joint and special committees meet to discuss issues assigned to them by Legislative leadership or by statute. The Legislature is supported by five non-partisan staff agencies:
- Kansas Legislative Research Department
- Legislative Administrative Services
- Legislative Division of Post Audit
- Office of Information Services
- Revisor of Statutes
Role of Committees
The 165 members of the Legislature conduct most legislative business in committees. Although committees are not mentioned in the Kansas Constitution, each chamber may determine the rules of its proceedings, including the creation of committees, and the two chambers may adopt joint rules on certain matters.
The committee system allows legislators to spend more time studying specific issues and bills and to make recommendations about such issues and bills. Generally speaking, standing committees and subcommittees in each chamber meet separately during the legislative session; statutory joint committees comprised of members of each chamber may meet year-round, historically, during the interim; and special committees, after having been created by the Legislative Coordinating Council, meet during the interim. Legislators also may serve on a number of other entities, some comprised exclusively of legislators and some with mixed memberships of legislators and non-legislators.
Members of a standing committee, budget committee, and other select or special committees may hear testimony from the public and other interested parties about issues and proposed legislation. Issues may be debated, legislation amended, and recommendations adopted during committee meetings. Subcommittees may review and make recommendations to the full committee, but amendments to bills must be made and approved during regular committee sessions. House budget committees and Senate Ways and Means subcommittees make budget reports and recommendations to the full committee, which then may adopt, reject, or modify such reports and recommendations.
Reports and recommendations on bills from standing, budget, select, and special committees are transmitted to the chambers of each body. If legislative leadership decides to work a bill, then generally the body will resolve itself into the committee of the whole to consider the legislative agenda for that day. Debate, amendments, and voting may occur in the committee of the whole where all members of each chamber may participate.
Article 2, Section 10 of the Kansas Constitution requires the House of Representatives and the Senate to publish a journal of its proceedings. Journals are the official record of chamber activities and are an important source of legislative information but are not a verbatim record. Both chambers publish a journal for every day they are in session. Information in the journal includes:
- Actions on bills and resolutions including amendments
- Certain recorded comments made by members relating to congratulatory resolutions, recognitions or other events
- Communications from the Governor and agencies
- Explanations of votes by members
- Other material reflecting the activity of the chamber
- Roll call votes
The Senate journal includes actions on certain appointments by the Governor, state agencies and leadership of the House and Senate. The journal is required to contain the votes on the final passage of every bill and concurrent resolutions addressing state constitutional amendments or ratification of the U.S. Constitution. After each yearly session, the daily journals of each chamber are compiled and published, along with summary information, as a House Permanent Journal or Senate Permanent Journal.
The Senate and House calendars are published daily during the session and are available online the previous evening. The calendars act as the agenda for each session setting the order of business and showing the status of all bills including bills in committee. The calendar shows the particular order for bills and resolutions to be taken up under such headings as General Orders or Final Action. Items included in the calendar are dictated by the rules of the Senate and House. The calendar lists a weekly schedule of all standing, subcommittee and joint committee meetings. Appointments appear only in the Senate Calendar.
Campaign Finance Laws
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission (GEC) is charged with administering, interpreting, and enforcing the Campaign Finance Act and laws relating to conflict of interests, financial disclosure, and the regulation of lobbying. These laws establish the public’s right to information about the financial affairs of Kansas’ public officials, lobbyists, and candidates for office. In addition, the GEC renders advisory opinions and can adopt rules and regulations under a less comprehensive conflict of interests law covering local government officials and employees. The GEC also houses all submitted Financial Forms and Reports.
In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.
Kansas law recognizes that the right of organized as well as unorganized interests to influence governmental policy is an integral part of the American and Kansas political process. Such efforts are based in large part on the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association and the right to participate in one’s government. The thrust of existing legislation is not to hinder such activity but rather to ensure that it is carried out in view of the public. Laws governing lobbyists' activities are administered by the Governmental Ethics Commission. The Secretary of State's office maintains and distributes the official directory of registered lobbyists.