The Kansas Legislature approved a bill this week that gives Sedgwick County the flexibility to consolidate local government in the future.
The new legislation officially designates Sedgwick County as an “urban area.” That means lawmakers can pass laws specific to Sedgwick County without impacting other counties.
The Kansas Constitution requires all laws of a general nature to have uniform operation throughout the state. Provisions under Article 2, Section 17 of the Constitution give the Legislature the authority to designate areas and counties as "urban areas" and enact special laws giving such powers of local government and consolidation of local government as the legislature may deem proper.
County Commission Chairman David Dennis says county leaders wanted the designation so they would be able to request changes in the future.
"We got to looking a few years ago at some reorganization within Sedgwick County and possibly some consolidations," he says. "We couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the authority."
Dennis says Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee, and Greeley counties already have the “urban area” designation.
He says Johnson County was able to consolidate elected and appointed positions in county government such as eliminating the register of deeds and treasurer because it had the “urban area” designation.
Dennis says there are no current proposals for Sedgwick County government consolidation.
“There’s nothing that we’re looking to do, but we decided that if we ever do have something that’s important, then we now have the authority to do it with this bill that was just passed,” Dennis says.
Pursuing the “urban area” designation was one of Sedgwick County’s priorities this year. It is listed as a key initiative in the county’s 2018 Legislative Platform.
“Now, does that give us any additional capability today? No. It doesn’t do anything because any laws that we want changed, we would have to go back to the legislature at a different time and say ‘These are things that we would like changed.’ But it just gives us the authority to go back to the Legislature,” Dennis says.
Sedgwick County’s elected and appointed officials serve as commissioners, appraiser, clerk, district attorney, election commissioner, register of deeds, sheriff and treasurer.
Sedgwick County’s new status takes effect upon publication in the Kansas Register.
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