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Archive for Saturday, February 10, 2001

Senator accepts constitutional compromise

February 10, 2001

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— In 1992, newly elected State Rep. Kay O'Connor raised her right hand and swore to uphold the Kansas Constitution. Then she had a flash.

"I realized I had never read the Kansas Constitution," she said this week.

O'Connor, a conservative Republican from Olathe who was elected last year to the state Senate, got a copy and started reading.

But that wasn't the end of it.

As she served in the House, she said, it became obvious that some of her colleagues were unfamiliar with both the U.S. and Kansas constitutions.

So she drafted a bill that would require candidates for state office to take a test on the U.S. and Kansas constitutions. It would have been an open-book test, and how a candidate fared wouldn't have affected whether he or she could hold office.

That proposal went nowhere in the Legislature. So, earlier this week, O'Connor compromised.

Now, under a bill recommended by the Senate Elections and Local Government Committee, candidates for state office will receive copies of the U.S. and Kansas constitutions from the secretary of state's office. They also will receive the current examination for U.S. citizenship and an answer sheet.

They will not have to take the test, which asks those seeking citizenship basic questions about the U.S. government.

O'Connor said she agreed to the compromise because her version of the bill was perceived by some as an attempt to embarrass politicians.

"I wasn't trying to embarrass anyone. It was aimed at education," she said.

She said she was satisfied with the current version of the bill.

O'Connor noted that the secretary of state has a booklet for $1.50 that contains the U.S. and Kansas constitutions. And, she said, the citizenship exam is available on the Internet.

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