Truer to their word than they were to last spring’s promise of an 80-day session, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, kept the special session to two days and only the tasks at hand. That was quick work.
Waiting until January to fix the Hard 50 sentencing law might have posed a negligible risk to public safety. But the Kansas statute has been in limbo since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a similar Virginia law was unconstitutional in allowing the Hard 50 sentence to be imposed by judges rather than juries. Now, Gov. Sam Brownback could sign the repair into law sometime next week.
The special session also created an opportunity to seat the new 14th member of the Kansas Court of Appeals before January, as well as to finalize other Brownback appointments. Of course, as the Senate confirmed Brownback’s nomination of Caleb Stegall to the state’s second-highest court, it became clear that there’s no way to know whether Brownback has made the right pick under the state’s new judicial-selection system when he won’t release the names of the other applicants. Senators can only trust; they can’t verify.
Not surprisingly, the efforts of Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, to junk the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter-registration law were rebuffed on procedural grounds. That’s too bad for the nearly 16,000 would-be Kansas voters disenfranchised by the law who’d like to vote in local elections this fall. Maybe by January, when thousands more will have had their voting rights put “in suspense,” lawmakers will see the glaring problem with the unconstitutional law.
But at least the session, which cost $45,000 per day, didn’t take long.
Let’s hope the focus and brevity reappear at the sound of the gavel in January.