Topeka The Kansas Senate on Thursday approved a measure that supporters said is meant to the tell the federal government to stop intruding on states’ rights. But opponents of the proposal say it could be seen as putting the Kansas Legislature on record as opposed to civil rights.
During questioning on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1615, state Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked if the resolution could be interpreted as calling for repeal of federal civil rights and voting rights laws. Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said it could.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Later, state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, who introduced the resolution, said Hensley was wrong because civil rights and voting rights have been established by the courts as constitutional.
But state Sen. Marci Fancisco, D-Lawrence, disagreed with Pilcher-Cook about the resolution, noting that it states “Be it further resolved: That all compulsory federal legislation which directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.”
The resolution was approved on a 33-7 vote. It is non-binding and next goes to the House for consideration. Both Hensley and Francisco were among those who voted against the measure.
A hearing and rally on the resolution last month in Topeka drew approximately 200 supporters, many of whom said the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives states power in certain areas and that federal mandates had interfered in those areas.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, opposed the measure, saying while he was unhappy with some actions of the federal government, he thought it was inappropriate to pass a resolution. “We need to stop this train right here on this track,” he said.
But Pilcher-Cook said the resolution was necessary and will educate the public about the 10th Amendment. “Ultimately, this resolution will have to be backed up by future actions of the Kansas Legislature,” she said. If approved by the House, the resolution will be sent to President Barack Obama and other federal leaders.
Pilcher-Cook is also pushing a proposal that says Kansas has the right to block pending federal health reform requirements to have health insurance coverage. That measure, if approved by two thirds of the House and Senate, would be put on the November ballot for Kansas voters to decide.