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Government of Kansas facts for kids

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The government of the U.S. state of Kansas, established by the Kansas Constitution, is a republican democracy modeled after the Federal Government of the United States. The state government has three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Through a system of separation of powers, or "checks and balances," each of these branches has some authority to act on its own, and also some authority to regulate the other two branches, so that all three branches can limit and balance the others' authority.

The state government is based in Topeka, Kansas.


The Wyandotte Constitution was approved in a referendum by a vote of 10,421 to 5,530 on October 4, 1859. In April 1860, the United States House of Representatives voted 134 to 73 to admit Kansas under the Wyandotte Constitution; however, Senators from slave-holding states resisted passing the measure in the United States Senate. As the Civil War escalated and slave-holding states seceded from the Union, senators from the slave-holding states began to withdraw from their seats. On January 21, 1861, after several more senatorial withdrawals, the remaining members of the Senate passed the bill, and President James Buchanan signed it on January 29, 1861, officially admitting Kansas as a free state.

Executive Branch

The executive branch of Kansas's government is headed by the Governor of Kansas, who is assisted in managing the executive branch by Cabinet Secretaries appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Kansas Senate. The Lieutenant Governor of Kansas is first in line to succeed to the Governorship in the event of a vacancy. The Governor determines the role that the Lieutenant Governor performs.

Elected Officials

Office Current Officer Since Party
Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback January 10, 2011 Republican
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer January 10, 2011 Republican
Secretary of State Kris Kobach January 10, 2011 Republican
Attorney General Derek Schmidt January 10, 2011 Republican
State Treasurer Ron Estes January 10, 2011 Republican
Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer January 12, 2015 Republican

Governor of Kansas

The Governor is both head of state and head of government for Kansas. Under the constitution, the Governor elected to serve a four-year term. The Governor presides over the executive branch, commands the militia of the state, and makes sure that the laws of the state are enforced and that the peace is preserved. The Governor is the state’s chief representative and spokesperson to the other states within the United States, the Federal Government of the United States, and all foreign nations. The Governor must sign all bills passed by the Legislature in order for those bills to become law. Should he veto a bill, the Legislature may override his veto with a two-thirds vote.

Normally, the Governor may not enact legislation, but when empowered to do so by the Legislature, he may issue executive orders which are binding throughout the State. Even so, such executive orders do not have the force of law and may only be issued when related directly to the Governor's duties. Of course, if the Legislature is controlled by his political party, the Governor may strongly suggest the adoption of certain legislation, or request other executive officers to take such actions as the Governor sees fit. In certain emergencies the Governor may assume special, comprehensive powers. These powers involve greater police power and near-absolute control over state, county, and local agencies and resources.

In order to be elected Governor, any gubernatorial candidate is required to obtain a statewide plurality of all votes cast in their election. Given the dominance of the two-party system in Kansas (between the Democrats and the Republicans), the plurality is often a majority as well. However, in the event that two or more candidates have an equal number of votes, the Legislature, by joint ballot, elects one of those candidates Governor.

The state constitution names the Governor the state's chief magistrate and vests supreme executive power in him. As a consequence, the Governor is the preeminent figure in Kansas politics. Though he shares power with many other executive officers, in the event of a vacancy anywhere in the executive branch, he appoints their successor. The Governor appoints the heads of most all state departments and agencies, as well as the members of most state commissions and boards. However, these appointments do require Senate approval. Some serve at his pleasure, while others serve fixed terms.

Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor is the second-highest official in the Kansas government and the first in line to succeed to the Governorship in the event of a vacancy. The Lieutenant Governor is elected for a four-year term that runs concurrent with that of the Governor. In the absence of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor assumes all powers and duties of office of Governor. However, this only happens when the Governor leaves the state or becomes incapable of discharging his duties as Governor.

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