Archive for Thursday, April 25, 2013

Attorney general seeks $1.2 million to defend new laws

April 25, 2013


— Kansas’ attorney general is warning legislators that the state faces potential lawsuits and more than $1.2 million in costs because of laws enacted this year, including a pro-gun policy aimed at the federal government and a sweeping anti-abortion measure declaring that life begins “at fertilization.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday reviewed requests from Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office to boost its budget during the two-year period beginning in July to cover potential litigation costs. The committee is examining spending proposals because legislators return May 8 from their annual spring break to wrap up business for the year.

Schmidt’s office said it needs up to $500,000 to defend the anti-abortion law, which blocks tax breaks for abortion providers, prohibits them from furnishing materials or instructors for public-school sex-education classes and bans abortions solely because of the baby’s sex.

It takes effect in July. The language about when life begins worries some abortion-rights groups, though abortion opponents see the language only as statement of principle, not an attempt to prevent the termination of pregnancies.

The attorney general’s office already has spent nearly $759,000 on outside attorneys’ services in defending anti-abortion laws enacted in 2011.

Schmidt’s office also sees potential litigation over the new gun law, which took effect Thursday and declares the federal government has no power to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The new law also makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to regulate such items.

In addition, Schmidt anticipates potential court challenges to two laws taking effect in July. One will require drug testing for some public assistance recipients, while another will prohibit public employee unions from automatically deducting money from members’ paychecks to finance political activities.

The attorney general’s spokesman did not immediately return telephone messages Thursday seeking comment, but the Legislature’s staff detailed Schmidt’s proposals in a memo for lawmakers. Senate committee Chairman Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said any law enacted by the state can face a court challenge.

“He’s just trying to anticipate potential activity,” Masterson said. “That’s not a legitimate argument not to pass the law.” But critics of the new laws noted that questions about whether they’d result in expensive legal disputes arose during legislative debates.

“We’re going to have to pay for it,” said Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

Schmidt’s requests anticipate that a defense of the new anti-abortion law would inspire the most expensive potential litigation.

Abortion-rights supporters challenged 2011 laws restricting private health insurance coverage for elective abortions, imposing new health and safety rules specifically for abortion providers and denying the state’s share of federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services to Planned Parenthood. The insurance law was upheld, but the other cases are pending in federal and state courts.

Abortion-rights supporters have labeled the new anti-abortion law’s tax provisions discriminatory and argued that the language on life beginning at fertilization could be used to harass providers.

“I don’t think taxpayers want their money to go to defend unconstitutional laws,” said Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women’s state chapter. “It’s a waste of money that could be going to social services, education, jobs — all the things Kansans care about more than abortion politics.”

But Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, said this year’s law, like previous ones, was drafted to withstand legal challenges. She said the abortion industry and its allies turn to the courts simply to delay enforcement.

“These laws are worth defending,” Culp said. “It wouldn’t cost a cent if these people didn’t sue.”

The new gun-rights law declares that the “Kansas-only” guns, ammunition and accessories aren’t in interstate commerce, which is regulated by the federal government under the U.S. Constitution. Some legal experts have doubted it would pass constitutional muster.

Schmidt’s office is anticipating $225,000 in potential legal costs in defending the law, though he’s said he’s not sure how a challenge would arise, absent gun-control efforts by the federal government.

The attorney general estimates that defending the drug-testing and paycheck-deduction laws would cost up to $250,000 each over the next two years.


WilburM 4 years, 11 months ago

The Legislature goes on a highly dubious legislating binge, then has to come to terms with the fact that many of their "laws" may well be unconstitutional. Great use of state funds, defending bs laws. For example:

"Schmidt’s office also sees potential litigation over the new gun law, which took effect Thursday and declares the federal government has no power to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The new law also makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to regulate such items."

Such provisions are just begging for litigation, which ain't cheap. But nevermind, far-right conservatives have made their statements; now we'll have to pay for them.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

They have redefined conservative, haven't they? It used to be they were fiscally conservative.

cds 4 years, 11 months ago

“These laws are worth defending,” Culp said.

They will be sued and for good reason.

“It wouldn’t cost a cent if these people didn’t sue.”

It also wouldn't have cost if the laws had not been passed, but they were.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 11 months ago

"It wouldn't cost a cent if These People Didn't sue." This short sighted, condescending and simple minded statement is brought to you by Mary Kay Culp, Executive Director of Kansans for Life.

arch007bak 4 years, 11 months ago

I wonder how similar the drug testing for public assistance recipients are between Kansas and Florida. Florida passed a law with similar intent only to have it blocked by a federal court.

somebodynew 4 years, 11 months ago

arch - good question. Since the same group (ALEC) actually wrote the laws, my guess is they are very similar - and will meet the same fate.

And yes, cds - that has to be one of the 'best' statements from Mary Kay I have ever seen. Fits right into the dictator state of mind from this administration.

But, let us not forget - this seems to be part of the BB job plan. Lots of work for outside attorneys. This is where all those jobs he promised are coming.

Mike1949 4 years, 11 months ago

Brownback is providing jobs alright, for the attorneys. They knew this was coming, and I hope the state looses their you know what! I just want Brownback and the republican party to rein-verse the state! It is money wasted that we the people of Kansas should NOT have come out of our pockets!

oldexbeat 4 years, 11 months ago

Gee, get rid of free speech (ie, stop doctors from talking) and keep letting the mentally unfit get guns. Wow. What a state. The Containment Corporation of America (CCA) private jail people are next to benefit, after the lawyers. (Oh, wait, I'm not suppose to know that privatizing prisons is the next on ALEC instructions to their top employee in the state, Sammy Brownback.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 11 months ago

Better up the ante, General. It will be much more expensive than you imagine.

avarom 4 years, 11 months ago

I agree Getto.... this is just a "Conservative" estimate.....much more expensive then people realize...the DA should of provided advice and counsel on the ramifications of these laws.........too many just want to keep their jobs!! Bunch of Rubber Stamps! Pathetic.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 11 months ago

I vote we send Mary Kay Culp, and all the Legislators who supported and passed These Laws, the Bill for defending these Laws They Passed knowing full well they would be challenged in a Court of Law. They sure don't mind wasting taxpayer dollars on THEIR Ideology. Bet it would be different if THEY had to pay to defend what they have done.

question4u 4 years, 11 months ago

Much as our legislators seem to despise the United States, Kansas is still not its own country. When you pass state laws to circumvent the Constitution of the United States you are destined to pay high attorney fees, look foolish, and end up right where you started. Of course, you make the "believe it or not" segments of national news programs and become the target of countless jokes on late night talk shows: ways NOT to attract an educated workforce to the state or interest anyone with quality-of-life concerns in moving a business to Kansas.

If Kansas legislators are going to insist on creating a body of law that contradicts US law, they should at least give it a name to avoid confusion. How about Sharia. Wait, that would be perfect, but it's already taken.

btsflk 4 years, 11 months ago

There's no understanding these people. They scream about too much government infringement by way of too many laws upon their lives, about the government wasting their money. What do they see themselves doing?

I don't believe anyone believes in abortion, per se, but it is at times necessary. Restrictive laws such as they have passed only hurt poor women. Wealthy woman have always had access to and will continue to have access to abortion.

Oops, I forgot for a minute that this administration hates the poor.

Oh and be sure not to miss the aticle in today's paper about the huge tax deficit we are facing. Again, this burden falls on the poor.

bmoody51 4 years, 11 months ago

Where is the Headline proofreader? Really? A T T O R N Y? is that an alternate spelling? Yesterday, the wrong name was listed in the head for the style scout. Today, this. Doesn't show a great deal of professionalism.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

I generally disagree with the laws being passed by our legislature, and think they should stop passing laws that will cost a lot to defend in court, when they'll almost certainly lose there.

But, this question about the ICC is an interesting one to me. Originally, it was intended to regulate commerce between states. As such, commerce within an individual state wouldn't fall under that clause.

Unfortunately, our courts have widened the interpretation and given the federal government much wider latitude in using it.

Janis Pool 4 years, 11 months ago

Ask Kochs to cough up the "spare change" for their defense.

kernal 4 years, 11 months ago

Perses, your comment is the first I've heard about KS democrats not caring about the rural vote. They're on my mind everytime our legislature does their clown act. Since I seem to have missed examples of the state Dems failing the rural segment of our state, please enlighten me.

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

We ran a moderate Democrat against an extreme Republican for representative from our district (partly rural, partly small town) in the Nov 2012 election. We received virtually no support from the state party---all they want is our money---and they gave us what we now realize was bad advice on how to run a campaign. It would have been an important win and we might have done it if we had some experienced help. We've learned our lesson and realize next time we have to do it on our own.

Mr_B9 4 years, 11 months ago

"they gave us what we now realize was bad advice on how to run a campaign." That line says it all. Clearly not experienced enough to run a campaign therefore CLEARLY not experienced enough to hold and run the office.

Bob Forer 4 years, 11 months ago

“He’s just trying to anticipate potential activity,” Masterson said. “That’s not a legitimate argument not to pass the law.”

What about the Constitution? A first year student knows that most of the new laws mentioned above will not pass constitutional muster.

costello 4 years, 11 months ago

Well, sometimes you're not sure what the courts will say about the constitutionality of a given law. I just wish we could limit ourselves to passing only one insane law which we know will be challenged at a time. Let it work its way through the courts until we find out it's unconstitutional. Then, and only then, should we pass the next insane law. That should slow us down to a rate of about one crazy law every 5 years. I think we could absorb that.

OTOH, this wild influx of insanity may actually get the voters' attention sooner rather than later.

Bob Forer 4 years, 11 months ago

Most, if not all of the new legislation are no brainers. Apparently, they have never heard of the Supremacy Clause. A state cannot opt out of federal legislation simply because they don't like it.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

If you like it or not laws have to defended. Arguing the law at this point gets you nothing. Not a fan of the abortion bill but it is a law. What amazes me is the lack of coverage by the LJWorld on federal spending for the last 5 years, I mean it has broken records! I know its not liberal friendly to report 100,000 people on furlough because of federal spending but it is more news worthy than 1.2 million needed to defend laws in Kansas. It would be nice to have a news source in Lawrence that showed both sides versus only liberal friendly articles all the time. Apparently it is impossible to find a news source in Lawrence that isn't only catering to local one side bashing political news. It is comical how blind the LJWorld is.

MarcoPogo 4 years, 11 months ago

If only there were other options available where we could read about the world. We're completely trapped.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

The point is that this source only shows one side and only one side is represented by the biased reporting done by this source. If you watch cnn then fox you can find the facts somewhere in the middle... People in Lawrence are only exposed to state issues by one biased side.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't see another source of local/national news in Lawrence do you? I don't see a source that shows two sides to anything. I know its not popular to speak out against a source however a news source that serves a city of this size needs to open up its views and opinions... All I'm saying.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

It would be nice for a "news" paper to publish all types of news and not one side. I'm not a Brownback fan at all. I am republican, that doesn't mean I'm pro-life or anti-gay marriage. News is news regardless of party lines, or at least it should be. Clearly in Lawrence it is not.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

Never once asked for anything special... Just ask that when your job is to report news you report news. Not a biased opinion, not ignoring stories that may not look good, just report the news and let people decide what's right, not a reporter or a paper with an agenda. That must sound crazy.

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

If you don't like the LJW or want to supplement it, you can read online newspapers from Topeka, Wichita, Hutchinson, Kansas City, the list goes on. They offer state and national news, as do many small town newspapers.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

Amazing how all of those places report news and LJworld just reports to the sheep...

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

Under Bush at the peak of the wars spending was outrageous. My issue with spending is that people are losing pay checks now and spending is again on the rise. Why traffic controllers, why the IRS... Tax season, family travel season, etc... No one wants to talk about that story. Nope, this 1.2 million to defend an insane abortion law that we can't do anything about is more important. Just funny that the LJWorld refuses to cover anything that might be viewed as negative towards one side. That was my only point, not taking sides on spending just sayijg that it is news worthy.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

It's bad for the 1000's who aren't working... My point is that there are better stories to report besides this or 'man punched in face on Mass'... The current financial spot and spending was just one example of news that could be reported.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 11 months ago

Passing laws that have to be defended It would be better to use that money to help fund the schools but that is not using common sense.

msezdsit 4 years, 11 months ago

Brownback and his band of merry little fringe wacko fanatics are the anti-Robin Hood. They will steal enough from the poor and disadvantaged to easily pick up the tab on this.

avarom 4 years, 11 months ago

Brownback said..... was wondering why the frisbee was getting bigger… Then it hit me!!!

Bob Forer 4 years, 11 months ago

This is really outrageous. Either the legislature is too fricking stupid to understand basic constitutional law, or they have been so advised of the dubious constitutionality but passed the laws anyway because it makes them look gpod in the eyes of their constituents come re-election time. So in other words, they are either downright ignorant or intetlectually dishonest.

What's worse is now we are going to waste a lot of taxpayers money on a law that isn't needed, is ill advised, and will probably not be enforceable.

In the meantime the real pressing political issues and problems of the day are glossed over.

This kind of nonsense is not just happening in Kansas, but in other states and also in Washington. American political discourse has reached a new low. Shameful, but as long as the electorate allows this to happen, I see no end in sight.

kernal 4 years, 11 months ago

At least our city commissioners are smarter than those in a PA town where they passed a law requiring landlords to evict tenants after a given number of disturbance calls to their local police department; disturbances including domestic violence calls. After three or four domestic calls by the tenant, or the tenant's neighbors,a victim of domestic violence gets evicted. ACLU is now involved in an open case. This is how dumbed down elected officials are in the U.S. now.

Satirical 4 years, 11 months ago

What a waste of money, if it is a law with which I disagree.

I am sure this is the first time in the history of the Republic that money had to be spent defending the Constitutionality of a law. (Note: Please ignore Obamacare and all historical reference to laws passed by liberals)

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