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Legislative Branch » Organization of Both Chambers

Preparation for the Session

In the years (even-numbered) in which members of either chamber are elected, a pre-organizational meeting is held at the State Capitol in Topeka on the first Monday in December. At that time, the secretary of state (or a designee) calls the rolls of the House and Senate from a certified list of members-elect. Upon recess that day, party caucuses are held to select members for legislative leadership offices for the ensuing terms, and other organizational matters are considered. In the House, these officers are the speaker, speaker pro tem, majority leader, minority leader, and other party or caucus officers. In the Senate, these officers are the president, vice-president, majority leader, minority leader, and party or caucus officers.

In accord with the Kansas Constitution, each chamber determines its own rules and the two chambers may adopt joint rules. These rules normally are adopted near the beginning of the legislative session following an election of members. The rules are subject to suspension, amendment or revocation.

Presiding Officers

The president of the Senate presides over the Senate and the speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. Both officers are in line to succeed to the governorship in the event of a vacancy, behind the lieutenant governor. Unlike many other states, the lieutenant governor of Kansas does not preside over the Senate. Since a 1972 amendment to the Kansas Constitution, the lieutenant governor’s duties have been severed from the legislative branch, but the lieutenant governor is active in other areas of the Kansas state government.

Who takes over?

What happens if the governor is unable to fulfill his or her gubernatorial duties? The following is the order of succession as stated by the Kansas Constitution.

  1. Governor
  2. Lieutenant Governor
  3. President of the Senate
  4. Speaker of the House

Duties of Presiding Officers

The duties of the presiding officers of each chamber are similar, although there are several important differences. Both the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives (or in their place, the vice-president of the Senate and the speaker pro tem of the House) call the chambers to order at the time set for meeting each day and see that the proper order of business is followed according to the rules and items on the legislative calendar. They are responsible for recognizing members who wish to make motions, present points of order, make inquiries or participate in debate, and the speaker and the president also must sign all bills passed.

In the House, the speaker appoints the standing and other committees and refers bills and resolutions to the appropriate committees. In the Senate, the Committee on Organization, Calendar and Rules appoints members of the standing committees. However, the president refers bills to committees and appoints members of special and select committees and conference committees. These officers also have certain administrative and housekeeping responsibilities incidental to the operation of the Legislature.