Archive for Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cooler heads

Kansans should be relieved that a measure designed to punish the Kansas Supreme Court isn’t likely to be back on the legislative agenda in the foreseeable future.

March 11, 2006


It seems that cooler heads have prevailed on the issue of "reining in" the Kansas Supreme Court by making appointments to the court subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate.

A proposed constitutional amendment to require confirmation failed Thursday to achieve the two-thirds vote in the Senate that it needed to advance. Interestingly, although 28 senators had signed on as sponsors of the bill when it was introduced during the Legislature's special session last summer, only 22 voted in favor of the measure on Thursday.

The measure was prompted, at least in part, by anger at a couple of rulings handed down by the court last year. One found a constitutional flaw in the state's capital punishment law and the other declared the Legislature wasn't meeting its constitutional duty to fund public schools. The second ruling forced the special session and upset many legislators who believed justices had overstepped their authority by setting a specific dollar amount for the increased funding legislators must approve.

Although tempers flared, such tensions between branches of the government are exactly what our system of checks and balances is all about.

Senate President Steve Morris was one of those who switched from being a sponsor to an opponent of the bill. He explained his action by acknowledging the need to maintain "the delicate balance of power" in state government and stating his desire to avoid the kind of partisan battles that have marked confirmation hearings at the federal level.

Those are valid points and seem to override any reservations Kansans should have about a judicial nomination and appointment process that has served the state well.


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