Merrick Says Equalization May never be Achieved
April 11, 2016

Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick says it might be impossible to keep all Kansas School district equalized.
Equalization is providing all school districts a uniform method of paying for its students need school needs. It does not mean each district gets an equal amount of money.
“It’s a moving number. A moving target,” Merrick said Olathe Monday afternoon.
Equity, equity, equity,” That’s a problem that will never be solved, he added.
Equalization is a key element to the on-going dispute between the Kansas Supreme Court and the Legislature.
The courts ruled earlier this year that the state’s equalization plan was not constitutional. The court gave lawmakers until June 30 to come up with the plan the Justices will accept, or risk a school shutdown in the fall.
Lawmakers passed a new school funding bill and Governor Sam Brownback signed the measure last week.
“We did take a piece of the formula the court had already declared was constitutional for equalization and applied that formula to the rest of the plan. So it should pass a constitutional challenge,” Brownback said Monday.
The Kansas Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the legislature’s school funding plan on May 10.

Brownback Signs Legislature School Funding Fix
April 7, 2016

(AP) – Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has signed an education funding bill designed to prevent the state Supreme Court from shutting down the state’s public schools.
Brownback announced Thursday that he had signed the measure. He took the action Wednesday.
The bill is a response to a Supreme Court ruling in February that the state isn’t providing enough aid to its poor districts. The justices threatened to shut down schools if lawmakers didn’t act by June 30.
The bill redistributes $83 million of the state’s $4 billion-plus in annual aid.
Critics contend that the bill doesn’t solve the problems identified by the court. But Brownback said in a statement that the bill arose from what he called a “delicate legislative compromise.”
He called on the court to review it with “appropriate deference”.

Kansas Supremes Strike Down Sobriety Check Refusal Law
February 27, 2016

(AP) – The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional a state law that punishes suspected drunken drivers who refuse to submit to a sobriety test.

The state’s high court, by a 6-1 vote Friday, declared the law a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Under Kansas law, refusing to submit to a sobriety test has been punishable by a one-year suspension of the driver’s license.

Friday’s ruling came a little more than two months since the U.S. Supreme Court announced it also will decide whether states can criminalize a driver’s refusal to take an alcohol test even if police have not obtained a search warrant.

Roughly a dozen states make it a crime to refuse to consent to warrantless alcohol testing.

Kansas Supremes Strike Down Wichita Pot Law
January 22, 2016

(AP) – The highest court in Kansas has struck down a Wichita voter-approved ordinance that reduces penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
The Kansas Supreme Court issued its ruling Friday. The case has been closely watched by activists in other Kansas communities who are considering similar voter-led initiatives if state lawmakers continue to block reform of marijuana laws.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt argued the ordinance conflicts with state law.
Wichita voters approved the ordinance in April, with 54 percent in favor.
The city council says it put the measure on the ballot because 3,000 people signed a petition for it.
The Supreme Court had earlier put the measure on hold while considering its legality

Kansas Supreme Court Rules for Court
December 23, 2015

WICHITA, Kansas — The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously struck down a law meant to reduce its administrative influence over lower courts, setting up a showdown with lawmakers who threatened to defund the state’s entire judiciary system if the law was overturned.

The high court ruled that the 2014 law changing how chief judges are selected is unconstitutional and was an “unconstitutional encroachment” by the Legislature on the Supreme Court’s authority to administer a “unified” court system. The justices said that by enacting the law, the Legislature asserted significant control of a constitutionally established essential power of the Supreme Court.

The law enacted last year by the Republican-dominated Legislature stripped the Supreme Court of its power to appoint the chief judges for the trial courts in each of the state’s 31 judicial districts, giving it to the local judges.

Lawmakers followed up this year by passing another law this year saying that if the administrative change was overturned, the court system’s entire budget through June 2017 would be defunded, although it’s not due to take effect until March 15. That would give the Legislature an opportunity to rethink during the next session whether they want to actually defund the judiciary.

The justices wrote that the potential loss of funding did not factor into their ruling.

“We note only that our holding appears to have practical adverse consequences to the judiciary budget, which the legislature may wish to address, even though those concerns played no part in our analysis,” the justices wrote.

Critics of the 2014 law view it as an attack on the court system’s independence and accuse the Republican-dominated Legislature and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback of trying to intimidate the judiciary into accepting it through the budgeting process. Brownback and other supporters of the change argue that it would allow an important decision to be made locally.

The state’s high court has been under increasing attacks by conservatives who say it is too liberal, particularly with major cases on school funding and abortion restrictions now pending in the courts. In judicial races last year, the governor openly campaigned against the retention of two state Supreme Court justices.

District Judge Larry Solomon, of Kingman County, challenged the 2014 law stripping the court of its power to select chief judges. His attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, said Wednesday that the separation of powers doctrine is an essential component of this country’s democratic way of life.

“The power grab attempted by the legislature and the government in trying to control our judges has failed and as a result the people of Kansas have won,” Irigonegaray said.

Neither the attorney general’s office nor the governor’s office immediately responded to emails seeking comment.