The Topeka Capital-Journal, March 28
Senate wrong not to open probable cause affidavits:
The Kansas Senate's shameful treatment of proposed legislation that would have opened to public scrutiny the probable cause affidavits law enforcement officials and prosecutors use to obtain search and arrest warrants was a disservice to all Kansans.
Legislators earlier this session were given legitimate reasons for treating those affidavits as open records, and House members, to their credit, passed a bill that would do just that 113-10 before sending it along to the Senate. Once there, however, provisions addressing probable cause affidavits for arrest warrants were basically gutted by the Senate Judiciary Committee before Senate leaders decided the legislation, House Bill 2555, wouldn't be debated on the Senate floor this year.
While it was still working the bill, the Senate committee weakened provisions related to affidavits for search warrants by requiring the public to petition the clerk of the court for the information 14 days after a search warrant was executed. The subjects of a search would have immediate access to the affidavit.
Sen. Greg Smith, R-Olathe, who offered amendments to the bill as passed by the House, said his experience as a police officer made him sympathetic to concerns law enforcement officials and prosecutors had about treating the affidavits as public records.
Therein lies the problem. The Fourth Amendment protects this country's citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Without access to the probable cause affidavits used to obtain search and arrest warrants, citizens have no way of knowing whether the actions of law enforcement officials and prosecutors, and even the judges who sign off on the warrants, pass constitutional muster.
The Fourth Amendment wasn't written to protect law enforcement officials and prosecutors. It was written to protect the citizens, who must have access and transparency.
Law enforcement officers have told legislators they fear release of the probable cause affidavits would lead to sensationalism and pre-trial publicity. Their fears, however, aren't substantiated by the experiences of other states, almost all of which treat the affidavits as public records.
Keeping the records sealed only protects law enforcement officials and prosecutors from publicity about their mistakes.
The Iola Register, March 31
Ultra-conservative trajectory could be behind exodus:
Kansas needs to roll out the welcome mat.
In the past three years more residents have left the state, compared to those who have moved here.
From 2010 to 2013, Kansas lost a net 10,197 residents to other states, according to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Over the three-year period, a total 26,949 Kansans left compared to a gain of 16,752 from outside our borders.
The numbers are dramatic when compared to just a few years earlier. From 2000 to 2009, the state saw a reduction of 17,574 to outward migration. About one-third if the current trend continues.
Kansas ranks in the bottom 10 states nationwide in the number of people who have fled our borders.
What keeps us from slipping into oblivion is a healthy birthrate. The number of babies born in Kansas continues to outpace deaths and migration. The state's population is holding steady at about 2.9 million.
Perception is everything when trying to make a sale.
If Kansas were only known for Dorothy and tornadoes, we'd be relatively safe, though slightly embarrassed.
Today that wholesome image with an occasional storm is somewhat tarnished.
The specter of Fred Phelps and his hatred of homosexuals casts a long shadow across Kansas. With his recent death, we can only hope his heirs decide a different path.
Also to fear is the influence of ALEC, American Legislation Exchange Council, an organization that writes legislation with an ultraconservative bent.
More than 40 members of the Kansas Legislature are in the tow of ALEC, including House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle.
ALEC provides fill-in-the-blank templates whose gist are anti-clean energy, anti-civil justice, anti-Affordable Care Act, anti-gun control, anti-public education, anti-public pension, and perhaps most dangerously, anti-senior citizen in their war against the "socialist" programs Medicare and Social Security.
Such a direction pretty much puts the rest of us on the defensive.
When outsiders, including prospective industries, get too curious, we quickly say, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," hoping they'll be fooled by the smoke and mirrors we are forced to call democracy.
How nice if we could pull the curtain wide open, with nothing to hide.
The Hays Daily News, March 30
The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act should not have come as a surprise. The grouse's natural habitat in native grasslands and prairies has been reduced an estimated 84 percent. Last year, the bird's population dropped by almost half from the year before to a record low 17,616.
"The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits," said Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Knowing the threats the lesser prairie chicken faces remain and are expected to remain in the future, it is likely the bird will move to the endangered list at some point. As such, labeling it threatened was justified in the federal bureaucracy's line of thinking.