Brownback loses war of secession

In Kansas, public officials are either elected or appointed by someone who's elected - except the Board of Agriculture. For 122 years, the only way a Kansan could have any say about the 12-member Board of Ag was to belong to the Farm Bureau, or the Kansas Wheat Growers, or some other farm organization. And if you belonged to one of those, you could help elect the Board - even if you weren't a Kansas citizen!

Finally, in January 1993, District Judge John W. Lungstrum declared that scheme unconstitutional. The ruling resulted from a 1992 lawsuit filed against the state by the Kansas Natural Resource Council and Common Cause of Kansas.

The Board of Ag is charged with administrating food purity laws, water quality laws, and the pesticide and fertilizer laws. They check the accuracy of grocery scales and gas pumps.

Lungstrum: "The board is an elected body but its electoral process does not adhere to the one-person one-vote principle."

Attorney General Stephan, clinging to the rigging: "I am still of the opinion that the Legislature had the authority to create the board of agriculture in the way that it did."

Linda Alyan, Kansas Natural Resource Council: "Clearly, we're happy about this. We felt that a lot of people were locked out of the system before."

Brownback, however, argued that ordinary Kansans have all the representation they need. Elected legislators enact the laws the board enforces, he says. What he doesn't mention is that the Board has been curiously slow, understaffed, and cavalier about enforcing meddlesome legislation like the pesticide law. Typically their response time to complaints from poisoned citizens, by the Board's own admission, has been over half a year.

According to Brownback, "a good portion of one-person one-vote" is good enough. But it isn't. A portion isn't one. One-fifth isn't one. Neither is nine-tenths. One is.

Source: the Kansas City Star, "Judge tells Kansas board to answer to voters / Agriculture panel is picked by farmers but it sets wide-ranging policy and appoints top official," Mike Hendricks, 01/15/93
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