Report From the Kansas Statehouse, March 9, 2006

Thank you to Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network, for this report on happenings in Topeka.

The Kansas senate surrendered their ability to rein the activist Sebelius and leftist dominated Kansas Supreme Court Thursday afternoon. A constitutional amendment to require senate confirmation of judges barely received a majority vote Thursday afternoon as a coalition of most senate Democrats and the Senate GOP leadership of Senate President Steve Morris and Vice President John Vratil succeeded in killing this constitutional amendment that needed a 2/3 or 27 votes to pass and move to the house.

The odious nature of this defeat was that the proposal had 28 co-sponsors including Morris, Wysong, Barone and several others who voted against their own proposal. Fortunately, many senators had their reasons for voting for or against this measure in the journal so you can see why they voted the way they did. An effort to improve this constitutional amendment by eliminating the nominating commission failed during the debate on Wednesday on a 15-to-25 vote with the Democrats joining with the liberal Republicans to kill this amendment.

The profile in pusillanimous pontification goes to Sen. Ruth Teichman who ended up passing on the bill. He equivocation “passing” serves as an effective “no” vote but allows her to state that she did not against reining in the court. The voters in her south central district need to know how weasily this behavior is on this crucial issue. Passing on difficult votes has become a common form of trying to hide their position in the Kansas senate in the last couple of years.

In all likelihood, this looks like the senate won’t even bother to pass any other constitutional amendments to reassert their own fiscal authority or rein in the court during the rest of the 2006 session. Last summer the senate passed two constitutional amendments on almost party line, 30-to-9 votes last summer. The senators passed these provisions with some cynicism on the part of some of the senators voting yes with the full knowledge from the Democrats that there were not enough votes in the Kansas House Of Representatives to have anything reining in the courts get to the voters for a constitutional referendum vote.

In sense, this is not surprising. Spending and spending measures are proliferating. Eminent domain reform and the Taxpayers Bill Of Rights are being throttled in committee, the government lobbyists are dominating the legislative process, and local units are likely to get more taxing authority in the form of additional sales taxes in the desire for “uniformity” that will help make the misnamed “streamline” sales tax more uniform during this year’s legislature.

It is sad to hear that so much of the “leadership” agenda seems to be driven by liberals in both parties setting out their goals for growing Kansas government.

By contrast, the Arizona, Florida, and Michigan legislatures are all looking at serious tax cutting legislation. Arizona is looking at $400 million in income and property tax cuts. In Topeka, the appraisal notices are going out this month and significant hikes in property that has not been improved are now being reported with double-digit percentage increases. Raising property taxes by the appraiser in an on-going process. The decline of Kansas continues.

Two excellent quotes from the senate debate over reining in the court was Sen. Kay O’Connor’s point that only about 25% of Kansans are Democrats but the closed process in Kansas has given us a Supreme Court where 5-out-of-7 judges are registered Democrats. This is the Sebelius court. Sen. Susan Wagle pointed out that a “cloud” of uncertainty created by the court’s spending edicts hangs over this state.

Sen. Terry Bruce pointed out that there are over 9,000 lawyers who get three votes on selecting the members who pick the three nominees for the Kansas Supreme Court. The other 2.7 million of us who are NOT lawyers only get our vote for governor. The governor selects four of the nine members of this commission that meets behind closed doors. Lawyers get to vote for one member in each congressional district that makes up four more members of this commission as well as the one member who is elected statewide. Lawyers make up 5 of the 9 members and in effect this branch is government by the lawyers, of the lawyers, and for the lawyers. Non lawyers in Kansas are officially second class citizens under this outrageous system.

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