Monday, January 11, 2010

Kansas Is Wacky

The Kansas Legislature is debating a possible death penalty repeal. In recent years, Kansas has not been famous for its progressiveness, even though it's the historical birthplace of Progressivism.

My family moved to Kansas when I was nine years old. At the time, the Kansas governor was John Carlin, a Democrat (and Lutheran! my dad liked to point out), and he vetoed several death penalty bills that came across his desk. Mike Hayden, a Republican, followed him into office, saying he would sign a death penalty bill (at least that's how I remember it). But then the legislature got cold feet and didn't pass a bill.

The legislature finally passed a bill in 1994, under Democratic Governor Joan Finney. According to the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Finney neither vetoed nor signed the bill. So that's weird. And it became law. No one has actually been put to death in Kansas, and seven people are currently on death row.

The New York Times recently reported that the American Law Institute had given up its death penalty work. That's the group that provided the original legal rationale the Supreme Court of the United States cited in its decision that allowed capital punishment again. That they've declared their project to be a failure seems like it must be a huge deal, that maybe it's an acknowledgment that sentiment against the death penalty is rising again. But hey, I'm no legal expert.

Naturally, the primary argument that states seem to be making against sentencing people to death row is that it costs too damned much, not that, say, state-sanctioned murder is immoral. Still, I suppose if high costs and tight budgets are what it takes...

But I don't have my finger on the pulse of Kansas politics at all anymore. Do any of my Kansas-dwelling readers (both of you) have any sense about how this debate will go? Could the death penalty in Kansas actually be overturned?

I'm telling you: Kansas is a totally wacky place.

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At 12:06 PM , Blogger Missy said...

There is another legistlative issue in Kansas besides our horrific budget deficit?

The govenor has suggested raising tobacco taxes and sales tax for 36 months as opposed to hacking in to the bone of our already anemic services again.

Seriously that is the only issue I seem to hear about. However, I am pretty directly affected by this budget issue now, so perhaps it would be more true to say that I am not paying attention to much else. I need another Kansan to weigh in.


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