TOPEKA — The Kansas House soon could debate a proposed minimum age for candidates for statewide office after a committee voted the controversial bill out Monday.
The House Elections Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the House, but did not recommend the House pass it. The proposal arose because six teens made moves to enter the race for Kansas governor.
House Bill 2539, heard last week, would require all candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and commissioner of insurance to be at least 18 years old. Candidates for governor and lieutenant would have to be Kansas residents for four years before running for office.
Though the bill passed unanimously, it faced criticism from several committee members, resulting in the lack of recommendation. Democratic Rep. Vic Miller, Topeka, said he likely would not support the bill but believed it merited a discussion in the House.
“We’re not going to have a intelligence requirement. We’re not going to have a senility clause. We have all that,” Miller said. “We have all the requirements we need right now and that is that you don’t get elected unless the people decide to elect you.”
Miller said although he disagreed with the bill and believed it was unnecessary, he understood the concern held by fellow representatives and believed age limits to be a “fair point of discussion.”
The committee rejected by a 9-3 vote an amendment brought by Andover Republican Rep. Kristey Williams that would increase the minimum age to 30 for governor and lieutenant governor and to 25 for the remaining statewide offices. It also removed the four year residency requirement.
Miller and Rep. John Alcala, a Topeka Democrat, argued against the amendment stating it simply further impeded upon the rights of voters.
Rep. Francis Awerkamp, a St. Marys Republican, presented the amendment on behalf of Williams, who was absent. He said minimum ages around 25 or 30 better mirrored the federal government.
“It certainly follows along with the wisdom and guidance of our founding fathers,” Awerkamp said.
If passed, the bill would not take effect until the next election cycle.