Capitol Update: Stogsdill says bill to stagger Senate terms would improve accountability

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Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Rep. Linda Gallagher and Sen. Jim Denning are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Stogsdill’s filing:

The first two weeks of the 2018 session of the Kansas House of Representatives has been very slow on the floor of the House with little activity, no bills to discuss or vote on and mostly quick adjournments. This is not particularly unusual as this is the time of the year that the committees are meeting and most of the activity is happening in those committee meetings, in informal discussions between legislators and in discussions with individual constituents and constituent groups. Activity on the floor of the House should pick up this week.

Some topics that we will be considering as early as this week include school finance, the school finance formula, political transparency, Medicaid expansion, tax policy, due process for all teachers and public employees, statewide water usage, judicial salaries, prison construction, criminal justice reform, child protection services, infrastructure needs, voter rights and programs aimed at encouraging economic development. As you can see we have plenty to do and I will keep you up to date as issues make their way to the floor of the House. This is definitely going to be an interesting and very important session heading into the statewide elections this fall.

I want to bring you up to date on a bill (HCR 5017) that I have submitted aimed at changing the Kansas Constitution. This change to the Constitution would require that half of the Senate be elected to four year terms every TWO years instead of the entire Senate being elected to four year terms every FOUR years. Kansas is one of only nine states that elect all of its Senators to four year terms all at once.

In a year when we are looking to address the long overdue issue of political transparency we must combine that with ways to make the legislature more accountable to their constituents. My bill addresses the accountability issue and this change will have a very positive and profound impact on the political process in Topeka.

By requiring that half the Senate stand for election every two years it will do three things.

  • Create more accountability. Under this election process the electorate will be able to have a referendum on how the Senate is doing every two years instead of every four. Just like the House if the Senate has not been doing its job the voters have a means of correcting that situation every TWO years.
  • Encourage moderation. Since half the Senate would be up for election every two years those up for election are going to be much more inclined to support the moderate positions favored by most Kansans. That shift toward more moderate views should increase their willingness to work with the House whose members are all up for election by the voters every TWO years.
  • Create continuity. Under the current electoral process the Senate is much more susceptible to be taken over by extremists in a single election. Under the staggered plan it would be much harder for extremists to take over the Senate as only half the seats would be up for election at any one time. This also allows for more continuity in that at least half of the Senate would have experienced members.

This plan is getting a lot of discussion in Topeka and the response to this idea has been extremely positive. This bill is currently in the House Elections Committee. If you support this idea or any other idea going through the Legislature I encourage you to let your Representative, your Senator and the leadership in the House and the Senate know your opinion. You can always find information about your Senator, your Representative, those in leadership positions and a wealth of other information about the Legislature at kslegislature.org.

I will continue to keep you informed on the myriad of issues we have coming up as they progress through the system. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for me please don’t hesitate to get in touch at Jerry.Stogsdill@house.ks.gov , on Facebook at Rep. Jerry Stogsdill for Kansas, at 785-296-7692 or at jws4414@aol.com.