Ruling makes for lively topic at wrap-up breakfast
State lawmakers speak out on state Supreme Court decision and other hot topics
Leavenworth An annual breakfast Saturday meant to mark the end of the legislative session for area state senators and representatives fell on the day after the Kansas Supreme Court all but ordered legislators back to Topeka.
On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the Legislature's school finance bill unconstitutional because the law provided inadequate funding for poorer districts and relied too much on local property taxes. The court ordered the Legislature to double the bill's $142 million increase in funding for schools by July 1.
State Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, and Reps. Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth, Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, and Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, all spoke at Saturday's event on the ruling, as well as on other recent state legislative matters.
Ruff and Crow were enthusiastic about the court's ruling. Ruff began her speech citing another quirk in the Saturday morning event's timing in relation to three teacher awards given that morning by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Of all things, for the Supreme Court decision to come down yesterday, and for us to have this award today, the Golden Apple Award, is not only ironic, but I think it's also a signal from God in many ways," Ruff said.
Ruff went on to tell the audience of about 50 people, many of whom were teachers, that "until legislators are more fearful of you, the education community, than they are of the anti-tax groups that we have springing up throughout the state and those that are threatening to vote us out of office if we do do something for public schools, we're not going to be very successful."
Crow also spoke out on the Supreme Court's ruling: "Now if anybody tells you this is not a tax bill, there hadn't ever been one in my history."
Crow said the bill was intended to push money into districts with the wealthiest tax bases, depriving districts like those in Leavenworth and Lansing "of the same kind of ability to fund good education for our kids."
Pine said he wasn't sure if the Legislature would, in fact, be able to work out a budget in the time allotted by the court, but he spent much of his speaking time addressing the recent move by the state Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services of a convicted sexual predator to southwest Leavenworth County. The man, 70-year-old Leroy Hendricks, had moved from Larned State Hospital last week into a house on Golden Road near Kansas Highway 32 before Leavenworth County commissioners obtained a restraining order from a Leavenworth County District Court judge who ordered Hendricks be moved.
"I don't think many people are going to be pleased having that kind of individual anywhere close to the general public," Pine said.
Pine and Wilk each addressed the impending change of status for the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth. The prison recently will go from being a maximum-security to a medium-security prison, entailing the loss of 106 jobs.
But, Wilk said, the recent round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations that may bring 217 jobs to Fort Leavenworth was reason to celebrate, even though the rumored moving of two training schools to the fort never happened.
Wilk added that local and state groups that formed for the purpose of promoting Kansas and Leavenworth for the this round of military base closings should continue to better prepare for the next round.