Kansas: A Unique State of Affairs

Kansas is a no-ballot initiative republican supermajority state. “No-ballot initiative” means that constituents are not allowed to propose laws themselves for the ballot and then vote directly on those proposals. Constituents may only vote on state policy directly if supermajorities of the legislature allow you to vote on their preferred amendments to the state constitution. This is the reason why we don’t have to collect signatures like you may have seen in Missouri, Colorado or Illinois. Kansas is one of 24 states that absolutely denies ballot initiatives all together and that fact raises a lot of concerns for some people.

Our archaic structure concerning ballot initiatives dates back to over a century ago from Populist and Progressive movements, and we’d like to shed some light on this subject. Still to this day, politicians in the Kansas legislature hold all of the power. That means that if their agenda doesn’t coincide with the will of the people, Kansans cannot directly intervene into the policy process.

Go Vote!

Politics fundamentally purvey objectives and wills of those in power and only those. The hierarchies at the state capital in Topeka can be confusing, and a layperson can feel entirely left out of the legislative process. Once officials are elected, it’s entirely up to them how our government moves. If you take one thing from this article, I hope you understand the necessity of voting. In fact, I urge you to GO VOTE. Participate in local and state elections and not just federal. Make your voice heard!

What’s the reasoning?

Politicians may have comprehensive reasoning as to why this legislative process works. They may view elections as “mandates” for their own vague buzzword agendas that they predictably claim as your agenda. Or maybe you’ll hear the tired “we live in a republic, not a democracy” argument. Newsflash: republics are democracies, and America is both. It could be argued that you don’t know enough about policy to assist in forming it yourself. That you don’t “see the big picture”, whatever that means.

At the end of the day, letting Kansans express their beliefs and desires through ballot initiative means that Kansans might do things that politicians don’t want; like expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, set your own tax rates or legalize marijuana. Why would politicians give us that control? They wouldn’t gain anything from it with the exception of a slew of paperwork and a higher workload. There is no public pressure concerning this, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

The Good News

With all of that being said, we, the people, are receiving some extremely positive feedback on the medical cannabis regulation act here in Kansas. Legislators are finally interested in moving forward on the bill and their reactions have been overwhelmingly positive from the House of Representatives all the way to the Senate. In conversations with Senators on the committee and leadership in both parties, every indication we’ve received has led to belief that this bill will be worked and voted on this session and has a decent probability to have the votes it needs. Legislators are currently on a Spring Break for three weeks and are expected back late April. Hurry up and wait, and don’t hold your breath. We’re really doing this!

Concerning this bill, constituents were urged to input testimonials outlining their opinions and wants and needs during the last Senate Committee hearing. We actually got a say in this one, and I saw multiple non-affiliated proponents of the bill speak during the hearing in early March. Slowly but surely, we can push for the initiatives we want, and together we can create a better world that we live in. If you want something, you’ve got to go and get it. 

“Create the new world that we all wish to see.”

Ari Gunzberg

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