Brownback holding cards close to the vest as session starts
Topeka ? Going into the final legislative session of his term before he faces Kansas voters again, Gov. Sam Brownback will likely make major decisions on school finance, abortion, and renewable energy.
But the Republican governor, who enjoys strong Republican majorities in the House and Senate, is holding his cards close to the vest as he also focuses on his reelection campaign.
Brownback held brief interviews with reporters last week to talk about the upcoming session that starts Jan. 13. Brownback delivers his State of the State address Jan. 15.
Approximately 5 months after the session ends, Kansas voters will decide whether to give Brownback a second term, or elect likely Democratic nominee Paul Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence.
Brownback deflected questions about how he would respond if the Kansas Supreme Court orders the Legislature to increase funding to public schools. A lower court panel ruled the state should increase funding approximately $500 million per year because the state unconstitutionally cut school funding. Meanwhile, Brownback successfully pushed for massive income tax cuts that will certainly result in a budget explosion should the court tell the state to restore school cuts.
“Let’s see what they do,” Brownback said referring to the state Supreme Court which is expected to issue a decision in the next month or so. “My primary push on a near-term basis is to see that the schools are not shut down,” he said. In 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court briefly considered keeping schools closed until legislators complied with court-ordered funding.
Brownback has signed into law every bill that has crossed his desk that is aimed at restricting abortions.
In response to a specific question on whether he would sign into law a bill that would prohibit abortions in Kansas after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, possibly around six weeks gestation, Brownback said: “I’m pro-life. I will support pro-life legislation. I don’t know what bills may come up this round. I believe every life has incredible dignity and that starts at the beginning and it goes all the way through, and it doesn’t matter who the person is.”
GOP legislative leaders have said they want to repeal state law that requires major utilities to produce 20 percent of their energy from wind and other renewable sources by 2020.
Brownback who said he is “pro wind energy” and who has supported tax credits for wind energy declined to say what he would do if a repeal bill is approved by the Legislature.
“I don’t issue veto threats,” he said.
Brownback signed into law a bill pushed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that requires people registering to vote to show proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
The law has put on hold thousands of registrants and has prompted litigation and the potential of Kansas having a two-tiered voting system — where people who prove citizenship could vote in all elections, and people who don’t could vote only in federal contests.
Brownback said he didn’t want a two-tiered system of voting to happen. “I hope those issues are resolved as they come forward in the Legislature,” he said.