A conversation between two Kansas State Senators and a Kansas Supreme Court Justice over the continued school finance debate has taken a twist. Now Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has been brought into the ethics controversy and conservative Republicans have formally requested a report on any “outside” communications made by justices or the Governor on the issue.
This inquiry started when Justice Lawton Nuss’ disclosed that he had discussed the school funding case with two senators at a Topeka restaurant. Previously, the Supreme Court had held that the state mechanism for funding K-12 education was unconstitutional. That decision lead to a $290 million increase in school fuding last year by lawmakers and talk of adding more than $400 million this session. However, whether the funding approved by the Legislature will meet the requirements set by the Supreme Court is still pending. On April 20, 2006, Nuss recused himself from any further proceedings on the matter. Further inquires followed that announcment.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, then came forward, stating that on March 28, 2006 he had informed Sebelius that a conversation had taken place with a confidential source at the Supreme Court about the education lawsuit. That information has seemed to link Sebelius to the controversy and has prompted requests for information from the Senate Senate Elections and Local Government Committee. Sebelius has maintained that she has had no involvement in the ordeal.
Additionally, the Commission on Judicial Qualifications is expected to accept Supreme Court Chief Kay McFarland’s request to expedite examination of possible ethical violations by Nuss. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline also is conducting an inquiry.