Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session: Part II

Thank you, Karl, for this insight into the character of our leading Kansas politicians, and for another example of how Kansas newspapers and other news media aren’t giving us the information we need.


Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session: Part II

By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Early in the special session of the Kansas legislature the house speaker, Representative Doug Mays, R-Topeka, spoke one-on-one with Governor Sebelius. Following this conversation Rep. Mays relayed his discussion with the governor to his house GOP caucus as he laid out a variety of public policy options for the special session. This event deserves more public attention than it has received.

Speaker Mays said that he and Governor Sebelius did not find a lot of common ground. Mays did say that the governor was willing to do a deal. The governor wanted expanded gambling while the conservative GOP legislators behind Mays wanted a constitutional amendment to defend the budgetary authority of elected officials from the Kansas courts.

The two constitutional amendments both ended in failure on the house floor with 41 of 42 house Democrats voting against both proposals to limit the Kansas Supreme Court’s spending edict. A 2/3 vote or 84 out of 125 house members would be needed to send a constitutional amendment to Kansas voters after two separate amendments passed the senate. Unified house Democrats have the votes to stop any constitutional amendment.

This proposal to swap gambling for constitutional restrictions on judicial activism and protecting legislative budget power is major news. I asked Rep. Mays why this has not been reported statewide? “I have no idea why they (the press) didn’t,” Mays said. He also said, “It’s public knowledge,” based upon the caucus discussion. Some press members sit in on the caucuses since they fall under open meetings provisions.

The governor’s spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said that the governor spoke with many legislators during the special session but that her office had no knowledge of this proposed swap on these two major issues.

I asked Mays if he was surprised that this has not been reported statewide. Mays expressed frustration that this deal has not become public knowledge. Mays went on to explain that is most of the state house press, “Didn’t seem to be inclined to report anything to put the governor in a bad light.”

Mays went on to acknowledge that he had been clobbered by a number of critical newspaper editorials concerning his legislative actions during the special session. This editorial page criticism does not bother Mays because the bulk of the public feedback he has received has been positive.

The editorial criticism is not as important as the news reporting. Kansans need to know that there was talk about trading votes for a constitutional amendment in exchange for state expansion of casino gambling. This is important information since we no longer have a judiciary that has usurped legislative budget authority. Kansas now has an oligarchy of appointed judges. The average Kansan needs to know about this deal was being discussed at the statehouse during 2005 special legislative session.

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Karl Peterjohn is the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network and is a former news reporter and California Department of Finance budget analyst.

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