2016 Legislative Update - Issue 4

It was a busy week at the Capitol.  The House voted against radically altering how our Supreme Court Justices are selected, January revenue was short $6.8 million, a committee made several changes to the Governor’s budget and the school consolidation bill had a hearing.  Committees continue to meet and they are starting to hear more and more bills.  It is expected the House will debate the budget early next week with the Senate soon to follow.

There were many familiar faces from home this week as organizations hosted Legislative Action Days, attended hearings and provided testimony on important issues!  I love seeing people from home and so appreciate the involvement from our community in matters before the Kansas Legislature – it is important and it does make a difference!

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


 Constitutional amendment on Supreme Court Selection Rejected

The full House debated HCR 5005, a constitutional amendment to change the way Kansas Supreme Court Justices are selected.  Currently an independent nine-person nominating commission, who are legal experts qualified to assess the strengths and skills of potential Supreme Court judges, makes a recommendation to the Governor and the Governor then selects the justice. 

Current System:

  • 9 member nominating commission
  • Governor appoints

Proposed System:

  • Governor appointment
  • Senate Confirmation

HCR 5005 would change it to where only the Governor made the appointment with confirmation by the Senate.

We depend on the courts to uphold the Constitution and to rule fairly and based on the law and not on popular opinion.  These courts are vital to democracy and provide balance.  Passing this resolution weakens the institution that we rely on to protect our rights and I voted No.  Thankfully the amendment did not get the necessary two-thirds majority and failed 68-54.

An interesting piece of history referred to as the Kansas Political “Triple Play” provides a good reminder of what led to the adoption in 1958 of the current process used for Judicial Selection – you can read about this on Kansas Memory at: http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/228731


Revenue Misses the Mark Again

The January revenue numbers were released this week and the news was not good.  Yet again, revenue did not meet expectations and the state was short $6.8 million in January.  With the exception of November, revenues have not beaten estimates since February 2015.  We are half way through the current fiscal year and until the root cause of the revenue misses is addressed, there will continue to be large budget shortfalls, resulting in more budget cuts by the legislature and the Governor.  The state is constitutionally prohibited from running a deficit, so creating a balanced budget is a top priority and the state needs a predictable revenue stream to accomplish that. 


Budget Changes

This week, in the Appropriations Committee, several amendments were made to the Governor’s budget proposal.  For instance:

  • Department of Corrections officers were given a 2.5% pay increase
  • The Children’s Initiative Fund was protected from being moved into the State General Fund
  • Money was added to Osawatomie State Hospital

While those changes are generally good, they are only needed due to the mismanagement of our state by Governor Brownback and the Republican Legislature.  Corrections officers need a pay increase to prevent the high turnover in the prison system that has led to real safety concerns for our officers.  Our state hospitals have been mismanaged to the point that they no longer receive Medicare reimbursements, costing our state $1 million a month.

It is expected the budget will be debated on the House floor next week. 


School Consolidation Proposed

The House Education Committee held a hearing this week on a bill (HB 2504) to consolidate school districts.  The bill requires all counties with 10,000 or less students to have one unified school district.  Districts with less than 1,500 students would be required to merge.  With the median enrollment of around 550 students per district, it is estimated that of the 105 counties in Kansas, 98 of them would face mergers.  Currently there are 286 school districts and this bill would reduce that number to 132.

Current # of School Districts: 286 

School Districts left under HB 2504: 132

At the committee hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 3rd) there were 41 conferees in opposition including the KNEA, school districts, and school board members.  Only three conferees testified in favor of the proposed bill. Supporters of this bill claim it would save the state money but it does not and it takes away local control of our schools.


Medical Amnesty Bill passes the House

The Medical Amnesty Bill SB 133, which I reported on previously, passed favorably on the House floor by a vote of 92 to 27 and now heads to the Senate. This will grant immunity to intoxicated minors when they seek help for themselves or another individual who is in need of medical attention.  Similar legislation has been passed in 31 states and Washington D.C. so that hopefully young people will no longer be afraid to dial 911 for help in a life or death situation.


State Library of Kansas Resource Information

Job & Career Accelerator gives job seekers of all ages a comprehensive online collection of resources: tools for creating resumes, instructions for writing cover letters, and preparing for an interview and follow-up. The Occupation Matcher helps job seekers find the careers that best fit their interests and experience. Easy registration and self-supplied password will help you keep your place. www.kslib.info/JCA