Kansas politics: 5 things you need to know from Monday


Good morning everyone:

Yes, there seemed to be a lot of news from Monday that we couldn’t catch up to (partly because of laptop glitches). So here’s our latest installment of: Five things you may have missed but need to know about…

Linn County lawsuit

News broke Monday morning about a lawsuit brought against Linn County over a health order requiring businesses to keep a record of who visits their establishment.

Two Linn County residents – Jackie Taylor and Linda Jo Hisel – contend the order violates their freedom from unconstitutional searches because it required businesses to keep a record of who visits their establishment.

The lawsuit says the lists of names and contact information are required to be turned over to county officials to identify anyone who may have been exposed to someone infected by the coronavirus.

Linn County Health Officer Jay Allen – also a defendant in the lawsuit – signed the order May 1. It started May 4. Violation of the order carries a $500 fine.

“The order is unconstitutional,” the lawsuit states. “It authorizes warrantless searches and seizures for any purpose without precompliance review and deprives plaintiffs and others similarly situated of their Fourth Amendment rights,” the lawsuit stated.”

Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday that asking for contact information from people might be going too far.

“My gut is that is an awful lot to ask of people,” Kelly said at her daily briefing Monday.

“People were having enough trouble with the idea that some app on your phone was following you around and being able to record it even if it was anonymously…much less us asking them to record that,” Kelly said.

“I don’t see us doing that, but if there comes a time when we absolutely have to for the health and safety Kansans, we’d consider it.

“It would not be the first thing on my mind nor my first choice,” she said.

A.G reviews emergency order prosecutions

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Monday he plans to issue an opinion about the constitutionality of a state law authorizing criminal prosecutions of anyone who violates emergency orders issued by the governor.

Schmidt said his office has been asked for an opinion from Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder.

“The Kansas constitution grants the Legislature, not the governor, power to define what behavior may subject Kansans to potential arrest, criminal prosecution, fines or imprisonment,” Schmidt said in a statement.

“No appellate court has determined whether the Legislature, through provisions of the Kansas Emergency Management Act, has lawfully delegated that power to the governor,” he said.

“Even if delegation is generally permissible, we have been asked specific legal questions that could affect the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally enforce emergency orders,” he said.

The attorney general promised to review the law a couple days after a McPherson barber said he was served with an arrest warrant for opening his business too early in violation of the governor’s plan for reopening the state. He said Sunday the warrant had been rescinded.

Meanwhile, Linn County is being sued over a health order requiring businesses to keep a record of who visits their establishments.

In her daily briefing Monday, Kelly said her office has worked with the attorney general on every executive order her office has issued so far.

“Obviously, I think executive orders without teeth are useless,” Kelly said.

“I think there has to be some mechanism for enforcement,” she said.

“That has traditionally been at the local level. I expect it to stay at the local level.”

Miller DUI charges move forward

A judge on Monday said that the drunk-driving case against state Sen. Vic Miller can move forward.

A Shawnee County judge concluded there was probable cause to arrest Miller on a charge of drunk driving after he crashed into a ditch off Interstate 70 at about 11 p.m. on May 6, 2019.

Judge Penny Moylan found that the “inexplicable car accident” was a “compelling factor” in determining whether probable cause existed to arrest Miller, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported on Monday.

Miller sought to have the drunk-driving charge dismissed, saying he wasn’t drinking the night police found his crashed vehicle.

The C-J reported that while Moylan found that the crash alone may not establish probable cause, she pointed out that there were other factors in play such as slurred speech, bloodshot and glossy eyes as well as difficulties with balance and coordination.

Schmidt wants China investigated

U.S. Attorney General Derek Schmidt is joining with 17 other attorneys general to ask Congress to investigate the Chinese government’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schmidt and the other state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. House and Senate leadership asking for a Congressional investigation. The letter was sent Friday but not made public until Monday.

“Recent reports suggest that the communist Chinese government willfully and knowingly concealed information about the severity of the virus while simultaneously stockpiling personal protective equipment,” the attorneys general wrote.

“Congressional hearings are critical to our nation’s understanding of the origins of COVID-19 and efforts by the communist Chinese government to deceive the international community.”

New House filings

Former Baldwin City Council member A.J. Stevens filed for the House, setting up a primary in House District 10 to replace outgoing Democratic state Rep. Eileen Horn. He faces a primary against Brandon Holland, the son of state Sen. Tom Holland.

Meanwhile over in House District 15, Democrat Cole Fine has announced he’s running against Republican state Rep. John Toplikar, who faced a vigorous challenge in 2018.