Kansas Home Rule

What does the term "Home Rule" mean?

Kansas cities have broad constitutional powers granted under Article 12, Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution for self government. These powers are referred to as "Home Rule" powers and were granted to Kansas cities in 1961. Rather than waiting for the state legislature to pass statutes on a particular subject, cities are able to pass ordinances regarding their local affairs. However, Home Rule authority is not absolute and cities must comply with state laws that apply uniformly to all cities and must comply with applicable federal laws and the US and Kansas constitutions. In addition, Kansas cities are prohibited from changing limits of indebtedness.

When must a city adopt an ordinary ordinance and when must it use a charter ordinance?

A city may legislate by adopting an ordinary ordinance if there is no applicable state statute dealing with a particular subject or if there is an existing state law on the subject which the city desires to legislate, but it does not conflict with the proposed city legislation.

A charter ordinance should be used by a city when (1) there is a state enactment with applies to the city which contains provisions in conflict with the provisions of the proposed local law; (2) the state law does not apply uniformly to all cities; and (3) the state law does not deal with one of the subjects exclusively reserved to the legislature (i.e. incorporation of cities and the alteration of city boundaries by annexation, merger, consolidation or dissolution).

What is a Charter Ordinance?

A charter ordinance is required to adopt a local ordinance that is in conflict with a state law provision. The ordinance must be passed by a 2/3 vote of the governing body (which by definition, includes both the councilmembers and the mayor). Because the mayor is included in the original vote, the mayor is unable to veto a charter ordinance. The ordinance must be published once each week for two consecutive weeks in the official city newspaper. There is a 60 days period after publication to allow time for the public to petition for a referendum on the matter. If no petition is filed during this period, the charter ordinance becomes effective on the 61st day after publication. The city clerk must send the Kansas Secretary of State a copy of all charter ordinances passed by a City. If a valid protest petition is filed by 10% of the number of electors who voted in the last regular city election, then an election must be held and a majority of voters must approve the charter ordinance for it to become effective.

What City meetings are open to the public?

The Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) is located at K.S.A. 75-4317 et seq. It applies to all legislative and administrative bodies and agencies of the state and its political and taxing subdivisions (including cities), and the councils, task forces, commissions and committees created by these governing bodies, except under certain circumstances.

The requirements of KOMA apply to meetings, gatherings, assemblies, telephone calls or any other "interactive" communication by a majority of a quorum of the membership of a body or agency subject to this act for the purpose of discussing the business or affairs of the body or agency.

KOMA requires every part of a meeting except validly called executive sessions be open to the public. Notice of the time, date and place of regular and special meetings must be furnished to those individuals and groups requesting it. No publication notice is required. Any agenda prepared for a meeting covered by the act, must be available before the meeting to those who request it. Agendas are not required to be mailed, but just to be made available at a convenient location. The use of cameras, lights and recording devices may not be prohibited, but reasonable rules regarding their use may be adopted. Additional information on KOMA may be found at the Kansas Attorney General's website.