Politics & Government

Multiple constitutional amendment questions on ballot could be costly

If the pileup of constitutional amendments circulating the Statehouse all went onto Kansas ballots in 2014, it could cost the state nearly $2.5 million to program voting machines and publish the information, Democrats said Friday.

The estimate from the Secretary of State’s office tallied the costs for seven proposed constitutional amendments, although six of them relate to judicial selection and are unlikely to each find their way to a ballot.

“I think that the constitution should be amended in rare circumstances when there is real public need for us to embed something into our state’s constitution,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. “The Republicans over and over again just want to amend the constitution willy-nilly.”

With some overlapping ideas that could be merged into single amendments and a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate required to advance the ideas to statewide ballots, those cost estimates may be high.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Johnson County Republican, said it’s very unlikely all the amendments will make it to ballots.

“It’s much ado about nothing,” he said of the cost estimates criticized by Democrats. “It’s nice to talk about numbers and scare people with numbers, and that’s exactly what that is.”

The amendments detailed in the cost estimate include six efforts to change how appeal court judges are selected and one dealing with term limits for lawmakers.

A separate amendment not included in the estimate, but likely to get serious consideration, would try to end a school finance lawsuit by declaring the Legislature the only arm of government that can decide how much the state will spend on schools.

Amendments dealing with judicial selection cost roughly $310,000 to $467,000. The amendment to limit lawmakers to eight years in the Legislature would cost $112,500. It’s unclear how much the school finance amendment may cost.