In his State of the State speech, the governor brought up the need to reform the method of selection for our Kansas Supreme Court. Currently, justices to the Kansas Supreme Court are selected by a rather unusual method in which the people who control the nomination process have no direct accountability to the people of Kansas. There is a nine member "Supreme Court Nominating Commission", of which 5 are elected by attorneys in Kansas - the other 4 by the governor. Because attorneys are always in the majority, attorneys always control the outcome of the selection.
The appellate system (Appeals Court) was changed statutorily (through change of a law) by the Legislature to appointment by the governor with Senate approval, but a change for selections to the Supreme Court would require a change to the Kansas Constitution. The Legislature would need to pass a constitutional amendment with two-thirds vote in each chamber. It would then be placed on a ballot for a vote of the people. The two-thirds vote threshold has been achieved in the Senate but not yet in the House.
This is an issue where you can have a direct impact by encouraging your legislator to vote for judicial selection reform. The exact form the new measure takes will be debated this session, and I will be updating you on this subject as the session moves along.
For the past few sessions there have been proposals to move local elections that are currently held in March and April to August and November of odd years. Even years would be national and state elections; odd years would be local elections.
If you want a real world example about the problem with the timing of current "spring" elections, the filing deadline for local candidates is January 27th. If there is a primary, advanced voting begins on February 11th - a mere 15 days later. A candidate who wants to serve their city or their school district would have two weeks to put together a campaign before people began voting. This is not realistic and it is a system that gives incumbents a large advantage. Also, the shorter days and colder weather can make it difficult for candidates to introduce themselves to voters. There are over 200 local government positions in Johnson County alone, and these positions deserve good candidates and an election cycle that makes sense.
I was pleased to see the governor endorse moving spring elections to the fall, and I look forward to seeing this legislation voted on this session.
Constitutional Amendment on Debt
To ensure that state debt is a general obligation of the state and paid before other tax dollars are expended, the governor has proposed the Legislature pass a constitutional amendment stating that the priorities for appropriations should first be subject to bond payments and then all additional obligations. The proposal would guarantee the state would make debt payments first before any other appropriations are made. Passage of this amendment should help the state achieve a better credit rating and keep borrowing costs lower.
A resolution would have to pass both the House and the Senate with a two-thirds majority and then be approved by Kansas voters for it to be added to the Constitution.