Gov. Joan Finney's pre-emptive action to allow casino gambling on the Kickapoo Indian reservation doesn't set a promising tone for cooperation between the governor's office and the 1992 Kansas Legislature.
Despite an attorney general's opinion saying that any compact to allow gambling on the reservation requires legislative approval, Finney chose Thursday to unilaterally sign a compact with the Kickapoo Indian Nation and give the tribe the go-ahead to set up a casino just west of Horton within 30 days.
``As the executive officer of the state, I believe this is under my jurisdiction," Finney said during a ceremony in her office. "The Indian nation, in my opinion, has the right to do this.''
And that's that, right?
Wrong. Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan says that if the compact isn't ratified by the Legislature, he will take legal action to stop it. And it seems unlikely that legislators will rubber stamp Finney's action.
Even if the governor is within her rights on this issue, her actions were at least unwise, and certainly untimely. Considerable public opinion against the casino gambling operation has emerged, and the discussions on allowing such operations in the state had only begun in the Legislature, where many lawmakers were expressing doubts. The sudden action by Finney almost looks like an attempt to beat any legislative action that might have blocked the casino operation.
Why couldn't Finney at least have waited for the Legislature to discuss the issue? Is this an attempt to ignore the lawmakers while following what she perceives to be the wishes of her greater constituency, the people of Kansas with whom she claims to be so in touch? Many people in the Horton area have expressed their displeasure with the casino proposal. Who is Finney listening to? And are those people giving her the best advice?
Regardless of whether Finney's action is found to be legal, it sets a poor precedent. Even if the governor succeeds in sidestepping the Legislature on the casino issue, she may regret the bad blood her rash action likely will create.