by Mary Rupert
State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., has drafted a bill that would offer some options to communities that have a vacancy on their governing board.
Sen. Haley said he plans to introduce the bill in the Kansas Legislature this year. The session begins in January.
He was motivated to draft the bill because of the 1st District, at large, seat on the Unified Government Commission that has gone unfilled for more than a year.
The commission could not reach six votes for the two finalist candidates, during several votes, and the seat has gone unfilled since then. At times the vote was 5-4 for a candidate, but six votes were needed to pass.
A lawsuit to force the UG to appoint someone to the seat was not successful. The UG charter did not give any specific instructions on what should be done if the commission could not reach six votes on any candidate, and it did not include any instructions for a special election.
UG officials now anticipate that the seat will be filled during the regular spring elections in 2015.
Sen. Haley said he expected that legislators would discuss the bill and offer their suggestions on it, so the final version may not be the same as the one he is introducing.
The draft of the bill stated, “Prolonged vacancies in the governing body of a municipality deprive citizens of their right to representation and act as impediments to the orderly function of government of municipalities.”
The proposed bill would require a vacancy on the governing board to be filled by an appointment within 30 days by a majority vote of the remaining members. If not, the governing body would pass a resolution calling for a special election to fill the vacancy within 45 days of the resolution.
Sen. Haley said he noticed that Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James said yesterday, on the same day as the announcement of a resignation by council member Michael Brooks, that the vacancy on its council would be filled quickly.
“I’m very excited about how quickly Kansas City, Mo., has moved to fill a vacancy. That’s the way real leadership works,” Sen. Haley said.
Sen. Haley said he also plans to introduce legislation this session on hate crimes and on body cameras.