Legislative Update - Issue 6

The primary election for local offices is this Tuesday, March 3rd and your participation is very important. If you have not already voted, please remember to do so on Tuesday at your polling location. If you have any questions about the election contact the Wyandotte County Election Office at 913-573-8500.

Friday marked the “turnaround” deadline for the Kansas Legislature, which means the session is halfway over. Focus turned from committees to the House floor as bills were debated and voted on. On Wednesday, we will begin working on bills sent over from the Senate, and conference committees will begin meeting on bills that have been approved by both chambers.

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 .

Sincerely,

Pam Curtis

State Representative, District 32 

2015 Legislative Newsletter - Issue 6
 

February Revenue Numbers

Revenue numbers for February were slightly above estimates, marking the first time in seven months incoming state revenue has met or exceeded projections. However, the state remains $37 million below estimates for the fiscal year with four months remaining.

While the governor and the legislature have cut more than $300 million from state agencies and public education already this fiscal year, the state still faces a budget shortfall of more than $600 million next year.

The state is constitutionally prohibited from running a deficit, so creating a balanced budget is a top priority this legislative session.  Unfortunately, we are halfway through the session and have yet to see a comprehensive budget bill.

We must have a budget plan that is fair, equitable, and sustainable and puts the needs of middle class families first. The future success of our state depends upon providing our children with a high-quality education, creating good paying jobs, and investing in the growth and development of our state’s economy.

Education

Education continues to be a top priority for me because it is critical to the future success of our state. Unfortunately, not every member of the House shares my view on prioritizing education in Kansas, and that was apparent this week as the House debated several bills relating to public education and school teachers. 

Teacher’s Bargaining Rights

This week the House passed a bill that would protect teachers’ contract negotiating rights. Currently, the process for negotiating allowed an unlimited number of issues to be discussed by school boards and teachers’ unions.  The House voted to approve a process that allows each party to bring five issues up for discussion during negotiations, in addition to salary and work hours. The bill reflects a compromise that was reached by representatives on behalf of both groups in January.

Common Core Standards

Testimony on a bill to repeal Common Core standards began this week. Originally proposed by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the National Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core establishes uniform national education standards that each state should meet. The bill will repeal the 2010 Common Core standards in reading and math, and also the recently adopted standards for science, history and social studies, health, and character development.

If Common Core is repealed, the state will revert back to the standards as they were in 2010, erasing five years of educational progress.  The bill will also destroy the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, standards for college admission tests, advanced placement courses, and approved curriculum for virtual schools.

I am concerned this initiative would create inefficiencies in our public schools, because they would incur the high costs of changing their curriculum to meet the new standards. Repealing Common Core is unnecessary and distracts from the real problem facing schools -- that they are drastically underfunded.

Criminalizing Teachers

A bill that passed in the Kansas Senate would criminalize teachers for using potentially offensive materials in the classroom. If adopted, parents could file criminal charges against their child’s teachers if they felt the teacher was using “any material which is harmful to minors,” and teachers could face up to six months in prison and be fined up to $1,000.  Critics of the bill argue that there is no clear interpretation of what materials would be considered harmful, and argue that it would impede schools ability to accurately teach certain subjects like literature and sex education.

Parents as Teachers

Next Thursday, the House Social Services Budget Committee is scheduled to hear a measure that would eliminate the state’s $7.2 million contribution to the Parents as Teachers program. The early childhood program offers services to at-risk families from before a child is born until they are three years old. Eliminating the state’s contribution would cut more than half of the program’s $12.4 million budget, and many believe would end the program. Early childhood education is critical to a child’s lifelong development. Cutting funding from the program would adversely affect Kansas’ poorest citizens who have already felt the consequences of cuts to social services and education by the Brownback Administration.

Kansas Highway Patrol Short Staffed

The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) is supporting a bill that would offer incentives to officers to stay past their eligible retirement date.  The bill, which was debated by the House Pensions and Benefits Committee, will allow firefighters and police officers covered by the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) to defer their retirement for three to five years.     

Currently the Kansas Highway Patrol is operating with only 400 officers, leaving them 100 officers short.  The Highway Patrol argued the program is critical to the immediate future of their force because over fifty troopers are eligible to retire this year.  The strength of the KHP is at a nine year low, with twenty-nine counties having no designated trooper and thirty-four counties assigned only one trooper.

This is an important public safety issue.

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