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Legislators discuss future school finance ruling

2/2/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

State Legislators had an impending ruling by the state Supreme Court and the judges who will make that ruling on their minds at Saturday's Eggs & Issues forum at Sternberg Museum of Natural History.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on school finance during this Legislative session.

"There is no way at this time we can afford the amount of money that they're talking about," said Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays. "I'm not sure the court is going to mandate that.

"I always knew, as a government teacher, that the Supreme Court has no power of the sword, and no power of the purse. I find it an affront to constitutional issues to have the court tell us what the Legislature is going to have to pay."

Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, expressed concern about how the makeup of the court is decided; he would prefer the Legislature be involved.

"I prefer a more open process," he said after the forum. "Right now, it's a very closed-off process."

Currently, a nominating commission gives the governor three names to choose from for an open position.

"What they often do, they have the person they want, and they'll make the other two so unacceptable to the governor it's really a pre-determined selection," Couture-Lovelady said.

Couture-Lovelady said the argument has been made by putting the nominating process into the Legislature's hands, it will become messy, much like what happens on the federal level.

"I believe that they should have some sort of a direct line to the people by having the elected officials appoint them rather than a group of lawyers, a nomination commission," Couture-Lovelady said during the forum.

Couture-Lovelady said the process already has been politicized.

"People say they don't want politics into our court," he said during the forum. "Well, fact of the matter is, there are politics in our courts right now, it's just left-wing politics in the courts," Couture-Lovelady said.

An audience member asked about possible water restrictions on irrigators. Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has shown his concern about water issues.

"I really believe we are going places with this water," issue, he said. "We've got a governor -- he's a water governor. This governor cares very much. ... I think the majority of the farmers understand we need to conserve water, we need to watch out what we're doing here."

Boldra reaffirmed her commitment to all-day kindergarten, as proposed by Brownback. The annual cost for the state for all-day kindergarten would be $80 million, once fully implemented. The five-year phase-in cost would be approximately $240 million.

"Again, I'm still a big fan of the program, but we have to be fiscally responsible," Boldra said.

* The next Eggs & Issues, hosted by the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for March 22.