Political Runoff

A periodic look at Kansas politics
Posted October 9, 2017 06:55 pm - Updated October 10, 2017 08:55 am

Gov. Brownback can depart with a roar by challenging latest K-12 funding court decision

Gov. Sam Brownback could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state court’s use of the Gannon case to wade into the appropriations process and block action by the 2017 Legislature and Brownback to direct new aid to public schools. (July 2017 file photograph/The Associated Press)

Gov. Sam Brownback can punctuate the end of a lengthy political career by challenging the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision declaring unconstitutional the latest effort of lawmakers to adjust state financing to K-12 education.
On behalf of Kansans, the governor could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state court’s use of the Gannon case to wade into the appropriations process and block action by the 2017 Legislature and Brownback to direct new aid to public schools.
It would be a legal exclamation point celebrated by conservatives such as Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican.
“There is a reason the people voted for the Kansas Constitution that gave specific policy-making duties to the Legislature,” she said. “When the court gives rulings that are so deeply mired in policy, it overrides the voice of the people and it prevents them from controlling their government.” 

Sen. Ty Masterson, who leads a group of House and Senate conservatives as chairman of the Truth Caucus, said members of the state Supreme Court weren’t supposed to be “super legislators” capable of forcing Kansas tax dollars to be spent as the justices wished. 

“The Kansas Legislature must act in the taxpayers’ interest and stand up for our constitutional separation of powers. If the Legislature refuses to protect its citizens, the court will continue to legislate from the bench and will continue to erode the liberty of Kansas citizens,” Masterson said. 

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said any last-ditch legal maneuvering by the outgoing governor would be folly.
“There is no merit at all,” Hensley said. “The Supreme Court was merely doing its job. That’s the role they play in a co-equal branch of government.”
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, said politicians unhappy with rulings by the state’s highest court often accused justices of overstepping their authority.

He said an appeal of Gannon would have to hang on an issue tied to the U.S. Constitution or a question of federal caliber, but the state Supreme Court had remained within boundaries of the Kansas Constitution.
“It is legally plausible to the extent any decision of the Kansas Supreme Court can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “If that were to happen, it would be a grandstand play.” 

The clock is ticking on Brownback, who is on the cusp of being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be President Donald Trump’s point man on religious freedom. He could made one more big splash, resign and provide future Gov. Jeff Colyer with a fertile talking point.