Missouri's nuttiness creeps into Kansas
The Kansas City Star
The Kansas Legislature has only two tasks it absolutely has to get done — pass a budget and a redistricting map. Neither was finished by the time the regular session ended Friday, so lawmakers will drag themselves back to Topeka on Monday for overtime.
But readers should not assume that legislators sat around idly while the clock ticked away. Not at all.
The House and Senate have now both passed a bill intended to prevent Islamic law from being applied in Kansas courts. No one can remember that actually happening, but your Kansas Legislature is nothing if not proactive.
Also, the House adopted a resolution condemning the United Nations’ Agenda 21 environmental action plan, which clearly is a socialistic plot to transfer wealth from rich nations to poor nations and to trick local governments into supporting sinister things like bike paths. Or so its critics say.
What is the matter with Kansas? This is the kind of nuttiness we expect from Missouri, but even Missouri hasn’t condemned a UN agenda.
Missouri bench press
Speaking of Missouri, critics of the state’s nonpartisan plan for selecting judges finally got the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment calling for changes.
The resolution would diminish the role of the Missouri Bar in appointing members to a judicial nominating commission, and elevate the governor’s role. The governor would not only make the final selection of judges for the state Supreme Court and appeals courts, but also control the commission which screens candidates and whittles down the field. That’s an unhealthy amount of power for a governor to wield over the judiciary.
Changing the Missouri Plan has been a long-time goal of conservative Republicans who think that trial lawyers are the root of all evil and want to keep them off of the nominating commission. But if voters approve the constitutional change, there’s a pretty good chance the immediate beneficiary would be Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who is running for re-election with weak opposition so far. Nixon actually gets along pretty well with the trial lawyers.
Nevertheless, House Speaker Steve Tilley proclaimed the resolution to be “probably one of the top (things) we’ve done in the past seven or eight years.”
Considering that no one is able to cite examples of blundering by Missouri judges, it’s kind of pathetic that a legislative leader would consider fixing a problem that doesn’t exist to be one of the top accomplishments of his career.
Unlike Kansas, the Missouri legislature surpassed expectations this week by actually completing a budget on time. Afterward, lawmakers congratulated one another for not raising taxes, even though at one time or another in the process funding for universities, child care subsidies, health care for the blind and veteran’s homes were endangered. Money for elementary and secondary schools will be $439 million less than required by the state’s funding formula next school year.
Lawmakers could have had a productive discussion on something sensible like collecting the tax required on Internet purchases and adding millions to Missouri’s revenue stream.
But no. The hot topic of the week was whether the legislature could find a way to close down a leadership program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which receives about $250,000 in state funds.
That would be the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from Chesterfield, Mo., and other Republicans want to close it down because they think it grooms Democrats, even though the program takes pains to be nonpartisan.
Both chambers attempted to draft legislation worded in such a way as to ban the institute’s existence.
But it’s the job of the university administration and its governing board — not the state legislature — to decide what programs will be offered on a campus. Tim Wolfe, the new president of the University of Missouri system, accurately if undiplomatically called the legislative interference “a fricking embarrassment.”
The language eventually was removed from the budget bill, although the subject may come up next week as part of another piece of legislation.