This past week was a busy one on the House floor with the House debating and voting on over 40 bills. This week we reached day 68 of the 90 day session and officially reached first adjournment on Thursday.
The Legislature will return in late April for what is called the veto session to wrap up the remaining business of the session. When the Legislature returns in April we will have updated revenue numbers on how much revenue the state expects to bring in for the remainder of the fiscal year. It is widely expected that those numbers will not be good and the already existing budget deficit of roughly $47 million for the current fiscal year will be even bigger.
We received very sad news this week of the passing of Mary Ann Flunder. Mary Ann, KCKCC Board of Trustees Member, was a leader that wore many hats and worked tirelessly to make our community a better place. She will certainly be missed and my deepest sympathy goes out to her family.
It is an honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives. I very much appreciate your input on matters before the Kansas Legislature so please do not hesitate to contact me. 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
Senate and House Pass School Finance Bill to Address Equity
An issue that has been largely ignored by the Legislature this session has been the issue of school finance. As I have discussed in previous newsletters, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the Legislature was not providing equitable funding for our schools in a constitutional manner. The court ruled that if the Legislature did not solve the issue before July 1st, our schools would be in danger of not opening in August. The Supreme Court ruling came out over 42 days ago and for weeks the Republicans in the Legislature refused to address this issue with very little movement. Finally this week the House and Senate passed a bill (HB 2655) that attempts to address this issue. The vote in the House was 93-31.
This bill does not allocate any new money to school finance and merely moves existing money around with only 26 districts out of 286 receiving more funding. I believe this bill does not solve the problem and I fear will be found by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. I know how important quality public education is to you and our community, and I will continue to fight to restore funding for our school district. Our children’s futures depend upon it.
House Defeats Common Core Repeal Bill
One of the many bills that were debated on the House floor this week was one that would have outlawed the implementation of the Common Core standards in our k-12 public schools. Common Core is a politically charged issue with large amounts of misinformation floating around that mischaracterizes what the standards really are and what they do. Common Core is a set of standards outlining what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level. What common core is not, is a federal takeover of our school’s curriculum. Curriculum would still be guided by the Kansas State Board of Education and our teachers.
In what turned out to be a three hour debate the bill ultimately was defeated by a vote of 44-78. I was pleased to see many of my colleagues dispel the falsehoods on Common Core and vote against this bill.
Here are several bills that were debated and voted on the House floor this week:
- SB 63 making small changes to various sales tax laws was approved by a vote of 108-17. I voted yes. Here is a link to the bill page: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/vote_view/je_20160322101328_176447
- SB 280 made several small changes to property taxes, including increasing the interest rate on delinquent property taxes by five percent. I voted yes. Here is a link to the bill page: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/sb280/
- HB 2665 prohibiting city and county rental property licensing ordinances passed the House by a vote of 70 to 55. I voted no. This is a local control issue. Kansas City, Kansas has had a Rental License and Inspection Division for 20 years. It has worked well for landlords, tenants and the community to ensure the Life and Safety of the occupants, the owners and the surrounding community. Inspections also help to preserve the value of the land and buildings throughout the city. Representatives from Wyandotte County argued vigorously to allow KCK to continue the rental license program. I offered an amendment on the floor to specifically exempt Wyandotte County from the bill with a sunset provision. My amendment failed and in the end the bill passed and is now in the Senate for consideration.
- The House this week voted to not override the Governor’s veto on a provision in a budget bill that would have stalled STAR Bond projects in Wyandotte County. It was unfair to single out Wyandotte County and put at jeopardy current projects that are underway. The House Tax Committee held hearings on 2 bills to change some of the requirements for use of STAR Bonds. The hearings were not completed before we adjourned and may be taken up during the break or when we return at the end of April.
- Although it hasn’t made its way to the House floor yet, HB 2088 passed the Senate. This bill accelerates the property tax lid limitations to become effective from 2018 to 2017. The property tax lid places a burden of having all property tax increases be put to a vote of the population before it can be implemented. Holding votes is very expensive and this requirement only increases costs on local governments. This bill has not been debated in the House this session but I imagine it will be when we return in April. I oppose this bill because it makes it nearly impossible for city and counties to meet the timeline for notice with accurate information. Funding discretion and flexibility are key components of effective local fiscal management, and local officials are best situated to respond to growth in a timely manner and make necessary investments in the future of their communities. This tax policy does not meet the needs of our communities.
State Library of Kansas Resources:
This week we’re still talking about Learning Express, an online, easy to use resource that allows you to learn at a time and place that is convenient for you. Learning Express has some great tutorials for occupational exams. Clicking ‘Career Center’ gives you the option of exploring careers in different fields, preparing for an entrance exam, and practice tests. Careers range from allied health, culinary arts, cosmetology, firefighters, law enforcement, nursing, real estate, and more. The Career Center also includes military aptitude and officer candidate tests. Easy registration and self-supplied password is necessary to use this resource and allows you to resume your work.