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Self-inflicted wounds from the court

Published on -1/15/2013, 10:50 AM

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Ever said something that -- probably even before the words reached the ear of your listener -- you knew was a mistake?

Like referring to your neighbor's third spouse as "Three" or maybe telling your blind date that she'll be able to recognize you at the cafe or bar or Walmart because you'll be wearing a Hawaiian shirt?

Well, what happens if you write it down and see it published in an official public document available on the Internet?

That might be what a three-judge panel did last week when it chided the Kansas Legislature for not spending as much money on financing elementary and secondary education as it was ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2005 to spend.

The court seemed a dab sympathetic about the recent recession reducing money for support of elementary education.

But, then the judges' opinion makes that "Three" or "Hawaiian shirt" faux pas by linking the state's lack of funding for schools to the income tax cut that is the trophy of conservative Republicans sitting in the governor's chair and the majority of chairs in the Kansas House and Senate.

"It appears to us the only certain result from the tax cut will be a further reduction of existing resources available and from a cause, unlike the 'Great Recession,' which had a cause external to Kansas, that is homespun, hence, self-inflected," the judges said in that Internet-accessible, 251-page decision.

That quote: On Page 227, and maybe the judges figured that most people wouldn't wait for the download, or maybe that they'd have to let the dog out at about Page 200 and not finish the decision ...

Hmm ...

So, it's not a shortage of funds -- about $440 million at best guess -- that the Legislature could have spent on schools to meet the Supreme Court's order on suitable -- and Constitutional -- finance of public education. It was the governor's and Legislature's decision to hand out a massive tax break, which as we recall was in an election year.

It's going to take months for the three-judge panel's decision to be considered by the Kansas Supreme Court, but the effect of that slap at the Legislature on its spend on schools/cut taxes decision will likely be felt before the high court can get its robes back from the dry cleaners.

Already, insiders are hearing conservative lawmakers lament about the court overstepping its authority, embarrassing the Legislature, and essentially forcing lawmakers to spend more on schools and maybe raise taxes.

So, those bills that are set for first-week consideration by lawmakers in both chambers -- to change the method of selecting Court of Appeals, and probably Supreme Court justices, to take a handful of pesky liberal lawyers out of the equation -- are going to get quick action.

There's even some halltalk that an amendment to the Kansas Constitution needed to make that change -- so the governor can appoint subject to Senate confirmation of anyone he chooses to the state's two highest courts -- will be fast-tracked (possibly put on April city election ballots) to take advantage of the majority of Republican legislators' angst.

Yes, maybe those three judges spoke a little too quickly and too pointedly.

We'll see.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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