Article I Section 3 of the Kansas Constitution is very clear. “The supreme executive power of this state shall be vested in a governor, who shall be responsible for the enforcement of the laws of this state.” In 2018 Governor Kelly sought the position of Governor and on November 6, 2018 a plurality elected her to carry out the role. Unfortunately, now that she is in office, Gov. Kelly seems less than interested in carrying out the constitutional duties of the position she sought and has been entrusted with by the people of Kansas.
The Kansas News Service recently reported on Gov. Kelly’s attempt to abandon her responsibility as chief executive of the state. Child welfare advocates are currently suing multiple state agencies that oversee the state foster care system. All of these agencies are a part of the Kelly administration, all are headed by cabinet secretaries appointed by Gov. Kelly, and all follow her direction. As is typically the case when state agencies are sued, the Governor was named in the lawsuit.
On Oct. 25, attorneys for the Governor filed a motion asking for the Governor to be removed from the lawsuit. It was the Governor’s reasoning for this request that is most disturbing. Gov. Kelly claimed that while she has general oversight of her administration “she does not enforce the statutes or regulations that control the Kansas foster care system.” Instead, the Governor argues, that duty falls to her cabinet secretaries.
The Governor’s argument flies directly in the face of the Kansas Constitution. The Governor is expressly responsible for the enforcement of the laws of the state. This is not a duty falling to unelected agency heads — the ultimate responsibility falls to the one person elected by the people of Kansas to carry out these duties, Gov. Laura Kelly.
For eight years Gov. Kelly and Kansas Democrats never missed a chance to place blame on Sam Brownback. Even to this day Gov. Kelly hasn’t missed an opportunity to cast the former Governor in a negative light. Yet now when her administration is facing criticism, the Governor’s first reaction is to essentially say this whole business of running the state isn’t really her responsibility.
Regardless of Gov. Kelly’s political leanings, the people of Kansas elected her to carry out the constitutional duties of her office. Earlier this year the Governor ran into trouble when it was revealed that her administration was not enforcing the laws of the state requiring welfare recipients to meet work requirements. Now she is attempting to hand off responsibility to unelected cabinet leaders.
Gov. Kelly would be well served to take a lesson from a former leader of her Democrat Party, President Harry S Truman. President Truman famously had a placard on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here.” Truman knew that the decisions of the executive branch ultimately fell on him, not his subordinates.
The job of a chief executive is to make the hard decisions and accept responsibility, not pass the buck.
Dan Hawkins is the majority leader in the Kansas House.