Archive for Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Statehouse Live: House advances proposed constitutional amendment in reaction to 2005 school finance ruling

March 27, 2012


— In reaction to the landmark 2005 school finance ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court, the House on Tuesday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the judicial and executive branches from ordering the Legislature to spend money.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, described that court ruling as a "rogue decision" that was forcing the Legislature to reassert its authority over the purse strings of government.

The state Supreme Court decision said the Legislature failed to abide by the Kansas Constitution and adequately fund schools. The court ordered the Legislature to increase school funding.

State Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said the court decision violated a core American value of government that elected representatives — not the courts — have the power to appropriate tax dollars.

Gov. Sam Brownback and state Senate leaders also support the amendment.

"Our state constitution should make it very clear that the power to authorize and require state spending belongs exclusively to the people's elected representatives," Brownback said.

Opponents of the proposal said it would disrupt the balance of powers between the three branches of government and hinder citizens' rights to seek redress in court.

"It's one thing to say that the judiciary cannot make an appropriation. It's quite a different thing to say the judiciary will have no power to tell the Legislature to carry out a constitutional duty," said state Rep. Bob Brookens, R-Marion.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said "this amendment will cause a great deal of damage down the line."

He said the Legislature has a constitutional duty to fund schools adequately and if it fails to do so, citizens should have the right to sue asking the courts to intervene.

State Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said the amendment would place the Legislature above the law.

If House Concurrent Resolution 5006 is supported by two thirds of the House and Senate, the measure will be put on the November ballot for voters to decide.

A final vote in the House is expected Wednesday. It was advanced Tuesday 91-31 in a preliminary vote, which exceeds the 84 vote total that make up two thirds in the House.

Meanwhile, the state faces more school finance litigation.

After the 2005 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court, the Legislature responded by approving new funding to raise the base state aid for all students and then targeted funds for students who were deemed at risk of failing. But legislators have taken back much of that funding over the past three years as state revenues declined during the recession.

A trial in the latest school finance lawsuit is set to start in June.


Hooligan_016 6 years ago

I can't tell if I am supposed to laugh or weep in response.

deec 6 years ago

It is okay, even if this passes, the court would probably find it unconstitutional. More waste of time by the zealot party. Maybe they could try following the law instead of trying to make it easier not to.

progressive_thinker 6 years ago

If this proposal becomes an amendment to the Kansas constitution [the article indicates that it is a proposed constitutional amendment], then it wold be difficult for a court to find it unconstitutional. I do not know of any basis that could cause the SCOTUS to find such an amendment to the Kansas constitution to be unconstitutional.

This proposal is very troubling.

deec 6 years ago

I'm pretty sure the constitutionality of an amendment can be challenged in court, but I'm not a lawyer.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years ago

How would you make a constitutional challenge to a part of the constitution? That makes no sense unless you think there would be a procedural due process claim in the adoption of the amendment or if the amendment would somehow violate the us constitution.

deec 6 years ago

I don't think (and again, not a lawyer) that the constitution of a state could be amended to prevent courts from ordering the state to pay for things they are constitutionally required to pay for. Another example, suppose the state had closed the SRS office in Lawrence, and the landlord sued and won for the remainder of the lease Money would need to be appropriated to pay the settlement. This proposed amendment prevent the court from ordering the state to pay what is owed.

headdoctor 6 years ago

If it is going to be a constitutional amendment it will have to be voted on by the Kansas citizens. Which I am not sure would make it that far. What they are suggesting would be more than just upsetting the balance of power. It would be eliminating the checks and balances that even the Kansas constitution calls for. If they find a way to get away with this there would be no stopping the power grabbing that would occur and almost no recourse by the citizens to stop it or change it back.

optimist 6 years ago

NO! The electorate has the right to vote for representatives that will reflect their ideology. If you don't think your taxes are high enough or that there is enough spending on schools then vote for a candidate that agrees with you or run yourself. The judiciary taking authority it doesn't have is what is damaging. If you don't like how elected and marginally accountable politicians run the state wait until you have unelected and unaccountable judges making the calls.

headdoctor 6 years ago

Where have we heard all this before. Rush Limbaugh and various Republicans who claim that Legislators make the laws therefore they don't have to listen to the judicial side of the Government. I believe that attitude was the driving force behind the Kansas law makers thumbing their nose at the courts over school finance.

An activist judge trying to legislate from the bench is bad but far more rare and less dangerous than a bunch of elected hooligans who think they are above the law because they make the laws. Even worse when there is nothing at the state level in place with any actual teeth to enforce the decision.

headdoctor 6 years ago

I use to take offense to the Hollywood movies and stories that portrayed Kansas populated with a large number of hicks that seemed to be barely functional inbred illiterates. Nothing to do now but hang my head in shame knowing that the movies were right all along.

Kathy Theis-Getto 6 years ago

Don't weep, get angry!!! Call, write and email your representative government.

Orwell 6 years ago

It's fairly remarkable that the same folks who want the US Supreme Court to throw out a statute they don't like are the ones who want to prohibit the Kansas courts from overturning a statute they do like.

I'm calling bull****.

William Weissbeck 6 years ago

Brownback and O'Neal are assuming we have a representative government. But given their over the top efforts on redistricting both at the state legislature and the Congressional seats, plus their attacks on the Kansas Bar Association's system for nominating judges, one would seriously doubt their dedication to a representative government.

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