Role of Committees in the Kansas Legislature
As a practical matter, the 165 members of the Legislature conduct most legislative business in committees. Although committees are not mentioned in the Kansas Constitution, each chamber may determine the rules of its proceedings, including the creation of committees, and the two chambers may adopt joint rules on certain matters. Other committees are governed by statutes. Changes in the committee system may occur with the start of each new biennium, as well as during the biennium at the discretion of legislative leadership. The committee system allows legislators to spend more time studying specific issues and bills and to make recommendations about such issues and bills. Generally speaking, standing committees and subcommittees in each chamber meet separately during the legislative session; statutory joint committees comprised of members of each chamber may meet year-round, historically, during the interim; and special committees, after having been created by the Legislative Coordinating Council, meet during the interim. Legislators also may serve on a number of other entities, some comprised exclusively of legislators and some with mixed memberships of legislators and non-legislators.
During the session, each chamber meets daily to conduct their official business in the committee of the whole and schedules meetings of their different standing committees. Sometimes legislative leadership will appoint a select or special committee or joint committee to review certain issues or bills, and House and Senate committee chairpersons may assign a few committee members to work on certain issues or bills in a subcommittee. The Senate Ways and Means Committee uses a subcommittee system to review different agency budgets, and the House rules establish various budget committees that review certain assigned fiscal topics, bills, and agency budgets.
Members of a standing committee, budget committee, and other select or special committees may hear testimony from the public and other interested parties about issues and proposed legislation. Issues may be debated, legislation amended, and recommendations adopted during committee meetings. Subcommittees may review and make recommendations to the full committee, but amendments to bills must be made and approved during regular committee sessions. House budget committees and Senate Ways and Means subcommittees make budget reports and recommendations to the full committee, which then may adopt, reject, or modify such reports and recommendations.
Reports and recommendations on bills from standing, budget, select, and special committees are transmitted to the chambers of each body. If legislative leadership decides to work a bill, then generally the body will resolve itself into the committee of the whole to consider the legislative agenda for that day. Debate, amendments, and voting may occur in the committee of the whole where all members of each chamber may participate.
After legislation passes both bodies, if there are differences in the bill versions between House and Senate, a conference committee usually is appointed by legislative leadership to resolve the differences in one or more assigned bills. A conference committee is a type of joint committee, typically comprised of three members from each chamber, usually the chairperson, vice chairperson, and ranking minority member of the standing committee or other committee that originally considered the bill in that chamber.
Many statutory committees are designated or considered joint committees. The statute usually governs the number of members, how they are appointed, and its duties. Leadership sitting as the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) may assign other study duties. These committees can meet during the session, however, typically they meet during the interim, subject to LCC approval. The LCC also may appoint special committees to review certain assigned topics during the interim. Other statutory entities, such as commissions, committees, councils, and task forces, whose membership may consist of only legislators, both legislators and non-legislators, or only non-legislators, generally meet during the interim. Such entities study issues during the interim and make recommendations and reports to the next session of the legislature. Only those with statutory authority to do so may introduce legislation. The LCC must approve all other recommendations for legislation.
KSA 46-134a allows the House Appropriations Committee, Senate Ways and Means Committee, and the House budget committees and Senate subcommittees to meet during the interim as necessary. In odd-numbered years, the committees and subcommittees typically are authorized to visit the various state institutions, a program known as the biennial tour.
A statutory provision in KSA 46-1001 et seq. authorizes legislative leadership to designate a standing, special, or select committee of either house; a joint committee of both houses; an authorized subcommittee of any committee, and other entities an “investigating committee.” The powers and duties of “investigating committee” are prescribed in the statute.
Information on current session committees, current joint and special committees, commissions, and task forces, and current conference committees (during session) may be found on the Legislature's website.
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