LARNED — It had been more than 40 years since a Kansas Attorney General addressed a public meeting in Pawnee County.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt talked at a Pawnee County Republican fundraiser Saturday afternoon, describing important state issues that his lawyers argue. It was the early ’70s when Kansas Attorney General Vern Miller spoke in Larned.
Schmidt said public safety issues and topics that concern state interests headline the work his lawyers invest their time on.
Employees in his office have also invested time arguing for state rights against the encroachment of “federalism.”
Most Kansans are familiar with work the Attorney General’s office does with homicides and child sex crimes, when help is requested by the local county attorney. Most work is requested from smaller-sized counties.
“Criminal prosecution work is what most people are familiar with,” Schmidt said. “We always want to know where we add value to public safety. We prioritize and focus because we have limited time and resources. We will almost always help with homicide cases and child sex cases.”
Consumer protection is another voter-friendly issue. Lawyers work on cases where people receive inferior or inadequete service that amounted to $49 million for Kansans in 2013. Kansas lawyers successfully sued the nation's five biggest banks on a mortgage on issue.
Another successful recommendation led to a do-not-call cell phone list, thanks to a legislative change that the Governor will sign.
Schmidt said his attorneys need to be recruited to relate with smaller- sized, rural communities.
More and more time is invested in fighting for state's jurisdiction over federal intrusion on state issues, which he calls federalism.
Schmidt said the decisions by state, federal and legal systems have proven to be a good checks and balance.
"Two questions we ask -- Is it a bad deal for Kansas and is it illegal? Or at least is there is a good legal argument on why some federal agency should not be able to do what it is doing," Schmidt said. "We are fighting and pushing back on those federal actions that we feel are inconsistent with the federal structure."
His lawyers have successfully argued against the Affordable Care Act with a group of states, winning concessions on the "commerce clause,"
and the "spending clause."
"We didn't succeed on getting the individual mandate stricken,"
Schmidt said. "But we did win on a 5-4 vote on the commerce clause.
There is a change in our direction. The Supreme Court said there is federal conduct outside the federal authority outside the commerce clause. There are limits to what the federal government can and should do."
The spending clause allows Kansas and other states will decide whether eligibility would expand for the Medicare program. It is a Kansas decision that knocks out "one size fits all."
Schmidt said he concurs with several religious groups and businesses that they should not be mandated to financially support mandated contraceptive coverage, which are against their beliefs.
"This is a religious liberty issue. They should not be compelled by the federal government to use their own dollars to pay for something that conflicts with that belief," Schmidt said. "They have exempted certain religious organizations from the mandate. We don't give up your religious beliefs when you organize into a business entity."
A future ruling should clarify an issue regarding an employer mandate to provide health insurance coverage. Many states chose to forego federal funding and elect to set up a federal exchange rather than a state exchange.
"I don't think it's a complex legal argument. The statute says one thing and the regulation says something else," Schmidt said. "I think the regulation in invalid."
Kansas lawyers have also argued against more restrictive rules and regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency.