www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

Returning to Trail Wood -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Leaving some in 'suspense' -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Strangers in a remarkable land -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Courageous or spineless? Our actions decide -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Ambition: An unlikely gift to Kansas voters -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Beyond the outrage -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Water watch -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Scenic outlooks -7/11/2014, 9:18 AM

China's research trumps teaching -7/11/2014, 9:17 AM

Important slow news -7/10/2014, 9:42 AM

We've got a promise to keep -7/10/2014, 9:33 AM

The white combine calls -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Vote for family values -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Politicians making a mockery of my faith -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Missing tribute -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Rural students deserve 21st Century education -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

The education table dance -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

A new virus -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

Government as God -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

EPA affecting others -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

'Narrow' decision from the narrow-minded -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

The tax trap -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Rulings produce 'First Amendment fireworks' -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Firefighter salaries -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Economic freedom -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Protecting our independence -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Dan Johnson, 1936-2014 -7/3/2014, 7:12 AM

New Iraq offensive backfires -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Setting things straight -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

'Crapitalism' -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Feeding peace throughout the world -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Half way is still only half way -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Sherow a better choice -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Fireworks, part II -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Reality show made in Topeka -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

The justices and their cellphones -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

LOB defeated -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

Tragedy explored in 'Broken Heart Land' -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Mexico City: The adventure continues -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Even our youngest Americans are citizens -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

Ban on fireworks -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

It's time to teach active citizenship -6/29/2014, 12:57 PM

The education establishment's success -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Piecework professors -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Marriage for all -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Prairie chicken madness -6/26/2014, 4:17 PM

Omission control -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Equal in the eyes of the law -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Help wanted -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

The old red barn -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Beware the unimaginable -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Early critic of school testing was right -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Finding something 'different' in Topeka -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Shopping small -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Into the classroom -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Wow! And thanks to you -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Fireworks double-standard -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Glass half full -6/22/2014, 5:57 PM

Brownback's experiment wallops taxpayers -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Examining the importance of 'where' we speak -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Slavery reparations -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

'Help me plagiarize' -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

Thank a farmer -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Why the rules of government matter

Published on -9/1/2013, 4:42 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

The most overblown political brouhaha of the year? That's easy. It's the appointment of Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals, with Gov. Sam Brownback refusing to release the names of those under consideration.

What did anyone possibly expect? Seriously.

The governor didn't get his pervious choice (presumably Stegall) from the traditional nomination process. What did he do? He proposed changing the process to make it, or so he said, more transparent and open to a broader range of applicants, and not so much dominated by the community of Kansas lawyers. This latter point was a fair one, although it could have been easily rectified by broadening the membership of the nominating group.

But Sam Brownback knew that the Kansas Legislature would, in the blink of an eye, pass his sweeping proposal for gubernatorial appointment and senatorial confirmation of Court of Appeals judges.

In short, the highly conservative governing coalition changed the rules to obtain a preferred outcome.

While I might well disagree with this change and Stegall's appointment (at least on policy grounds), I can scarcely get too worked up about it.

For one thing, Kansas now mirrors the process that is used at the national level.

Still, the attack on Kansas's judicial system is troubling. After all, the state's courts, according to a national chamber of commerce study, ranked fifth in the nation on fairness to business in 2012. That's scarcely a judicial system gone wild.

This didn't matter to the governor and the legislature. They wanted Stegall and, more importantly, they wanted to permanently alter the rules to their benefit.

As the legendary (if felonious) Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski once declared, "If you let me write procedure and I let you write substance, I'll screw you every time."

In other words, structuring the rules determines the outcome.

Thus, Kris Kobach looks at the already overwhelmingly Republican electorate and decides it's not red enough. So he uses alleged voter fraud to propose registration rules to restrict ballot access for the poor, the young, the elderly, and those, such as Hispanics, who are disproportionately unlikely to vote Republican.

What we end up with is the potential for voter suppression and the reality of 15,000-plus voters who may be able to vote in federal elections, but not in state contests. That's creating a problem, not solving one.

Likewise with redistricting in 2012, when Republican lawmakers pushed the rules to formalize such unreasonable legislative districts that the entire process collapsed, allowing a three-judge panel to draw coherent boundaries.

The reaction among tea party Republicans was simple -- purge the Senate GOP moderates. And they did, allowing them to write the rules they desired in the future.

All governors and legislatures sometimes change the rules of the game, often to their own advantage. Still, the past three years witnessed many such changes, and we're not even a year into the era of highly conservative dominance of Kansas government.

What's next? Probably a proposed constitutional amendment to change the Kansas Supreme Court's nomination process to mirror that of the Court of Appeals. Or the enactment of House Bill 2415, which calls for justices from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to retire at age 65, thus opening the way for the governor to appoint a host of new judges, using the new rules.

For all the serious concerns with transparency over Caleb Stegall's appointment as an Appeals Court judge, the real challenge for Kansas comes in the blanket, politically motivated manipulation to the rules that govern us all.

Rostenkowski got it right.

Burdett Loomis is a political science professor at the University of Kansas.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News