Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lansing representatives ready as special session begins

June 23, 2005

As the Kansas Legislature continues its special legislative session to answer a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase state funding for public schools, Lansing's two state representatives still aren't exactly sure how the battle will finish.

Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, predicted that in addition to increasing the amount of money for public schools, the special session also would yield a proposed constitutional amendment clarifying that the Legislature has the duty of appropriating money.

"It goes to the heart of the separation of powers," Wilk explained. "It clearly states that the Legislature has the sole responsibility of appropriating funds. Now the issue of what's constitutional and what's not constitutional would stay with the courts, but this would make clear that neither the courts nor the executive branch can tell the Legislature how to spend money."

Wilk, whose district includes all of Lansing west of Main Street, said the high court justices, in their June 3 ruling to increase funding for public schools by $143 million, overstepped their bounds.

"Legislators have probably gotten as much contact on this issue as has happened in a long, long time," Wilk said.

Nevertheless, Wilk guessed that lawmakers ultimately would increase funding for schools.

"I'd say there probably will be more money appropriated for schools," he said. "Whether it'll be what the court ordered or some other amount, I'm not sure."

Rep. Candy Ruff, a Leavenworth Democrat whose district includes areas of Lansing east of Main Street said she wasn't about to vote for any constitutional amendments during the session.

"I ain't messing with the Constitution, that's for sure," she said.

Ruff said she was ready for a legislative bloodbath.

"I'm fitted with body armor and heading to Topeka," Ruff joked Tuesday before she left for the session.

Ruff, who is working on a doctorate in history, said she was against attempts to reign in the power of the court.

"I think that's real scary," Ruff said of the proposed constitutional amendments. "I think that's real scary and shows a woeful disrespect for the separation of powers and for the judiciary. I think we do a great deal of harm when we bash the judiciary."

She criticized conservative legislators who have been up in arms about the court's ruling.

"I think if they had their way, they would try to reverse Marbury v. Madison," Ruff said, referring to the 1803 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court asserted its power to declare legislation unconstitutional.

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