Since 2010, foes of merit selection in Kansas have pushed a bill that would eliminate the nominating commission for the Court of Appeals and give the governor the power to appoint those judges directly, pending federal-style Senate confirmation. The measure passed in the House in 2011, but stalled in the Senate. The League of Women Voters has been carefully monitoring its status, and on February 24, 2012, the Senate finally revisited the bill, under pressure from advocacy group Kansans for Life.
Facing bipartisan opposition, the proposal failed on a 17-22 vote, with legislators citing concerns about maintaining the separation of powers. Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "Make no bones about it, if we pass this bill and give this authority to the governor or any other governor, what we are doing is giving the executive branch control of the third branch of government." Others, such as Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, pointed to the federal system as an unenviable, gridlocked mess. Still others argued that the new method would not, as suggested, further the pro-life cause: one anti-abortion senator noted that the federal process appointed the judges who ruled in Roe v. Wade.
The League of Women Voters of Kansas applauds the Senate for considering the impact of the decision on judicial independence.
See coverage in the Topeka Capital-Journal, The Wichita Eagle, The Kansas City Star, the Associated Press, and Justice at Stake’s Gavel Grab.