Daily Archives: March 27, 2013

First new law of 2013 bad for Kansas courts

How regrettable that the first bill to become law this year – House Bill 2019, which Gov. Sam Brownback signed Wednesday – was one that needlessly politicizes a merit-selection process for the Court of Appeals that has served Kansas well for 36 years. Now, Kansas reportedly is unique in the nation for selecting Court of Appeals judges one way and Supreme Court justices another way. Because the new system lets the governor pick anyone he wants but requires that his choices be confirmed by the Senate, which only works during the spring, the change could result in long-vacant seats on the court. Never mind that January poll showing 61 percent of Kansas voters opposed changing how appellate judges are selected. And so much for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2012 opinion that the nonpartisan nominating commission long used for Kansas’ appellate courts “is designed to ensure the conduct of the executive branch does not threaten the integrity of the judicial branch.”

Differing views of mental health funding

Our March 22 Eagle editorial, “Speak now on budget,” referred to the unsuccessful effort by state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, to amend the Senate budget plan “to help community mental health centers recover from the deep cuts they’ve sustained.” That drew an e-mail to the editorial board from Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, who said “the mental health centers have not received deep cuts” and cited, among other increases, an “increase of $209 million in fiscal year 2011 to $252 million in fiscal year 2014 (budget projection) for total community mental health center funding.” Sullivan’s perspective differs sharply from that of Michael J. Hammond, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, who has said that mental health reform dollars, which are what the system relies on to serve the uninsured and underinsured, have been “reduced by 50 percent since fiscal year 2008” and that “funding cuts to mental health reform dollars continue to place the public mental health system at a breaking point.”