Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2005

House takes another run at judicial amendment

June 30, 2005


— House members, determined to send a stinging rebuke to the Kansas Supreme Court, plan to take another stab at passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would cut into judicial powers.

Beyond the separation of powers fight, the outcome of Thursday's vote on the proposal could determine the fate of a House bill to increase education spending by $139 million.

That's because legislators on Wednesday amended the school finance bill so that it would be voided if the proposed amendment didn't pass the House and Senate. It passed the Senate last week, but failed in the House on Sunday.

Asked the reason for linking the two, House Speaker Doug Mays said, "Leverage, of course. We have a large number of our caucus who want this amendment and some Democrats willing to vote for it."

To push through the amendment needs a two-thirds majority, or 84 votes. But Mays, R-Topeka, has only 83 Republicans and not all of them are on board. That leaves him begging votes from Democrats who are fairly united against the plan.

"How many times can you say 'hell no'? We're just not interested," said Rep. L. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth.

Lawmakers, especially conservative Republicans, are irked the court decreed Legislature come up with an extra $143 million for education by the start of the new budget year on Friday.

It was that order that triggered the special session now in its ninth day. Almost from the session's start, there's been as more talk about the justices crossing the separation of powers line and encroaching on legislative turf than about spending more money on schools.

The proposed constitutional change, subject to statewide voter approval, declares courts and the executive branch have no authority to tell legislators to appropriate money or redirect funds after alloted by lawmakers.

The Supreme Court's June 3 directive came in a six-year-old lawsuit from Dodge City and Salina, where parents and administrators claimed Kansas spends too little money on education and distributes its aid unfairly, shortchanging poor children, minorities and struggling students.


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