What do you mean, sinking?

In October 1992, The Kansas Natural Resource Council and Common Cause of Kansas sued Kansas for the way the Board of Agriculture is elected: in exclusive, members-only elections dominated by the Farm Bureau and other farm organizations. They say it violates the U.S. Constitution's principle of one person, one vote.

They were right.

If the Board of Ag just promoted Kansas products and set up a booth at the state fair and stuff like that, there'd be no problem. But they do a few other things, too. They administer the state's water laws, pesticide law, fertilizer law, weights and measures, and several dozen other broad governmental functions which affect every Kansan's life every day. So every Kansan should have a say in how the Board is elected. Don't you think?

Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan doesn't think so. He's said repeatedly in official opinions (1979, 1988, 1991) that the way the Board is elected is just fine.

Stephan: "For the life of me, I can't believe they're serious. This lawsuit can't go anywhere. This board is a creature of the Legislature, and the Legislature has the authority to set up memberships on boards and commissions. If they can win a lawsuit like this, the Legislature can no longer set up any memberships on any boards in state government. I can't believe any court is going to say that."

Secretary Sam: "I am confident we can withstand judicial challenge."

Kansas Farm Bureau agrees. They accuse the KNRC and Common Cause of trying to "politicize" the Board of Ag. (!)

Of course anyone who passed a high school government class should be able to distinguish between the Board and its members, just as anyone can tell the difference between the office of President of the U.S. and, say, Richard Nixon. The problem isn't who first established the Board, but who gets to vote to elected its current members.

Sam drones on, carefully missing the point: "All laws which we are charged with administering, including regulatory programs, are assigned to us by the Legislature as representatives of the people of Kansas."

Source: the Kansas City Star, "Stephan ridicules suit challenging board procedure," The Associated Press, 10/11/92
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