The pace has picked up significantly in the Kansas Legislature. Both the House and the Senate debated and passed their versions of the budget this week. Passing a budget is one of the few actual Constitutional requirements of the Legislature. We should expect both budgets to be voted on in the opposite chamber in the coming weeks. Legislative committees continue to meet and hold hearings on various bills. Also expected in the coming weeks are hearings on the efficiency study (a study done by an outside auditor, Alvarez & Marsal, looking for savings) and their recommendations.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Court Rules Legislature Underfunding Education
On Thursday, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that K-12 education funding levels violate the state Constitution. This case dealt with the issue of equality. The state Constitution requires the legislature to provide funding to the school districts in an equitable manner so that no single school district has more funding than any other. The legislature eliminated the old school funding formula and replaced it with a block grant system. The school districts challenged the block grant as not allocating funds equitably.
The court has instructed the legislature to create a funding formula by June 30th. The court did not provide a specific amount the legislature must come up but it is estimated the amount is near $70 million for this school year.
This opinion was the first of two anticipated opinions in the school finance case. The remaining opinion is on the issue of adequacy and should be settled by the court later this year, most likely in the fall. The state Constitution requires the legislature to “adequately” fund k-12 schools and the anticipated second opinion will deal with that issue.
Funding of our schools has been cut several times the last few years and we are starting to see the results. Schools are closing, teachers are fleeing the state, and districts have to make tough choices on what programs to offer students in light of continued budget cuts. I strongly support public education in this state and I applaud this decision.
Here is a link to the Kansas Supreme Court Ruling: http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2016/20160211/113267.pdf
House Passes Budget
With a $170 million shortfall, the House debated and passed a budget this week. The final vote was close, passing 68-56, but all Democrats voted against this budget.The budget relies on more sweeps from the state Highway Fund and KPERS, something that has been done time and time again and does not address the growing public safety needs of our state.
The Senate also passed their budget bill this week as well and it is fairly similar to the version the House passed. Look for each budget to be voted on in the opposite chamber in the coming weeks.
The budget does nothing to move Kansas forward. Rather than producing a budget based on sound economic policies and addressing our current economic situation, this budget continues the mismanagement of this state. I voted no on this budget.
Lots of Action in House Education Committee
The House Education Committee held several hearings this session that would greatly affect public education in Kansas. For instance, as we talked about last week, the committee debated a bill that would consolidate many school districts (from the current 286 to 132). Many rural districts would be consolidated under this bill. The bill received strong opposition from school districts, teachers and parents. The Committee has not actually voted on the bill yet, and the chair has indicated he will not hold a vote on it, but we will keep our eyes open for that.
Also considered in the House Education Committee was a bill that removed due process rights for teachers and professors of two-year colleges. This bill received strong opposition in committee, as well from professors and administrators. The Committee has not voted on the bill yet, but it is expected to in the coming weeks.
Another bill in committee would have removed all funding for school gifted programs. The bill received lots of backlash from the public and schools – so much so, that the legislator who introduced the bill eventually withdrew it from consideration.
Each of these bills is a continuation of the attacks on teachers and education in our state that we have seen from legislators the last few years. These years of attacks have taken a toll on our schools. This has had real consequences for the quality of education our children receive. These attacks and mismanagement have harmed our children’s education and have forced schools to close, created larger class sizes, have caused local property taxes to rise and quality teachers to flee the state. Our children’s education will continue to suffer under these attacks and mismanagement.
Democrats Unveil Public Safety Bills
This week, Democrats championed bills to improve public safety for Kansans. Due to years of mismanagement by the governor and the Republican legislature, we have real safety concerns in our state.
The bills Democrats support are:
- Senate Bill 350: Giving the Highway Patrol the needed funds to address the trooper shortage. To create a staffing and training fund for the Kansas Highway Patrol. Currently, there are dangerously low amounts of troopers in our state due to trooper turnover and a lack of funding to hire additional troopers. The reason for the turnover, as the head of the Highway Patrol has stated, is that pay has been stagnant for years and many troopers have left the force to serve in other states or other communities where the pay is more competitive.
- House Bill 2559: Establishes minimum staffing levels for state agencies/facilities to maintain security and safety. There have been several safety incidents in our prisons due to the lack of Corrections Officers. Just like the troopers, Corrections Officers have been leaving the state looking for better opportunities. Also, staffing shortages have created a safety concern at our state hospitals. Due to the staff shortages, one state hospital has lost the ability to receive Medicare funds.
- House Bill 2452: Prohibits giving, selling, or transferring any firearm to a person who is identified in the terrorist screening database, or any other database, maintained by the FBI. Keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists is a common sense solution to help keep Kansans safe.
- The Kansas Highway Patrol has about 80 fewer troopers than it did a decade ago. This results in longer response times and communities that are less safe.
Keeping the people of Kansas safe should be job one for any governor and every legislator and that is why we are busy introducing proven, common sense fixes to our state’s growing public safety problems.
Official Launch of KansasMoney.gov
Kansas Money is a multi-agency initiative to help make financial literacy more consumer friendly. KansasMoney.gov provides a new one-stop-shop website, featuring essential financial literacy resources from the State of Kansas.
State Library of Kansas Resource Information
Needing to do some research, but don’t know where to start? Wanting information on a topic from reliable sources? The Explora database may be exactly what you’re looking for. Explora has a simple search bar, but searches multiple resources at once, giving you full text results from academic journals, magazines, and more. The articles can be saved, printed, or emailed. Explora also has AP photos and videos, and hundreds of Topic Overviews – like an encyclopedia. Plus, there are different versions of Explora, making it a great resource for all.
- Explora General Research: http://kslib.info/explora
- Explora for Kids: http://kslib.info/explorakids
- Explora for High School Students: http://kslib.info/explorahs