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Why Kansas Conservatives Are Pushing Voters to Reshape the State’s Highest Court

It’s typically a no-drama affair. Every six years, Kansans vote whether to retain the state’s sitting Supreme Court justices.

The question is the last item on the ballot. In Kansas history, voters never have voted out a justice on the state’s highest court.

But this year, the judicial elections in Kansas—known as retention elections—are especially contentious and political, mirroring shifts in other states as the public reckons with what the role of the court should be.

“It is political in Kansas right now, but I believe the court brought this environment upon themselves,” state Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican, said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “The information you want to get from a court ruling is whether a law fits within the [state] constitution, and by all appearances, we have a number of justices making decisions based on personal convictions rather than state law and the state constitution.”

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and other conservative Republicans in the Legislature have not been shy about wanting to reshape the state’s Supreme Court.

Conservatives have accused justices of overstepping their authority, and have expressed outrage over rulings that overturned death penalty verdicts and struck down abortion restrictions. In another controversial ruling, the court determined the Republican-led Legislature has not adequately and equitably funded public schools.

In response, the Kansas Legislature has proposed bills to change the way justices are selected in the state, giving the governor more power in appointing them. That effort so far has failed.

In 2014, the Legislature passed and Brownback signed an appropriations bill that weakened the state Supreme Court’s administrative authority over local courts. Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that measure unconstitutional.

The criticism of the seven-member court by conservative politicians has elevated the judicial elections into the public discourse. Outside groups are campaigning—and spending heavily on the election. And the Kansas Republican Party for the first time took a formal position on judicial retention.

“The Republican base in Kansas is not comfortable with a lot of decisions the court makes,” Clayton Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, told The Daily Signal. “The state party is more involved this year because the court is going beyond judicial power and these justices don’t seem to have the wisdom of self-control.”

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and four other justices face a retention vote: Marla J. Luckert, Carol A. Beier, Dan Biles, and Caleb Stegall.

Groups opposing retention specifically aim to oust four of the five—all but Stegall, the only one appointed by Brownback. The others were appointed by Democratic and Republican governors who preceded him.

These anti-retention groups include Kansans for Life—the state’s most vocal organization opposing abortion—and Kansans for Justice.

The latter group was created by family and friends of the victims in a notorious multiple-murder case. Brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr were sentenced to death in 2002 after being convicted of robbing, raping, kidnapping, and shooting five people—four of whom died—in Wichita in 2000.

The Kansas Supreme Court vacated the Carrs’ death sentences in 2014, and required new trials. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state court’s decision, and reinstated the death sentences.

Two prominent groups, meanwhile, support retention of the justices targeted by conservatives. Kansans for Fair Courts says it represents “thousands” who believe conservative politicians unfairly have rebuked the court and unethically politicized the judicial process.

Four former Kansas governors—Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden and Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin—also urge voters to keep the justices in their seats.

“As former governors we understand the unique roles of the three branches of government,” Graves said during a media tour on the topic in September. “We may not have always agreed with them but we respected that the judicial branch is a nonpolitical branch accountable to the constitution. The courts provide a critical check and balance on the other two branches and we want to keep this constitutional balance.”

Alicia Bannon, who monitors state courts at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, says outside groups advocating on the subject of retention elections are not subject to financial disclosure requirements under Kansas law.

But in one measurement of the scale of spending, she said, she has reviewed television contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission that show outside groups on both sides have spent roughly $600,000 combined on ads related to the judicial elections.

In 2010, Bannon says, she began noticing increasing outside interest and spending related to retention elections in the 18 states that use such a method as part of their judicial systems.

“We are seeing a number of retention elections attracting a lot of spending, and generally becoming more politicized—sometimes linked to a particular decision on the bench and sometimes linked more to a general interest in shifting the ideological position of the court,” Bannon told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Bannon named Iowa, Florida, Tennessee, and Illinois as states that had contentious Supreme Court retention elections in recent years.

Bannon says she worries that the politics surrounding such races affect how judges make decisions, and undermine the faith in courts as a nonpartisan arbiter.

“One of the troubling aspects of this whole development is that because judges are focusing on their re-election while sitting on the bench, their decisions are up for criticism,” Bannon said, adding:

There is a lot of evidence that job security concerns are bearing on decisions. More generally, if judges start to see themselves as simply politicians, than it becomes harder for them to approach cases putting all politics aside. And ultimately, that’s their job.

The Kansas judicial system is conditioned so as not to be vulnerable to political winds, supporters say.

As authorized by the state constitution, justices of the Supreme Court are selected by a nonpartisan nominating commission and appointed by the governor.

“The Kansas Constitution is set up to keep these type of politicized things from happening,” Kerry Gooch, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said in an interview with The Daily Signal, adding:

We as Kansas Democrats like our judges to not be political, and we hate the fact that Governor Brownback and conservative lawmakers have tried to change that. That makes it hard for the court to do its basic job, which is to follow and enforce the law, and not take into account public opinion, feeling, and emotions.

The Kansas Democratic Party has not taken a formal position on the retention elections, Gooch said, because party leaders don’t think it’s appropriate for a political body to influence the judiciary.

Conservatives, however, argue that the current system for selecting judges isn’t fair.

Lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association select five of the nine members of the nominating commission. The other four members must be nonlawyers selected by the governor.

The Republican-led state Senate has twice voted for a constitutional amendment that would change the judicial selection system to be like the one at the federal level, so that the governor appoints justices and the Senate confirms them. Those measures failed in the House.

Jeff King, a Republican who is Senate vice president, contends that unless the selection system changes, politicians like himself are not wrong to involve themselves proactively in judicial elections and to make the public more aware of court decisions.

“It’s healthy that the public has more information about the influence that the Supreme Court has on their daily lives,” King, who is retiring, told The Daily Signal in an interview. He added:

I would rather have something else than the politicized retention elections we see now, but our system doesn’t allow for anything else to allow the broader voice of 2.9 million Kansans to be heard. This is not about one justice. It’s about taking the system we have in Kansas and making sure it works vibrantly and is representative of the people’s will.

(For more from the author of “Why Kansas Conservatives Are Pushing Voters to Reshape the State’s Highest Court” please click HERE)

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Votes of Thousands Who Haven’t Proven Citizenship Could ‘Swing’ Kansas Elections

With the presidential election two months away, a Kansas law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship remains in legal limbo.

Late last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate a provision of a law requiring Kansans to prove their citizenship when registering to vote while obtaining driver’s licenses.

Kobach, a conservative crusader in a movement in Republican-led states to toughen voting laws, wants the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in May. The judge’s decision temporarily restored voting rights to about 18,000 individuals who, as of the ruling, had registered to vote at motor vehicle offices without providing citizenship paperwork.

Kobach estimates that 18,000 will swell by November to about 50,000 potential voters who haven’t proven citizenship, so the appeals court decision will determine the fate of their votes.

He views the Kansas law as a guard against illegal immigrants voting.

“There is a huge potential for aliens’ votes to swing a close election,” Kobach told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Even if it’s just a handful of votes, it’s still a huge injustice. Every time an alien votes, it effectively cancels out a vote of a U.S. citizen.”

Since 2013, Kansas has required voters to provide proof of citizenship when voting—whether they are applying at a motor vehicle office or elsewhere in the state—by showing birth certificates, passports, or naturalization papers.

Kansas is one of four states—the others are Alabama, Arizona and Georgia—to have adopted laws requiring proof of citizenship during voter registration.

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of the League of Women Voters and individual Kansans who said they were left off the voter rolls after registering at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The ACLU lawsuit specifically targets the issue of Kansas’ requiring proof of citizenship from those registering to vote at the DMV.

The plaintiffs argue that the Kansas law violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, particularly a provision that requires states to offer people the opportunity to register to vote when they get a driver’s license. That section says that those who register to vote in this way can be asked only for “minimal information,” allowing them to simply affirm that they are citizens—under the threat of perjury if they lie.

The federal law does not require registrants to bring more documentation than they would need to get a driver’s license.

Kobach says that motor vehicle clerks sometimes accidently offer noncitizens the option to register to vote.

He argues that federal law doesn’t expressly bar states from asking for documentation proving citizenship for people registering to vote at the DMV.

“If a state wants to ask for proof of citizenship, nothing in the law prevents it,” Kobach said. “The absurdity of the legal argument that the ACLU is advancing is this notion that Congress intended to present a special privilege for people registering to vote at the DMV that other people don’t get to enjoy.”

But the ACLU counters that, under the Kansas proof of citizenship law, people who register to vote at the DMV are not always told that they have to provide additional paperwork to get on the voter rolls. These people only learn later on—after they thought they had registered successfully—that they actually were blocked from voting.

Critics also note that Kansas identified to the court only three cases of noncitizens who voted between 2003 and the implementation of the law in 2013.

“We do not have proof of fraud in Kansas,” Marge Ahrens, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview, adding:

We do not have illegal persons who want to vote. It’s the last thing illegal people would want to do. I do think it appeals to our sense of fear, but we just can’t find the evidence to support these laws.

Like other opponents of tougher voter identification laws, Ahrens contends that such requirements disenfranchise poor citizens who may not have the money or means to obtain documentation easily.

The League of Women Voters generally focuses its voter registration efforts on people 60 years or older. Ahrens says the elderly encounter similar challenges in trying to meet the requirements of Kansas’ proof of citizenship law.

“Older people can be stymied just by the idea of trying to pull together documents that may or may not exist,” Ahrens said. “Under this law, the complexity of the voting process has become so difficult that we really cannot do our work in a way that is effective.”

In response to these concerns, Kobach notes that Kansas eases the registration process by allowing voters to fax, email, or text a copy of their birth certificate to the DMV.

Kobach said he expects a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before the Nov. 8 presidential election. Even if a decision comes close to the election, he says, his state has contingency plans no matter the ruling.

Voters subject to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson’s May 17 ruling—those who registered at the DMV since 2013 but haven’t provided proof of citizenship—will vote with provisional ballots and whether they’re counted won’t be decided until after Election Day.

While he acknowledged a wave of recent court rulings against voter identification laws in the states, Kobach said he intends to continue his push for stronger legal provisions, and will appeal to the Supreme Court if he loses.

“This about the rule of law,” Kobach said. “We have law-breaking when it comes to elections, and solving the problem is not difficult.” (For more from the author of “Votes of Thousands Who Haven’t Proven Citizenship Could ‘Swing’ Kansas Elections” please click HERE)

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Boy Killed on Water Slide ‘Believed in His Savior, Jesus, and They Are Forever Together’

Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old who died while riding a water slide at Schlitterbahn water park on Sunday, is with Jesus, his parents say. Kansas state congressman Scott Schwab and his wife Michele released a statement Sunday night through their pastor.

Since the day he was born, he brought abundant joy to our family and all those who he came into contact with. As we try and mend our home with him no longer with us, we are comforted knowing he believed in his Savior, Jesus, and they are forever together now. We will see him another day.

They added, “Your continued prayers are welcome and appreciated. We appreciate your understanding of our family’s need for privacy during this difficult time of grieving.”

Caleb a Man of God

Caleb was riding the Verrückt, billed as the “world’s tallest water slide,” when he suffered a fatal neck injury. The slide drops riders over 168 feet, compels them up another hill, then plummets them “another gut wrenching 50 foot drop,” according to Schlitterbahn’s website.

The park has been closed temporarily and the Verrückt has been closed to allow officials to investigate, said park spokeswoman Winter Prosapio. She added that the park’s staff is saddened that “a young boy died on Verrückt. … Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”

Schwab family pastor Clint Sprague considered Caleb to be “a man of God.” Caleb “was an incredible young man,” he said. “Ten years old, full of life, loved baseball, basketball, soccer. He was always doing something,” he said, adding “he’s going to be missed for his energy, for his life, for his smile, for the way he lit up a room.” (For more from the author of “Boy Killed on Water Slide ‘Believed in His Savior, Jesus, and They Are Forever Together'” please click HERE)

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Rock Bottom: Establishment Money and Lies Beat Conservative Warrior in Kansas

It’s official: conservatives have no place in the Republican Party.

Not only has every incumbent RINO been reelected in this “year of the outsider.” Not only has almost every open seat gone to the yes-men for K Street and GOP leadership. One of the few brave conservative incumbents in the House has just been defeated by a shill for the big government lobbyists who lied to voters and ran as a conservative. Thus, the only incumbent to be defeated this year was Tim Huelskamp, R-Ky. (A, 91%) in Kansas’s First District. You read that right: the only incumbent to go down in this glorious “populist” revolution is one of the fiercest fighters against this rigged political system.

While everyone is a big hero now and ridicules John Boehner as a failure, Huelskamp was literally the first member to stand up to him. Now the lobbyists know how to pick our lock and will pick off the few remaining members who dare to defy those in the party who want to do nothing more than play interference for Democrats.

So much for the revolution.

You can read more about this race in my post from last week.

Folks, at some point we need to stop exemplifying the definition of insanity. What we are doing is not working. The party runs candidates with tons of money who lie about who they are and smear our people as political insiders who are anything but true conservatives. The waters are so muddied that the candidate with the most money and lobbyist support wins.

We must be reminded of the admonition of Haggai:

“You have sown much and you bring in little. You eat without being satiated. You drink without getting your fill. You dress, and it has no warmth. And he who profits, profits into a bundle with holes.” [Haggai 1:6]

It’s real simple: we either reform the primary system back to representative conventions where money and lobbyists are blunted by grassroots activists or we start a third party.

This current system is so rigged against principled constitutionalists that even when the voters agree with us on the issues, we have nothing to show for it this year but a candidate at the top who is tied with Hillary in several red states and not a single conservative winning down ballot.

If 28 years of failure since Reagan has not proven that conservatives have no future in this party, tonight’s election should serve as a wakeup call. (For more from the author of “Rock Bottom: Establishment Money and Lies Beat Conservative Warrior in Kansas” please click HERE)

Watch a recent interview with the author below:

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Power Play? Kansas Supreme Court Threatens to Shut down Schools

A 40-year-old funding fight that touches questions of the proper separation of government powers has reached fever pitch in the state of Kansas. The state Supreme Court has threatened to shut down public schools should the state legislature fail to appropriate an additional $38 million in funds by the court mandated deadline of June 30.

The court ruled in May that the state’s $4 billion block grant appropriation of school funding was “inequitable and unconstitutional,” giving the legislature its deadline to rework the school financing. The court issued its proclamation at 4:55pm on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the last weekend before the legislature adjourned for 2016.

The block grant program was adopted as a temporary replacement of a decades old program of school finance that was causing automatic spending increases Kansas Republicans deemed wasteful. In scrapping the old program for a block grant program, the court decided Governor Brownback and the Kansas legislature had violated the state constitution.

Governor Brownback has proclaimed a special session of the legislature to begin June 23 — two weeks from now, to resolve the finance issue. In a statement released by the Governor’s office, Brownback said it was “distressing that the Kansas Supreme Court has put the schools and legislature of Kansas in this position over less than 1 percent of school funding.”

The Legal Problem

The Supreme Court found that Governor Brownback’s block grant funding program violated the Kansas state constitution because it did not provide “equitable and adequate” funding for Kansas schools.

Article 6, Section 6 of the Kansas constitution requires that “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” Historically, the courts in Kansas have defined the word “suitable” to mean “equitable and adequate.”

The Wichita Eagle, reporting on the court’s May decision, explained how the court decided Governor Brownback’s block grant program didn’t meet the “equitability requirement” of the Kansas constitution.

“The reason was that it contained a “hold harmless” provision that guaranteed the bill wouldn’t reduce local option budget funding for any school district, although the vast majority wouldn’t get any more. The local option budget, or LOB, is money that voters can elect to tax themselves to provide extra funding for their own schools.

Inequity creeps in because property-rich districts can easily raise large sums of money with relatively small increases in their tax rate. Not so for the poor districts, where it takes a large jump in property tax rates to generate comparable income for the schools.”

“It is unfortunate that the Kansas Supreme Court has put at risk the education of Kansas students and livelihood of teachers across the state by threatening to close schools on June 30,” Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement. “The court is engaging in political brinksmanship with this ruling, and the cost will be borne by our students.”

The Funding Fight

Governor Brownback’s administration has been characterized by fiscal restraint. The growth of government spending in Kansas was reduced to 1.7%, which is less than half of the growth rate under Brownback’s predecessor, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. Executive agency employees were reduced 25% and Brownback slashed cabinet level spending across the board.

And Brownback’s administration accomplished this while signing into law the largest tax cut in the state’s history.

Yet education has remained a top priority of Brownback’s administration and education funding has remained at record levels despite cuts to spending elsewhere.

In his 2015 State of the State address, Governor Brownback issued a call to reform the school finance process. “For decades now, Kansas has struggled under a school finance formula which is designed not to be understood,” the Governor said. “A formula designed to lock in automatic, massive increases in spending unrelated to actual student populations or improved student achievement.”

Governor Brownback’s office provided Conservative Review with a copy of the archaic and complex formula used to determine school finance appropriations in the state of Kansas, for much of the past 20 years.

2014 2015 k12 school funding formula

In his State of the State, Brownback called for a “timeout in the school finance wars,” a repeal of the old formula, and he proposed a simple program of block-grant funding for two years as a temporary solution to the state’s education finance woes. Brownback’s plan froze school funding at FY 2013-2014 levels until the legislature could develop a new scheme to replace that archaic and confounding mess of a budget formula.

The Republican controlled legislature passed the block grant scheme, and state Democrats assailed them for doing so, accusing the Brownback administration of slashing funds for education. But that’s not accurate.

Kansas is actually investing a record $4 billion in K-12 education. The state spends the 3rd most on education of any state in the country as a percent of the state budget: 50%. Kansas spends about $1000 more per pupil than the national average of state education spending. Increases in education funding have outpaced both inflation and enrollment growth.

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The additional $38 million the state Supreme Court is ordering is less than 1% of the funds already appropriated to Kansas schools.

The specific fund in question, Local Operating Budget Equalization, goes to property tax relief, which does not affect the ability of schools to fund their classroom operations. It is this particular fund that the Supreme Court says is creating the “inequitably” that violates Kansas’ state constitution.

A Separation of Powers Issue

At the heart of the matter is a simple question. What does “suitable funding” mean? And which branch of government gets to answer that question?

Responding to a request for comment, Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for the governor, said “other courts have faced a similar question. The Texas Supreme Court correctly recognized that the Constitution guarantees the power of the purse to the Legislature, stating ‘accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority by issuing reform diktats from on high, supplanting lawmakers’ policy wisdom with our own.”

Supporters of Governor Brownback’s block grant scheme argue it is the legislative branch, the branch invested with the power of the purse, that should decide what funding is “suitable” when it appropriates funds.

Governor Brownback has indicated he is open to the legislature granting the court’s request for an additional $38 million in funds, though he views the excess government spending as unnecessary. Yet his administration seems to wish to keep in mind the constitutional separation of powers, telling Conservative Review that the governor would “welcome any alternatives that the legislature may propose.”

Hawley added, however, that it is “unlikely that the Court will uphold any action without an increase in funding.” (For more from the author of “Power Play? Kansas Supreme Court Threatens to Shut down Schools” please click HERE)

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Ex-Army Recruit Pleads Guilty to Trying to Bomb Fort Riley in Kansas

A former U.S. Army enlistee who vowed to “bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep” pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempting to detonate a car bomb at Fort Riley military base in Kansas, authorities said.

John T. Booker Jr., 21, an American citizen also known as Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted destruction of government property by fire or explosion, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department. He’s to receive a 30-year federal prison sentence.

“John Booker admitted that he intended to kill U.S. military personnel on American soil in the name of ISIL,” John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement, referring to the terror organization also known as ISIS . . .

Booker admitted in court that his plot involved the construction of a bomb containing 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, according to federal prosecutors. He intended to trigger the bomb himself and filmed a video that was to be shown to Americans after his death in the suicide bombing. (Read more from “Ex-Army Recruit Pleads Guilty to Trying to Bomb Fort Riley in Kansas” HERE)

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Kansas Governor Issues Executive Order Protecting Religious Organizations

In a move that has been applauded by many in the Christian community, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting the state from taking action against clergy or religious social service agencies who refuse service to same-sex couples due to their religious beliefs.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, Executive Order 15-05, “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom,” argues that both the United States Constitution and the State of Kansas have provisions which restrict government interference with the right of individuals to practice religion according to their consciences.

Thus, Brownback’s order explicitly prohibits state officials from taking “discriminatory action” against both clergy members and religious organizations who apply that religious practice to facilitation of services for homosexual couples.

“The State Government is prohibited from taking any action inconsistent with the restrictions placed upon the State Government by the United States Constitution, or the Kansas Constitution, or the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, against any individual clergy, religious leader, or religious organization on the basis that such person or organization believes or sincerely acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” the order reads.

[Listen to Kansas’s Secretary of State discuss the need for the states to resist the federal government]

Brownback’s order comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all 50 states. Among other states, the SCOTUS decision overturned the will of 70 percent of Kansas voters who, in 2005, approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (Read more from “Kansas Governor Issues Executive Order Protecting Religious Organizations” HERE)

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Activist Kansas Judge Blocks Legislature’s Ban on Dismemberment Abortions

By Associated Press. A Kansas judge blocked the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on a procedure that opponents refer to as “dismemberment abortion”, concluding it would likely present too big an obstacle for women seeking to end their pregnancies.

Shawnee County district court judge Larry Hendricks ruled in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. The center represents two Kansas abortion providers and argued the law would force women to undergo riskier procedures or forgo abortions.

The center argued that the procedure banned by the law is used in 95% of second trimester abortions nationally and said previous US supreme court rulings don’t allow a state to ban the most common method for terminating a pregnancy. Hendricks said those arguments were likely to prevail, even though alternative abortion methods still would be legal.

“The alternatives do not appear to be medically necessary or reasonable,” Hendricks said from the bench.

The judge’s order will stay in effect while he considers the lawsuit further. The new law was supposed to take effect 1 July. (Read more from “Kansas Judge Blocks Ban on Dismemberment Abortions” HERE)

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Two Years Later, Family Remembers Baby Walter, Miscarried at 19 Weeks

By Nancy Flanders. Two years ago the Fretz family’s world was forever changed when their baby boy was born too soon. At just 19 weeks and six days gestation, Lexi Fretz rushed to the ER in labor. Due to an incompetent cervix, she gave birth to Walter Joshua Fretz five hours later.

“I was crying so hard,” she writes. “He was fully formed and everything was there. I could see his heart beating in his tiny chest.”

Walter’s father, Joshua Fretz, quickly went to get his camera. He took photographs of his wife, Walter, and his daughters. Although Walter lived for only a few moments, the photographs are now eternally famous.

After Walter passed away and the Lexi was discharged from the hospital, she shared the photos and the story of their loss on Facebook. That’s when Walter’s short life was given a lifetime of purpose . . .

Since losing Walter, the family has welcomed daughter number three to the family. Mia joined big sisters, Michayla and Emma, in the fall of 2014. A surgery at 13 weeks gestation allowed Lexi Fretz to carry Mia to term. Her sisters, devastated by the loss of their brother, were ecstatic to have a new baby to love. (Read more from this story HERE)

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Brownback Signs Bill That Allows Permit-Free Concealed Carry of Guns in Kansas

BrownbackKansans soon can carry concealed weapons without permits or training under a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday.

The new law, which kicks in July 1, makes Kansas the sixth state to allow “constitutional carry.” It will allow Kansans 21 and older to carry concealed firearms regardless of whether they have obtained a permit.

Training still will be required for anyone who wants to carry a concealed gun in the 36 states that accept Kansas permits.

Brownback touted the importance of training, explaining that his youngest son took a hunter safety course this past week.

“It was an excellent course. He got a lot out of it. I got a lot out of it. And I want to urge people to take advantage of that,” said Brownback, who was flanked by Republican lawmakers and representatives from the National Rifle Association and Kansas State Rifle Association. (Read more from “Brownback Signs Bill That Allows Permit-Free Concealed Carry of Guns in Kansas” HERE)

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Kansas Becomes the First in the Nation to Ban Dismemberment Abortions

Great news from Kansas. [Friday] morning the Kansas Senate approved SB 95, the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, by a vote of 31-9.

Crafted to withstand constitutional scrutiny, SB 95 heads to a very receptive Kansas House, where it is expected to pass easily. The bill would then go to pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who promised to sign this bill.

Lead sponsor Sen. Garrett Love (R-Montezuma) began Thursday’s formal discussion on the Senate floor by recounting how members of the Senate Health committee heard an ex-abortionist describe this method “of tearing the arms, legs, and other body parts off until a baby dies. Hearing the description made myself and many other members of the committee feel sick [especially] when learning nearly 600 such abortions occur each year in Kansas.”

Sen. Love, the “youngest-ever-elected” to the Kansas Senate, discussed his new baby daughter and coming to love her more through her ultrasound imaging at 12 and 19 weeks gestation, the time frame when most dismemberment abortions occur. He said “people in my generation are outraged by this procedure; they see the sonograms of their friends, family and their own babies on Facebook and realize that in those pictures are little, defenseless babies. They need us to defend them because they cannot defend themselves…This is a truly barbaric practice we must end in Kansas.” (Read more about the law to ban dismemberment abortions HERE)

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