Sunday, June 21, 2015

Editorial: "Illiberal Kansas Leaders Practice Vengeful Politics" @ June 19, 2015 Des Moines Register

In 1896 William Allen White, a young newspaper editor in Emporia, Kan., published an editorial under the headline, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” that was picked up across the country. The editorial was a brilliantly written spleen-venting on how Kansas’ progress was being retarded by the Populist political movement.

The same question might be asked today: Just what is the matter with Kansas?

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-dominated Kansas Legislature have racked up a series of victories over common sense, including ill-considered tax cuts that have starved schools and left the state budget seriously out of balance. Recently, lawmakers passed legislation imposing punitive limits on welfare recipients that would ban using welfare money on everything from fortune tellers to ocean cruises.

Kansas lawmakers “too often have approved laws that are cruel, vengeful, retaliatory (and any other synonym you want to use for vindictive) toward minorities, courts and the poor,” the Kansas City Star said in an editorial earlier this week. (By the way, White learned to write editorials at the Star.)

The Kansas Legislature has even directed its fire at the state courts. A pending lawsuit asserts that a 2014 state law that stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of some administrative authority violates the Kansas Constitution. So, the legislature put language in a budget bill that funding for all state courts will be eliminated if the lawsuit is upheld. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the budget bill into law with the threat intact.

Shutting down courts because a judge’s ruling offends state legislators violates the very idea of separation of powers. That separation will be maintained only as long as the purpose of divided government is respected and defended by all three branches, not because one branch or another has an army to enforce its will.

Some state legislators in Topeka have forgotten that.

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