Kansas legislators push sovereignty bill
BY DION LEFLER
Saying the federal government has taken too much control over Kansas affairs, some key state senators and a minor political party are supporting a resolution to affirm the state’s sovereignty.
A resolution by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, calls on the federal government to “cease and desist” from withholding federal funds or otherwise penalizing states that don’t comply with federal mandates.
The resolution cites the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reserves to the states powers that aren’t specifically granted to the federal government.
Sovereignty, in this context, means the state retaining or regaining control of all powers not named as federal responsibilities in the Constitution.
Pilcher-Cook said she was not yet ready to discuss the resolution with the media.
But the Kansas Libertarian Party issued a statement of support for it early this week.
Party Treasurer Patrick Wilbur said the Libertarians decided to back Pilcher-Cook’s effort after she presented it to their northern Kansas committee, which meets in Topeka.
Wilbur said it’s directed at federal mandates such as the No Child Left Behind education law and the recently approved economic stimulus act.
The education law ordered states to adopt new standards for student achievement but never provided the money to meet the goals, Wilbur said.
As for the stimulus plan, “money coming in from the stimulus is going to have all kinds of strings attached,” Wilbur said.
He said that entices states to become dependent on the federal funds, pressuring states to accept federal rules they wouldn’t pass on their own.
“Basically, it’s like economic crack,” he said.
Pilcher’s resolution is expected to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
There, it will encounter opposition from Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, the commission’s ranking Democrat.
Haley said he thinks the resolution would be dangerous because it could send a signal to Washington that the state isn’t interested in stimulus funding despite the recession and an estimated $800 million state budget gap.
“We don’t want that kind of thing being fired off to Washington right now,” Haley said. “I have no idea what benefit that resolution could possibly confer on Kansas.”
Although the federal government may put some conditions on how the state spends stimulus money, “most of that will be beneficial for Kansans,” Haley said. He said the federal conditions will ensure that the money goes where it’s meant to — spending for economic recovery.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, the vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he plans to support the resolution, although he said it will be a largely symbolic statement.
The practice of government tying strings to large-scale federal aid has been going on since at least the 1960s and is unlikely to change anytime soon, he said.