Topeka A proposal to convene a historic meeting of the Legislature in Lecompton — the Territorial Capital of Kansas — has hit a snag, namely the Kansas Constitution.
The Constitution states all sessions of the Legislature must be held in the state capital, which is Topeka.
In November, Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society, had sent letters to all legislators and Gov.-elect Sam Brownback proposing a one-day session in Lecompton as part of observing Kansas’ 150th anniversary of statehood.
The town, located between Topeka and Lawrence, has been called the “Birthplace of the Civil War — Where Slavery Began to Die.”
The pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution was rejected by Congress and led to a split in the Democratic Party, which allowed Republican Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency with 39 percent of the vote.
Bahnmaier invited the Legislature to Lecompton during the 2011 session, which starts Monday. The push even produced some bumper stickers that read “Return Capital to Lecompton for Kansas 150th Statehood Anniversary.” Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, whose district includes Lecompton, said he wanted to ride on horseback to the session.
But House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said the Office of Revisor of Statutes, which provides legal advice to the Legislature, said that the Constitution states the Legislature can’t meet there.
O’Neal’s office said the Legislature and governor could sign a ceremonial proclamation on site.
Bahnmaier said a ceremonial event may be the way to go.
He noted a 1928 event where numerous state dignitaries went to the dedication of the Old Pawnee Capital at Fort Riley. They dressed in 1855 period clothes and even wore fake whiskers. “Guns and knives were freely displayed,” according to an account recorded by the Kansas State Historical Society.
Bahnmaier said the historical events of Lecompton should be celebrated. “It’s a way of letting all the people in the United States aware of the fact that Kansas is 150 years old, and the role Kansas played in United States history.”