Monday, September 02, 2013

Dakota Loomis: "Everything You Need To Know About Next Week's Special Session" @ Kansas Democratic Party

This week served as a precursor for the Kansas Legislature's special session set to start next Tuesday.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys filed into the statehouse to discuss potential fixes to the Hard 50 sentencing law that may now be unconstitutional. And Kansas Democrats and Republicans bickered over Governor Brownback's first judicial nominee, Caleb Stegall, under the new appointment system that vests power with the governor and hides applicants from public scrutiny.

With this warm up completed, we thought it might be helpful to look ahead at next week's three-day special session and fill Kansas Democrats in on what they need to know before the session kicks off.

So Why Are We Here? Hard 50 Fix

Following a US Supreme Court decision striking down a similar federal sentencing law,
State Attorney General Derek Schmidt requested a special session to fix the Kansas law before any more convicted murderers were sentenced under it.

So Why Are We Really Here? Confirmation For Brownback, Koch, and Phill Kline Attorney

But many journalists and elected officials see another reason to call this special session: quick confirmation of Caleb Stegall, Governor Brownback's recent pick to fill a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Brownback originally denied that Stegall would be his nominee before making it official last week that he was selecting Stegall, a former attorney for disgraced AG Phill Kline and Americans for Prosperity.

This followed months of legislative fighting between Brownback and the Kansas Bar Association, moderate Republicans and Democrats over changes to judicial nominations - a fight Brownback won when he gained control over the nomination process.

By law, any nominee must be taken up during the next session of the legislature, meaning Stegall's nomination preceding the special session forced the legislature to act upon the Brownback nominee. In addition, to Stegall, 18 other gubernatorial appointees stand to be confirmed during the special session.

Democrats, KanVote Fighting To Protect Voters Rights

There is another constitutional issue that is impacting far more Kansans than the Hard 50 sentencing issue - Kris Kobach's suspension of over 15,000 and counting Kansas voters.

Two Kansas Democratic lawmakers are trying to do something about this looming crisis. State Rep. Jim Ward, Wichita, and state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Wichita, plan to introduce the Protection Against Voter Suppression Act, adding to state law a provision allowing voters sign an affidavit stating that he or she is a citizen. Should that statement be false, the voter would face jail time.

Likelihood that any action will be taken on this act? Zero, thanks to Kansas Republican leadership who have neither the time nor the patience to fix a voting system they broke.

In addition, KanVote, a collection of organizations working together to defend voter freedom in Kansas, will be hosting a rally and day of action at the Kansas Statehouse on the first day of the session. The rally will ask lawmakers to fix Kris Kobach's unconstitutional proof-of-citizenship law and protect Kansans' right to vote.

Cost Per Day For The Special Session

$35,000 to $40,000 a day. Just like when the Kansas Legislature went into overtime this May to ram through even bigger tax breaks for the richest Kansans and slash education funding, every day that the Kansas Legislature is in session costs Kansas taxpayers more than a starting teacher's salary.

Add that up and it's well over $100,000 to fix a relatively obscure problem that almost certainly could have waited until next session.

Why Is The Session Scheduled To End at 5 PM On Thursday?  

Money. Not yours, but Governor Sam Brownback's. The governor is scheduled to be in Emporia on Thursday evening for a large corporate fundraiser. Only problem - he can't accept money when the Kansas Legislature is in session. His solution - force legislators to wrap up their work hours before his fundraiser so he can start collecting checks. At least it's a clear display of Governor Sam Brownback's real priorities.

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