KC Skyline

Frequently Asked Questions

The City Council, city manager, a city department, a citizen or a group can request resolutions and ordinances



What is an initiative?


In the usual course of City business, proposed ordinances are introduced or “initiated” by councilmembers, the mayor and City department heads. An initiative is a process provided for in the City Charter by which the voters of Kansas City can initiate a proposed ordinance for the City Council’s consideration. If the City Council does not pass the proposed ordinance, the committee of petitioners can have the ordinance submitted to the voters to approve or disapprove. The City Charter states any new ordinance or any ordinance to amend or repeal, in whole or in part, any existing ordinance can be submitted by initiative. The initiative petition must contain the proposed ordinance in full.  [Charter Sec. 426] The right to file an initiative petition is not a constitutional right but a right granted in the City’s Charter.


What is the first step in the initiative process?


An initiative petition must be filed with the City Clerk signed by registered voters of Kansas City, Mo., equal in number to at least 5 percent of the total votes cast for candidates for the office of mayor at the last preceding regular municipal election. Contact the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners or the city clerk to find out the exact number of people who cast a vote for candidates for the office of mayor at the last preceding regular municipal election. [Charter Sec. 426]


What is a Committee of Petitioners?


Each initiative petition must include a statement giving the names and addresses of five registered voters of Kansas City. These people are officially regarded as the persons who are filing the petition.  [Charter Sec. 443]


What happens after the initiative petition is filed with the city clerk?


The city clerk examines the initiative petition and forwards it to the appropriate election authorities to check the names to make sure all who signed are registered voters in Kansas City, Mo. If there is a sufficient number of signatures and if the petition is otherwise sufficient, the city clerk will issue a Certificate of Sufficiency. [Charter Sec. 427]


What happens if there are an insufficient number of signatures or the initiative petition is otherwise insufficient?


The city clerk will issue a Certificate of Insufficiency, which will set out the particulars in which the petition is insufficient.  The Committee of Petitioners will have 10 days after the making of the Certificate of Insufficiency to file a supplementary initiative petition to include additional signatures. The supplementary petition will again be examined and the signatures checked to determine its sufficiency within five days of its filing. If the petition is sufficient, the clerk will issue a Certificate of Sufficiency. If it is insufficient, the clerk will issue a Certificate of Insufficiency. If a Certificate of Insufficiency is again issued, no further action will be taken on the initiative petition.  [Charter Sec. 443]


If an initiative petition is found sufficient, what is the next step?


The city clerk submits the ordinance to the City Council at its next meeting. Thereafter, the City Council can consider the ordinance as it does any other ordinance introduced before the Council. The council can vote to adopt the ordinance, amend and adopt the ordinance as amended or reject the ordinance. The council also can take no action on the ordinance.  [Charter Sec. 427]


Is the City Council required to adopt the ordinance proposed in the initiative petition?


No. A proposed ordinance presented to the City Council by initiative petition is no different than any other ordinance in this regard. Councilmembers are free to use their judgment on whether they believe the ordinance should be adopted or rejected. The council also is free to take no vote on the ordinance.


What happens if the City Council does not adopt the ordinance?


If the council does not adopt the ordinance within 60 days after the city clerk presents it to the council or if the council adopts the ordinance in a different form, the committee of petitioners can require the proposed ordinance in its original form be submitted to a vote of the people of Kansas City. The committee of petitioners must certify to the city clerk within 10 days after expiration of the 60-day period or within 10 days after final action by the council (voting to reject the ordinance or adopting the ordinance in a different form) that they require submission of the ordinance to the voters. This can be done by presenting a letter to the city clerk stating the Committee of Petitioners certifies it requires submission of the proposed ordinance to the electors of Kansas City, Mo.  The letter must be signed by all five members of the committee of petitioners.  [Charter Sec. 427]


What happens after the Committee of Petitioners files a certification?


The city clerk will certify to the City Council at its next regular meeting the receipt of the committee of petitioners certification requiring submission of the proposed ordinance to the voters.  The City Council will thereupon take action to submit the proposed ordinance to the voters at the next municipal or state election held not less than 30 days after the certification by the Committee of Petitioners.  [Charter Sec. 428]


Are there any rules about what kinds of ordinances can be presented by initiative petition?


Yes. Sometimes an initiated ordinance is illegal and the City may contest submitting the ordinance to the voters. For example, only ordinances that are “legislative” should be proposed by initiative. Ordinances that are “administrative” should not be proposed by initiative. A “legislative” ordinance generally is one that is general in nature and presents a new policy or plan. Ordinances that are temporary or special in nature or that merely pursue an existing plan are administrative. 


An initiated ordinance cannot propose to spend money unless the ordinance also provides for new revenues from which the money will come. This requirement is set out in the Missouri Constitution, Section 51 of Article III: “The initiative shall not be used for the appropriation of money other than of new revenues created and provided for thereby, or for any other purpose prohibited by this Constitution.”


If an ordinance is submitted to the voters, what is the ballot title?


The ballot title may be the legal title of the initiated ordinance. It also may be a concise and unprejudiced statement of the ordinance sought to be adopted, which may be written by the City staff. [Ordinance Sec. 432]