Would staggered terms in the Kansas Senate make a difference?
The tax debate in Kansas centers on a promise made to voters: That the sales tax increase will be allowed to expire this year, as current law specifies. Members of the House of Representatives seem to have a solemn grip on this promise, while senators are more willing to keep the current high sales tax rate in exchange for lowering other taxes (or something else).
With two-year terms, all 125 members of the House will face the electorate next year. None of the 40 senators will, as they have three years until their next election to their four-year terms.
Does the distance to the next election make a difference? Kansas is uncommon, but not unique, in that it has legislators that are elected to lengthy terms, but not in a staggered fashion. (See Ballotpedia, Length of terms of state senators.)
California, for example, has 40 senators like Kansas, but their terms are staggered so that half the positions are up for election every two years. But in Kansas, all 40 senate seats are elected at the same time.
So in Kansas next year, all House members are facing elections, while no Senators face the same scrutiny by voters.
Does that account for the difference in positions taken by the two chambers? In three years, when senators face voters, will this year be remembered?
Should Kansas change the senate so that terms are staggered? Yes, I think so. Let’s elect odd-numbered districts in one election cycle, and even-numbered the next. In 2014, one of these groups — half the senate seats — will be elected to two-year terms to get the stagger started. Flip a coin to see which group starts.