2016 Legislative Update Issue 6

It was another busy week at the Capitol.  The efficiency group released their final report on how to save the state an estimated $2 billion over 10 years, which will be discussed and debated in the various committees in the coming weeks.  Many GOP members of the Legislature are hoping the efficiency report will be the answer to all of the problems we are having with our budget.  I, however, will review the recommendations with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Speaking of the budget, a budget bill passed both the House and the Senate this week and will go to the Governor for his signature (more on this below).  Early next week, we are scheduled to be on the House floor debating and voting on many bills.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns on the happenings of the Legislature.

It remains an incredible honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives.  While the Legislature is in Session, I do my best to stay in touch and keep you informed by email, and I spend countless hours every week helping my constituents solve problems.  If I can be of service to you or anyone you know please call my office at 785-296-7371 or email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov

 

Final Efficiency Report Released

This week the final efficiency report was released. As you may remember, during the 2015 Legislative Session the GOP-controlled Legislature decided to hire, at the price of over $2.6 million, an outside firm to audit state government in search of “efficiencies.”  A preliminary report was issued last month but the final version was released this week.  The final report is over 290 pages and largely contains the same recommendations that were contained in the preliminary report.  This final report, however, contains a Top 21 List of Recommendations the efficiency group recommends implementing first.  The list includes the hiring of additional auditors and collectors for the Department of Revenue to collect state taxes, forcing all school districts to use a single health plan, forcing school districts to spend down their savings accounts, and applying for more federal grants. 

There are 105 recommendations and I am still reviewing their details.  You can see the full report here.    I will be watching action on this report closely, as many of the proposed changes will drastically change the ability of state government to provide services and help to the people of Kansas. 

I do believe it is important to seek ways to improve the efficiency of state government; however, many of these recommendations move beyond efficiencies and are simply cuts for the sake of making cuts.  

 

Budget Sent to the Governor

Last week, the House and the Senate each passed out their versions of the budget bill.  Both bills addressed this fiscal year’s shortfall of $14 million, as well as the next fiscal year’s projected shortfall of $170 million.  As I discussed last week, the budget that passed the House simply plugged the holes in the budget with more fund sweeps and transfers, including the State Highway Fund and KPERS. 

Since the House and the Senate passed out different versions of the budget, a conference committee met to hammer out the differences.  The conference committee is only made up of 6 members – 3 from the House and 3 from the Senate.  The conference committee was able to reach an agreement in a single day; however, it still uses sweeps and transfers to balance the budget.  Unfortunately, both the House and the Senate passed the conference committee versions of the budget bill this week, so the budget will be sent to the Governor and I fully expect him to sign it. I voted no on this budget because I take issue with the trend of sweeping money out of the highway fund and KPERS without addressing the long-term consequences of those sweeps.    

 

Sweeping Changes to School Curriculum

On Wednesday this week, the House Education Committee passed out a bill that would drastically change the curriculum used in our public schools. The bill is HB 2292 (read the bill here) and it directs schools to stop teaching anything that is in the Common Core standards.  The problem with that is not that it stops Common Core, but that Common Core actually teaches some useful things, like algebra and reading comprehension. The bill as written would prohibit schools from teaching algebra and reading comprehension because Common Core requires those to be taught.  Another distressing element of this bill prevents schools from offering Advanced Placement (AP) classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes and even prevents schools from providing students the opportunity to take the ACT or SAT tests.     

This is a drastic overreaction to the Common Core scare and also subverts the Kansas Constitution, which declares that the State Board of Education will decide curriculum matters.  This bill is without a doubt a bad bill. I will strongly oppose this bill and vote against it if it reaches the House floor.

 

Ethnic Studies Required in School

Also this week, the House Education Committee passed out a bill that would require the teaching of Ethnic Studies in our schools. The bill is HB 2207 and you can read it here.  Ethnic Studies involves teaching about differences in cultures, peoples, and societies and is vital in providing our children with a well-rounded education that gives them the information and skills necessary to succeed.  The discipline of ethnic studies has been taught in our nation’s colleges since the 1960’s and both of our flagship universities require students to take courses related to diversity.

While I do support the underlying bill, there was an amendment attached to the bill by GOP members of the House Education Committee that precludes textbooks and materials from advocating or discussing social justice remedies.  This amendment ignores the history of social justice in our country and I do not support that amendment.

 

State Library of Kansas Resources

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Paid for by Pam Curtis For State Representative. Steve Curtis, Treasurer.