SCOTUS Takes Same Sex Marriage Case. Ruling Expected in June
January 16, 2015

(AP) – Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry everywhere in America under the Constitution.
The justices will take up gay-rights cases that ask them to overturn bans in four states and declare for the entire nation that people can marry the partners of their choice, regardless of gender. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June.
Proponents of same-sex marriage said they expect the court to settle the matter once and for all with a decision that invalidates state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
That number is nearly double what it was just three months ago, when the justices initially declined to hear gay marriage appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on same-sex marriage. The effect of the court’s action in October was to make final several pro-gay rights rulings in the lower courts.
Now there are just 14 states in which same-sex couples cannot wed. The court’s decision to get involved is another marker of the rapid change that has redefined societal norms in the space of a generation.
The appeals before the court come from gay and lesbian plaintiffs in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The federal appeals court that oversees those four states upheld their same-sex marriage bans in November, reversing pro-gay rights rulings of federal judges in all four states. It was the first, and so far only, appellate court to rule against same-sex marriage since the high court’s 2013 decision.
Ten other states also prohibit such unions. In Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas, judges have struck down anti-gay marriage laws, but they remain in effect pending appeals. In Missouri, same-sex couples can marry in St. Louis and Kansas City only
John County, Kansas and Douglas County kansas have also permitted same sex couples to marry.
Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt continues to challenge lower Kansas court rulings dismissing the state’s ban on same sex marriage

Kansas Supreme Court Stops JoCo’s Same Sex Marriage Licenses, ACLU Files Suit, JoCo Lesbian Couple Marries
October 10, 2014

(AP) — Hours after Kansas’ most populous county issued a same-sex marriage license to a couple who quickly wed, the state Supreme Court on Friday blocked the granting of any more such licenses.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a ban on gay marriage in the Kansas Constitution.

Kansas voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional ban in 2005, but the state appears to face an uphill legal battle in preserving it following the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to hear appeals from five other states seeking to save theirs.

That development led Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty to direct other judges and court clerks in Johnson County to approve marriage licenses for gay couples. The court clerk’s office granted what’s believed to be the first — and only — such license Friday morning. Hours later, Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a petition with Kansas’ highest court, asking it to immediately block the issuance of other licenses.

The state Supreme Court cited federal court rulings against gay marriage bans in its brief order but blocked Moriarty’s order in Johnson County, “in the interest of establishing statewide consistency.” It set a hearing for Nov. 6 and said it would consider whether the state’s ban on gay marriage is permissible under the U.S. Constitution.

The Johnson County newlyweds, Kelli and Angela, asked to be identified only by their first names to help protect their privacy, but did agree to allow a photograph of them after the ceremony to be used. In a statement released through the gay-rights group Equality Kansas, they said they wanted to celebrate privately.

Wedding plans for gay couples across Kansas were in limbo, with nearly all of the state’s 105 counties refusing to issue marriage licenses. In Riley County in northeast Kansas, a couple whose application for a marriage license was accepted Thursday learned Friday that a judge had denied it.

Long Lines on Last Day of Johnson County Advance Voting
November 5, 2012

Johnson County voters stood in long lines in cool, rainy weather to cast early ballots on the day before the election.

Election commissioners said they aren’t sure what the crowds on Monday will mean for the election on Tuesday.

The line of early voters wrapped around the Olathe election office and tangled traffic on Kansas City Road. Voters told KMBC 9 News they didn’t mind the wait.

“It’s been probably close to half an hour,” said early voter Sharon Bybee.

She said the wait was definitely worth it.

“It’s been more than I expected, but I’m glad to see it,” she said.

For the past two weeks, Johnson County voters had several places to cast early ballots, including the popular location at Metcalf South Shopping Center. On Monday, the election office was the only option.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby said he’s not sure why Monday became so busy.

“We’ve been having advanced voting for two weeks and every day has been slower than a comparable day in 2008,” he said. “Today has been just like ’08.”

Under Kansas law, advance voting had to end by noon before Election Day. Newby said he doesn’t know if Monday’s surge would mean bigger crowds at the polls or not. He said there are 15,000 fewer mail-in votes than in the last presidential election.

Vratl to Join KS Dems to Review Brownback’s Budget
August 15, 2012

Republican Senator John Vratl of Leawood

The Kansas Democratic Party says Johnson County Republican State Senator John Vratl will join Kansas Democrats Thursday to talk about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s budget.
An advisory says they intend to “refute” Governor Sam Brownback’s “unfounded claims” about the his tax plan.
Tuesday, Brownback and economist Arthur Laffer briefed Johnson County small businessmen on the changes in the state tax code. Those changes were pushed by Brownback. Laffer helped design the Governor’s tax cut package.
They told the Jonson County audience it would be an “adrenaline” shot to the state’s economy.
Vratl is one of the moderate Republicans who disagree. He and some others fear it could punch a hole in the budget in the years ahead.
Vratl joining up with Kansa Democratic Chair Joan Wagnon is a sign the surviving moderate Republicans in the Kansas Legislature are trying to build an alliance with Kansas Democrats. Vratl won’t be around the statehouse to see that next year.
He announced his retirement this summer. A conservative won his seat in the State Senate, as Gov. Brownback led a conservative sweep through the ranks of moderate Kansas Republicans during this month’s primary.

Franzen Explains Difference in DMV Numbers, Kansas Tells Maker-Fix the Computer,
June 29, 2012

Johnson County Treasurer Tom Franzen says his DMV Numbers are almost exactly the same from June of 2011′ despite the long lines and waiting times.
Franzen told the Johnson County Commissions Thursday the local DMV offices handled almost exactly the same number of license renewals and title registration so far in June 2012 as it did in Ju.ne of last year,55,916.
Final numbers will come out next week.
Franzen says they’re doing 99.9% of the workload from a year ago. He also says they are not caught u.p. Franzen says the local office still has long waiting times because the new system is asking clerks to process more of the work than the older system and do it in a different way.
But Department of Revenue has different numbers.
Director Nick Jordan said last week the Johnson County office is doing about 136% more work this month.
Franzen says the difference is the way the state is counting the work versus how they’ counting it in the local office.
Franzen says “that’s like Nick Jordan telling you his team hit three home runs in the third inning, but he’s not telling you the score of the game.”
Franzen says is office is still working through back log created when the Kansas DMV office started the new system in early May.
The Treasurer told the Commission DMV staffer are still learning the new, more complex system.
Franzen also says his office has spend $25,000 on overtime in and effort to catch up. That catch-up plan is still in operation.
The head of the Kansas DMV, Donna Shelite says Wyandotte County has spent $31,000 in overtime on the new system.
The Topeka Capital Journals reports the state is telling the makers of the system, the 3M Corporation, it will not pay off the $40 million dollar contract until is satisfied with the new Duse the Journal reports, “The state has identified several top priorities for 3M to address before concluding its contract and paying the last of the money owed, Shelite said. Specifically, Shelite said, the state has requested that 3M address the system’s response times, availability, bugs and maintenance.

“The state’s evaluation period was supposed to end Saturday, but, given the issues, that timeline has been amended, KDOR public information officer Jeannine Koranda said in an email.”

“While the State continues to work with 3M to improve the new motor vehicle system, we will not accept 3M’s system until it operates according to the contractual requirements,” Koranda wrote. “If the system does not conform to the contractual requirements, the State will enforce its rights under the contract and compel 3M to deliver the system that has been promised. “