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Executive Branch

The Constitution of the State of Kansas, (1861) was patterned on the style and form of the Constitution of the United States. The authors of Kansas’ Constitution also followed precedent or the guidelines for how other states’ constitutions had been designed. In many ways, the Kansas or Wyandotte Constitution followed very closely the federal model to establish the three branches of government within this state. However, one of the most significant differences between the United States Constitution and its component in Kansas is the make-up of the executive branch of government.

Typically, the executive branch is often understood to be the office of the chief executive, in this case the governor, and to no one else. However, the authors of the Kansas Constitution designed the executive branch as the Executive Department and included not only the governor and lieutenant governor, but also the secretary of state, and the attorney general. The department was so designated because of precedents set by other states and because of the impact these offices had on Bleeding Kansas on the territorial government.

Though these two offices were included in the state constitution, supreme authority of the executive department lays with the governor; the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general must report to the governor on official matters prior to each legislative session.

The governor is responsible for relating information from the executive department to the state legislature, and for setting the agenda and issues for the state legislators to address during a legislative session. The governor has the power to enact laws with his or her signature or to veto all or part of bills to return to legislators. Further, the governor has the power to close regular legislative sessions to encourage law makers to make progress, and the governor has the authority to call special sessions of the state legislature. He or she is the commander-in-chief of the state militia or Kansas National Guard, and may call them up to defend the state during invasion, or to assist during national disasters. The governor may also issue pardons to convicted criminals. However, the governor cannot make laws, levy taxes, or administer justice in the state.

The lieutenant governor’s role is decided by the governor. The lieutenant governor no longer holds the position of president of the Kansas Senate. Instead, the lieutenant governor works with state commissions and on issues that are most important to the governor. In the event that the governor cannot perform his or her duties, the lieutenant governor takes on the role of the governor. The secretary of state is chiefly responsible for elections and to ensure that elections are fair and that there is no voter fraud. The attorney general is the chief law enforcement official in the state and works to assist the governor in the execution of state laws and the obedience of federal laws. Each of the members of the executive department serves a four-year term. The governor may not serve more than two consecutive four year terms. Most of the state agencies are a part of the executive branch of government and the secretaries and executive directors serve at the pleasure of the governor.

The offices of the governor and the lieutenant governor are housed in the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka. The offices of the attorney general and secretary of state are housed in Memorial Hall in Topeka.

Entry: Executive Branch

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2012

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.