Archive for Friday, August 13, 2010

Agriculture groups criticize Kobach’s voter initiative plan

August 13, 2010

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Kris Kobach, Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state, discusses his voter initiative proposal July 27 outside the Statehouse in Topeka. The proposal would allow voters to put proposed laws and constitutional changes on the ballot without going through the Legislature.

Kris Kobach, Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state, discusses his voter initiative proposal July 27 outside the Statehouse in Topeka. The proposal would allow voters to put proposed laws and constitutional changes on the ballot without going through the Legislature.

Secretary of State Chris Biggs discusses campaign issues Thursday in his office in Topeka. Biggs is a Democrat appointed to the office in March 2010.

Secretary of State Chris Biggs discusses campaign issues Thursday in his office in Topeka. Biggs is a Democrat appointed to the office in March 2010.

— A Kansas politician’s plan to allow voters to enact laws without going through the Legislature is drawing criticism from major farm groups, and a fellow Republican leader said Friday that the idea worries agriculture leaders.

Kris Kobach, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, said he’s not surprised interest groups oppose his voter initiative plan. As residents of other states can, Kansas residents could put proposed laws and state constitutional changes on the ballot for voters’ approval.

Secretary of State Chris Biggs, a Democrat who faces Kobach in the Nov. 2 general election, said allowing voter initiatives could make elections far more expensive. But Biggs isn’t as vocal in criticizing the idea as major agricultural groups.

The Kansas Livestock Association declared its opposition to the idea even before Kobach won the GOP primary last week. In a post-primary e-mail, the Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association cited Kobach’s plan as an example of “industry unfriendly” views.

Agriculture groups worry that organizations like the Humane Society of the United States would use voter initiatives to push for animal-rights initiatives that enjoy little support among legislators. One example is a successful 2008 proposition in California to ban small “battery cages” for chickens.

Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican and farmer, said Kobach’s plan is a serious concern for some agriculture industry officials.

“Why would we want to be like California?” Morris said. “Everybody I’ve talked to about initiative and referendum, their reaction was dismay.”

Morris and the ag groups haven’t formally endorsed Biggs, but the Grain and Feed and Agribusiness Retailers’ e-mail described the Democratic secretary of state as “worthy of your support.”

Kobach said he “100 percent opposes” animal rights groups’ efforts but has faith Kansas voters would reject such proposals. He said he wants to give people greater control over their government.

“Special interest groups and lobbyists like to control the Legislature through cozy relationships they have with individual legislators,” he said.

Twenty-six states, including the four surrounding Kansas, have mechanisms allowing voters to put proposed laws or constitutional changes on the ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many adopted them a century ago as progressive reforms.

Creating such a system in Kansas would require two-thirds majorities in the Legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment and submit it to voters in a statewide election.

The last serious push came in the early 1990s, when Democratic Gov. Joan Finney, a self-described populist, championed the idea. Major agriculture groups opposed the idea then, also citing the potential for animal rights initiatives.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll reconsider his position,” Allie Devine, the Livestock Association’s general counsel, said of Kobach.

Morris said the concern isn’t so much that animal-rights proposals will pass but that the agriculture industry will be forced to divert resources to fighting them year after year.

“You can send somebody to a shopping center with a petition and people will sign just about anything, and suddenly, something’s on the ballot,” Morris said.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state’s office expects to spend $200,000 publishing two proposed constitutional changes put by legislators on the Nov. 2 ballot. State law requires amendments to be published three times in at least one newspaper in each of the state’s 105 counties.

Biggs also said counties face additional costs from “long” ballots.

“There just needs to be a recognition that if we do institute something like that, that there’s going to be substantial costs associated with it,” Biggs said. “At one extreme, ballot initiatives can turn our elections into very much pet-peeve ballots.”

Kobach dismissed such criticism, saying initiative processes work well in many states, including Kansas’ neighbors.

“I trust the people of Kansas,” he said. “I merely put the issue out there for the people of Kansas to discuss.”

Comments

matchbox81 4 years, 8 months ago

It's incredibly easy and cheap for a large corporation or political action committee to hire some cheap labor to petition signatures for a ballot referendum. Much more difficult for some citizen activists to do the same.

blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

vertigo: I had a similar experience with Kobach at a parade; the Lawrence 150 year event in 2004. You are right-on; what a creepy individual, I made the mistake of shaking his hand as he slimed down Mass.; have regretted it ever since that day.

MyName 4 years, 8 months ago

As someone said earlier in the thread: if California does it, then we should definitely think twice about it.

weeslicket 4 years, 8 months ago

this is what caught my attention: "The critics are worried animal rights groups would use the process to push for laws restricting agriculture."

really. in kansas. really.

regarding: "Kobach wants to allow voters to put laws and proposed state constitutional changes to statewide votes, without going through the Legislature."

really. in kansas. kobach will let animal rights activists in through the back porch, with his convenient screen door and all? i really don't think so.

personally, i think that mr. kobach is more than willing to let his especial friends in through the back porch screen door, but animal rights activists? really? i suspect that these animal rights people are really not the kobach friends we should really be concerned about. really.

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