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Thursday, March 22, 2007
(10:01 AM) | Stephen:
Kansas Political Happenings

Continuing in the grand tradition of legislators wasting the taxpayers' time, the Kansas House and Senate recently passed bills naming English as the official language of the state of Kansas. No governmental organization in Kansas - state or local - is prohibited from producing documents in languages other than English, so long as there is a version of it that is produced in English. In other words, the bill changes nothing except the feelings of those ignorant enough to thing measures like this are necessary. Or perhaps it makes the English language feel better, much like the American flag is always so pleased when laws are passed that "protect" or "honor" it.

The Kansas House also passed a bill that prohibits any local government from restricting concealed-carry privileges in any way that exceeds the state's concealed-carry law. This is in direct response to several cities, such as Leawood, Roeland Park and Mission, that have restricted concealed weapons in places like city offices and parks. The state law allows businesses to post signs that prohibit the possession of concealed weapons; immediately upon Governor Sebelius' signature, those signs popped up on almost every business I've seen. The issue here is home rule, really, just as it was when Lawrence decided to create a registry for same-sex couples. Once the Legislature got the taste of overruling city governments - and don't think this doesn't have a little to do with the Sunday liquor law rebellion a few years ago - they decided it was pretty good stuff. Sooner or later some city is going to pass an ordinance that pleases the Republican majority, and the Republican majority in the Legislature is going to override it. Perhaps then we can have a discussion about the proper limits of the state legislature.

Speaking of proper limits, the fact that Phill Kline has no concept of them has inspired even more meddling from the Kansas legislature. At issue, still, is how Kline fired 7 prosecutors and the chief investigator from the Johnson County DA's office a few hours after he was sworn in. The 8 former employees filed suit, saying that Kline acted improperly by not following Johnson County personnel procedures. Kline fired back, saying that as DA, he is bound only by Johnson County budget constraints and actually is considered a state official (which makes Paul Morisson, his predecessor and the man who crushed him electorally, his boss. Ha ha ha). The problem is that both parties are correct. Kline is a state official that, by state law, does not have to follow county HR policies. Johnson County's home rule charter, however, clearly states that the DA does have to follow county HR policies. Dumb stuff, but conflicts like this happen.
I suppose that if the state wanted to change the way that all District Attorneys are treated, that's fine. However, a District Attorney should have a measure of independence from the county in which she serves, since she will be called upon, if necessary, to investigate and prosecute even county officials. That the county pays for the office doesn't change this dynamic, and officials such as Annabeth Surbaugh (quoted on this issue in the article) should understand and appreciate the independence that DA's have. Just because Phill Kline often acts like an asshole doesn't mean that we need to revise the state's laws. There is even talk about restricting the bill to only apply to Johnson County. That's ridiculous. The county passed a statute that contradicts state law and it should have been struck down long ago.

Let me be clear, though: while I support Kline's right as DA to treat those 7 prosecutors and the investigator shabbily, that doesn't mean he needs to exercise that right. He could have given them time, could have even done the whole "ask them to resign" thing that would allow them a modicum of dignity in the process. But that wouldn't be his style, and is a sign of how much he despises Paul Morisson and everything that man has done. I have no doubt that if he felt he could get away with it, he would have fired every single person in the DA's office. But as immoral as an action like that would have been, he still would have been within his rights.

In even more Phill Kline news, he recently scheduled a couple of "town hall" meetings in Johnson County to address criticisms and concerns. At least, that was his stated intent. What he did at the first such meeting was spent some time whining about his mistreatment at the hands of the media, which apparently has made an conscious decision to portray him as obsessed with abortion in spite of the many, many other issues he has tackled as Attorney General and as Disctict Attorney.

In the week following these statements, Kline traveled to Wichita in Sedgewick County to meet with a group of pastors and advise them about how to continue their quest to see criminal charges brought against George Tiller, the Wichita abortion doctor that commanded much of Kline's attention while he was Attorney General. In fact, if Kline hadn't overstepped his bounds by bringing charges against Tiller - in addition to his fishing expedition with abortion clinic records - he would very possibly still be Attorney General and on his way to being Governor.

So the not-obsessed-with-abortion Phill Kline felt it a good use of my time to travel to Wichita, in another county that presumably has its own District Attorney, and advise a group in their vendetta against George Tiller. If he's not interested in paying attention to Johnson County and being its District Attorney, I'd be more than happy to accept his resignation. Otherwise he should stick around here and at least attempt to do his damn job.



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