Under the Dome
Associated General Contractors
May 31, 2016
|Sine Die, June 1
The term sine die is latin and means “without a day.” In Kansas it marks the ceremonial end of session and in some years the beginning of campaign season. Traditionally, Sine Die is reserved for farewells for those retiring and a few rhetorical pats on the back. Rarely does legislative action occur because it’s difficult to get farmers to Topeka during harvest. This year three issues have generated news after the veto session ended and may receive some attention Wednesday.
Governor Brownback recently vetoed Senate Bill 280, which made many changes in the tax code, but most significantly would allow for a district court to have de novo (latin for “starting from the beginning; anew”) review of tax issues heard at the Board of Tax Appeals. The Senate and House both passed Senate Bill 280 unanimously. It is a target for an override Wednesday. In his veto message, Governor Brownback states, “…the Kansas courts have recognized that the Board of Tax Appeals already performs the necessary judicial function of an initial court or record for the matter at issue here — a function that would be upended by the legislation.”
Business and individuals alike have expressed concern about continuing to allow the Board of Tax Appeals to be the exclusive evidentiary court. The principle of allowing a district court and not the administrative courts to establish a trial record is foundational to our system on justice and goes far beyond tax litigation. What liberties can our government take from us and what are our rights to appeal? The Board of Tax Appeals was created for efficiency, not necessarily for the protection of individual rights. There has always been a tension between these two concepts of efficiency and protection of rights and it will likely remain.
Title IX Guidance Letter
The second issue which may receive attention Sine Die is the recent “guidance letter” from the Obama administration on the use of public school bathrooms and accommodations. The letter states: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its implementing regulations prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by the recipients of Federal financial assistance.” It goes on and essentially creates and/or defines the terms Gender Identity, Sex Assigned at Birth, Transgender, Gender Transition. It finishes by reminding the recipients of federal funds they have to obey the Title IX law if they want to continue to receive funds.
What does this mean? Those who question the executive’s authority to create new terms aren’t quite sure of its impact. Other school districts have simply created policy to follow the guidance letter. Legislators have openly asked can a “guidance letter” and later a new federal regulation actually include additional language into the already heavily litigated 1972 law or just create an opportunity for further litigation? Will the Department of Justice actually attempt to restrict funding already appropriated or worse attempt to close schools for non-compliance? Keep in mind, the Kansas Supreme Court has already threatened to close Kansas schools if they are not equitably funded. In a bit of irony, the US Department of Justice is essentially making the same threat but with regard to bathroom usage.
News reports began circulating recently that the conservatives in the Kansas Legislature want their position known on the issue and they may take up a measure, whether it is a piece of legislation, a resolution, or merely a letter stating their position.
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