By Karl Peterjohn
There are three numbers that everyone at the statehouse knows who follows Kansas government: 63, 21, and one. You must have 63 votes to pass a bill out of the Kansas House of Representatives, 21 votes to pass a bill out of the Kansas Senate, and the governor’s signature to turn a bill into law.
In the Kansas House you have 83 Republicans and 42 Democrats out of 125 elected members. In the Kansas Senate you have 30 Republicans and 10 Democrats out of 40 elected members. All 165 legislators were elected in 2004. Governor Sebelius was elected in 2002.
Yet there is now a much more important number that is growing in power in Kansas government: the six appointed judges on the Kansas Supreme Court. The Kansas Supreme Court normally has seven members but the recent death of Judge Robert Gernon has temporarily reduced the number of judges serving on this court to six. The key political number that no one is talking about has been researched and posted by the Kansas Meadowlark web log site: www.efg2.com/Meadowlark/2005/03-25.htm. Four of the six judges on Kansas Supreme Court voter registrations indicate that they are Democrats. Based upon the judicial activism demonstrated in the school finance and death penalty cases you have a Democratic majority that is now dominating this court.
The seven judges on the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling January 3, 2005 that school finance in Kansas needed additional spending. Now, the judges’ opaque ruling did not say how much or exactly how additional spending was needed according to the Kansas Constitution. The court did clearly rule that more tax funds must be spent on bilingual schooling. This ridiculous notion that this state’s constitution requires spending less on children of Kansas citizens than spending upon the children of the substantial, but not well documented, number of illegal aliens attending Kansas public schools is absurd. The court ruled that the Kansas Constitution has some sort of hidden provision requiring additional state spending for children unable to speak English. The authors of the Kansas Constitution would be amazed and are rolling in their graves that we would spend less on the children of Kansas citizens than on children whose parents have already flouted state and federal laws. The Kansas Supreme court gave the legislature until April 12 to revise school finance and these appointed judges could issue a final edict at any time.
This January court decision came only a few days after this activist court threw out the Kansas death penalty and removed a number of odious murderers from death row. This same court had ruled on the constitutionality of the death penalty in 2001.
Only a tiny percentage of Kansans know who is on the Kansas Supreme Court. Long serving Kansas Supreme Court Judge Donald Allegrucci’s wife is the governor’s chief of staff. Judge Allegrucci’s son has been a high level official in the Kansas Department of Commerce. If this was a politically powerful Republican family, instead of a Democrat, the mainstream Kansas press would be raising questions about whether this judge, who ran for Congress as a Democrat, when Kansas had a fifth congressional district, should recuse himself because of his family connections and ties to Governor Sebelius’ administration. Sebelius continues to be adamant about getting the large statewide tax hike imposed on Kansans. This is despite the fact that her tax hike was soundly rejected by the legislature in 2004 and more strongly this year.
It is fortunate that the internet now provides a way for bloggers like the Kansas Meadowlark (www.kansasmeadowlark.com) to provide public record information to web surfers about these appointed judges who are unrepresentative of the rest of this state. The fact that today four out of six judges, and soon to be five out of seven, after the governor’s next Supreme Court appointment, will be filled with Democrats is important since barely 1/4 of the registered voters in Kansas are Democrats.
This is a fact that has not been reported during the news coverage of the school finance lawsuits. Kansans need to know about the growing power of the appointed appellate Kansas courts dominated by appointed, activist, liberal Democratic judges and the diminishing power of elected officials and the people who elect them in Kansas.
Karl Peterjohn is a former journalist, California state budget analyst, and executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.