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No school consolidations

At least none for now

Representative of District 70

Last week, I mentioned a number of pending education bills. All were defeated — two on the floor of the House, and one was laid to rest in committee. The legislature decided this was not a time to single-out small schools and starve them into closing. There may be a time Kansas insists that its smallest districts (perhaps those with less than 100 students in the entire district) consolidate. Some districts of various sizes are talking with each other about voluntary consolidation, but the legislature has no current desire to force the issue.

Probably the most important legislation proposed to the Judiciary Committee thus far comes from a group dissatisfied with the Kansas Supreme Court, perhaps because of its decision related to school funding. Many conservative legislators are angry that the Court ordered the legislature to adequately fund education. Someone “creating” the problem and sending out fliers about the perceived ill so we can then search for a solution has spent a huge amount of money.

The committee has now heard rather ugly testimony about a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way we select Supreme Court justices and court of appeals judges. I don’t think it will pass.

Currently a commission consisting of four attorneys and four lay people selects justices and appellate judges (one each from each of the four congressional districts). The attorneys are selected by practicing attorneys in the district, and the Governor appoints the lay people. All licensed attorneys who reside in Kansas select a chairman. The idea was that attorneys are more familiar with judges and other attorneys, and would have insight on the strongest choices for the appeals courts. This commission selects three nominees, and the Governor appoints the judge/justice from that list of three. The goal was to assure our judges and justices would not be political, would be independent, and would interpret our laws honestly and fairly without the need to answer to any interest group. To date, it would be difficult to identify any appeals judge or justice who has been a poor choice. We did hear testimony suggesting the newest member is a bad choice because he, like the governor, is a Democrat. Nonetheless, he had strong support outside the commission — from Republicans and Democrats, and from both conservative and liberal camps.

The proposed change to the constitution would modify the makeup of the nominating commission. The Speaker of the House would select three members, the Senate President would select three members, and the Governor would select three; and no more than three on the commission could be attorneys —and this wouldn’t be political? The tug and pull by special interest groups would be gigantic, horrendous, divisive, and just plain bad for Kansas.

Kansas justices typically have not been prone to make law, but interpret law. If we are to tinker with our constitution, there ought to be a reason — like something gone wrong with our current system. It might be one thing to tinker a bit, but overhaul the system?

You may email me atBrookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861 or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka KS 66612. If you are coming to Topeka, call me at 785-296-7636.

Last modified Feb. 26, 2009

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