The battle to remove women’s right to an abortion from the Kansas Constitution isn’t over.
In 2019, a Kansas Supreme Court ruling concluded the state constitution includes the right to an abortion. The “Value Them Both” amendment that failed in the August election would have changed that. Those who disagree with the ruling and supported the amendment may try to change that again by voting not to retain most of the justices who face retention during the November election.
Kansas Supreme Court
The terms of six Kansas Supreme Court justices will expire on Jan. 9, 2023. Their seats are up for retention election on Nov. 8.
• Daniel Biles
• Marla Luckert
• Evelyn Z. Wilson
• Caleb Stegall
• Keynen Wall
• Melissa Standridge
The Kansas City Star, in an editorial that endorsed retaining all six justices, noted: “Three of the justices up for retention — Evelyn Wilson, Keynen Wall and Melissa Standridge — were appointed after the 2019 abortion decision and took no part in it.”
The 2019 ruling in Hodes and Nauser v. Schmidt found the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights, demanding a higher bar for restrictions on the practice to pass constitutional muster.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported: “Of the six justices up for retention, five either sided with the majority in the Hodes ruling or are considered likely to uphold its basic tenants if faced with a similar case. The other, Justice Caleb Stegall, is considered the court’s lone conservative.”
However, there have not been any official signs at this time that any group is lobbying to oust the justices.
Amendments on ballot
There is no abortion amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot, but there will be two new legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. One deals with the powers of the legislative and executive branch and the other deals with how county sheriffs are chosen.
• The Kansas Legislative Veto or Suspension of Executive Agency Regulations Amendment
This amendment would extend the Legislature’s authority to oversee and amend regulations instituted by state agencies under the executive branch. This authority is sometimes referred to as a legislative veto.
Ballot text: The purpose of this amendment is to provide the legislature with oversight of state executive branch agencies and officials by providing the legislature authority to establish procedures to revoke or suspend rules and regulations.
- A vote for this proposition would allow the legislature to establish procedures to revoke or suspend rules and regulations that are adopted by state executive branch agencies and officials that have the force and effect of law.
- A vote against this proposition would allow state executive branch agencies and officials to continue adopting rules and regulations that have the force and effect of law without any opportunity for the legislature to directly revoke or suspend such rules and regulations.
Who supports and opposes the amendment?
According to Ballotpedia, the amendment has received support from Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), Americans for Prosperity - Kansas, Kansas Chamber United for Business, and several unions. Ron C. Seeber, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, said, “Broadly, members of these associations operate in agribusiness industries which are both important and highly regulated. Members of our associations support state and federal regulations that are necessary, reasonable, and lawful. However, we have long opposed the adoption of regulations on industry which are unnecessary or unreasonable as to scope or cost of implementation. ... This resolution seeks to make positive changes to the regulatory system in Kansas by providing oversight of proposed regulations by Legislators directly elected by the residents of Kansas.”
State Rep. John Carmichael (D) is one of the 47 state legislators that voted against placing the amendment on the ballot. He said, “We need to have balance in our government so that there is a give-and-take, no matter if there’s a Republican governor or a Democratic governor. This constitutional amendment turns that balance on its head.”
• The Kansas County Sheriff Election and Recall Amendment
This amendment would block counties from abandoning the practice of electing sheriffs. Under current state law, voters can recall a sheriff by submitting a petition containing valid signatures equal to at least 40% of the voters who voted in the last sheriff election; this amendment would also change that to also allow the attorney general to challenge a sheriff’s right to hold office.
Ballot text: This amendment would preserve the right of citizens of each county that elected a county sheriff as of January 11, 2022, to continue electing the county sheriff. The amendment would also provide that a county sheriff only may be involuntarily removed from office pursuant to either a recall election or a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.
- A vote for this proposition would preserve the right of citizens of each county that elected a county sheriff as of January 11, 2022, to continue electing the county sheriff via popular vote. The amendment would also direct that a county sheriff only may be involuntarily removed from office pursuant to either a recall election or a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.
- A vote against this proposition would not make any changes to the constitution and would retain current law concerning the election of a sheriff and the procedures for involuntary removal of a sheriff from office.
Riley County is the only Kansas county that appoints its sheriff. In 1974, the county adopted a consolidated law enforcement agency that included the Riley County Sheriff’s Office, the Manhattan Police Department and the Ogden Police Department. However, last year Johnson County commissioners raised the idea of an appointed county sheriff.
Who supports and opposes the amendment?
According to Ballotpedia, the amendment has received support from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), Kansas Sheriffs Association, and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. Attorney General Schmidt said, “The office of sheriff has deep historical roots, and the long-standing practice of election rather than appointment makes sheriffs uniquely accountable to the people. I commend the large bipartisan majorities in the Legislature for giving Kansas voters the opportunity to enshrine the elected office of sheriff in our state constitution, and I look forward to supporting and campaigning for this amendment this fall.”
The amendment is opposed by State Representatives Sydney Carlin (D), Mike Dodson (R), and Dennis Highberger (D), as well as Kurt Moldrup, the interim director of the Riley County Police Department. State Rep. Michael Dodson (R) said, “If a county wishes to have a sheriff, that’s a great choice. Likewise, if a county wishes to consolidate, they should be able to do that.”