TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/WIBW) _ The Kansas Senate's top Democrat is questioning Gov. Sam Brownback's motives for calling a special legislative session.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said Monday that Brownback called the Sept. 3 session to gain quick approval of a coming appointment to the state Court of Appeals and avoid scrutiny of his nominee.
Brownback must nominate the judge by Aug. 29. This is the first selection made under a new process whereby the Governor selects the nominee from applicants, subject to Senate confirmation. Previously, a nominating commission screened applicants and forwarded three names to the Governor from which to choose.
In the past, the commission has released the names of applicants. However, Brownback declined to follow the same practice, saying applicants preferred their names be kept confidential and identifying them could discourage others from applying for openings in the future.
Brownback asked lawmakers to rewrite a state law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month raised questions about the law's constitutionality.
He and legislative leaders had hoped to limit the special session to that one issue.
But Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Monday that state law will require the Senate to consider the judicial appointment during the special session rather than waiting until the regular session in January.
Bruce told The Associated Press Monday that the Senate will be required to have votes on confirming as many as 19 appointments from Brownback.
Full statement from Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka:
“Last week I voiced public and private support for the Attorney General’s request that the Legislature have a special session with the narrow scope of tightening up Kansas’ so-called Hard 50 law.
“But now that Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce wants the Senate to vote on 19 confirmations in the special session, I’m becoming increasingly concerned that the process is spiraling out of control before it starts.
“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.
“The $40,000 daily cost of this special session for Kansas taxpayers should be reported as an in-kind contribution to the Brownback re-election campaign.”