Democrats question motive of Kansas governor's special session

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July 30, 2013

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

By Greg Janetka

TOPEKA, Kansas: Last Friday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) issued a press release detailing his call for a special session of the legislature starting September 3. Per the release, the special session was requested by Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) in order to have the legislature rewrite the state's "Hard 50" criminal sentencing law, which was rendered unconstitutional by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.[1] Democrats, however, contend the real reason for the session is to get Brownback's nominee to the court of appeals expedited.[2]

Following the governor's announcement, GOP leaders said that since lawmakers will be in session, the Senate has to consider the governor's pending appointments. Among the 19 who are still waiting to be confirmed will be Brownback's nominee for the Court of Appeals, which he has until August 29 to name. This particular appointment has received a great deal of attention as it is the first time that the governor nominates the position, something that was previously done by a nonpartisan nominating system.[3]

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D) questioned the motives behind the special session, saying the real reason was to force a quick approval process that would avoid scrutiny of Brownback's nominee. In a statement, Hensley said he initially supported the session to revisit the Hard 50 law, but changed his tune when the confirmations came up.

“I strongly believe that the people of Kansas are being misled. This special session is an orchestrated decoy. It isn’t about being tough on crime. It’s about Governor Brownback sneaking in his secret appointee to the Court of Appeals as fast and with as little public scrutiny as possible. This is a maneuver to get this controversy swept under the rug before next year’s election," Hensley stated.[2]

The special session will be only the 22nd since Kansas became a state in 1861. The last one was held in June and July 2005. Special sessions have lasted between two and 25 days.[4]

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