Democratic leaders in the Kansas Senate and House were denied a motion to intervene in the school finance mediation litigation in an action announced by the Kansas Supreme Court on April 3, but stated whether they are involved or not will be up to the lawyers and mediators already in the case.
While the court denied the motion of Sen. Anthony Hensley and Rep. Paul Davis, Democratic leaders, to intervene in the Gannon case mediation, the court stated it was “not mandating nor limiting the participation of any person or entity in the mediation process,” leaving that up to the lawyers in the lawsuit and the mediators they selected.
The school finance case is currently in mediation.
Alan Rupe, who is working with the school districts and students who filed the suit, stated that this denial of the motion should have no effect on the mediation. The mediation will be among representatives of the Legislature, but until and unless the entire Legislature approves anything, the matter cannot be resolved, he stated.
"As a result, while the motion, if granted, would have been helpful from the standpoint of having additional legislators involved in the mediation, the overall impact is not significant," Rupe stated.
Gov. Sam Brownback made the request for mediation in the case. In their motion on March 11, Hensley and Davis suggested that if the governor was going to participate in the mediation process, legislative leaders ought to be present, too, in representing the state. They also stated the legislative State Finance Council might be a good choice for involvement in mediation.
Attorneys for the school districts and students who filed the case for equitable school funding stated in a motion that they supported the legislative leaders’ motion to intervene. They stated in a motion that any settlement would have to involve the Legislature.
The state attorney general filed a response against it, stating that the nature of mediation is that only the parties to the action are allowed to participate. The State Finance Council was not a named party to the suit, and the two legislators are only two members of it.
“The Governor, who is the Chief Executive officer of the State as well as the Chairperson of the State Finance Council, has agreed to the participation of his office in the mediation,” the attorney general’s response reads. “No other State Finance Council representation is needed.” Also, the council cannot meet when the Legislature is in session, the response stated.
The attorney general’s response further stated that if mediation proves successful, any agreement that involves the appropriation of funds must be approved by the entire Legislature.