Topeka — Forget health care, the economy and school finance.
Those issues may take a back seat to immigration, judges and guns during this year's election season.
In recent weeks, the Kansas Legislature has defeated two measures aimed at ending a tuition break for immigrants and reining in the Kansas Supreme Court.
Supporters of those failed measures forecast voter retribution.
Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is running for governor, said of the fallen Supreme Court measure, "I predict there will be a backlash on those elected representatives who stand on the sidelines and allow this court to usurp their authority."
Barnett voted for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required Senate confirmation of state Supreme Court justices, who are currently nominated by a special commission, appointed by the governor and face retention elections every six years.
There were 22 votes in the Senate for the proposal and 17 against, but that fell five votes short of the two-thirds, or 27-vote, majority required to advance constitutional amendments.
Earlier, the House defeated a proposal to repeal a 2004 law that grants undocumented students the lower resident tuition rates at public universities.
Rep. Becky Hutchins, R-Holton, the House sponsor of the repeal, predicted the issue would become a campaign issue.
"I got my record votes, and the postcards will go out," she said.
Those opposed to the measures said they expected their votes to be used against them, but that if given the opportunity to explain their positions, most people agreed with them.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, voted against the proposed constitutional amendment requiring Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices.
He said the proposal would have inserted politics into the process of selecting justices. "It could easily degenerate into the kind of partisan fight we see in the United States Senate," Morris said.
House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney, of Greensburg, voted against the repeal of the tuition break for immigrants.
"There will be some efforts to focus on hot-button issues," McKinney said.
But, he said, the announcement by several religious groups in favor of the immigrant tuition break will help voters understand the issue better.
"There is a difference between immigration policy and how we treat our neighbors who happen to be immigrants," he said.
The law allows some undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition if they attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated or earned a General Educational Development certificate in Kansas.
Last fall, 221 students enrolled under the law, most of them at community colleges, according to the Kansas Board of Regents.
Supporters of the tuition break say it is key to allowing children of undocumented immigrants get a degree. A full-time undergraduate from Kansas pays $2,412 per semester at Kansas University for in-state tuition, compared with $6,638 for out-of-state residents.
On the issue of guns, the Legislature has placed on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' desk a bill that would allow Kansans to carry concealed guns.
Sebelius vetoed similar legislation in 2004 and is expected to do so again. So the question is whether the measure will have the necessary support to override a veto, which would take a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.
Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said the so-called hot-button issues could be a factor in the Republican Party primary in August.
"In a Republican primary, you can make an issue out of the Kansas Supreme Court," Beatty said, because the voters in that primary are driven more by specific issues.
In the general election, candidates must appeal to a wider group of voters or they will be defeated, he said.
A good example of that, Beatty said, was the 2004 campaign of Kris Kobach to represent the third congressional district, which includes East Lawrence.
Kobach won the GOP primary by vowing to crack down on illegal immigration and fight abortion and gay rights.
But in the general election, he fell to U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat, by approximately 10 percentage points.