Week nine in the Kansas legislature wraps up, setting up a very busy week ten. Five days remain for non-exempt committees such as education to work bills. Expect the expected – political ploys! Stay tuned as these committees push extreme legislation.
As you can imagine, this past week has been consumed with the Supreme Court ruling and its impact. The session nearly came to a halt on Monday as meetings were cancelled and briefings on the impact held instead. As the dust begins to settle, the competing priorities of this legislature will become crystal clear.
School Finance. Whose priority will win out? Will the legislature comply quickly with the equalization portion of the ruling, as introduced by Representative Paul Davis (Kansas City Star, 3/14/2014) or will they initiate a total overhaul of the system? Speaker Merrick has called for a swift resolution, yet the chair of the House Education Committee, Representative Kasha Kelley, says, “that among the options being considered by the House is changing the current statute regarding capital outlay and local option budget “equalization” (Winfield Daily Courier, 3/13/14). Talk of doing nothing, which would eliminate local authority all together, should be met with vociferous rebellion by all Kansans as the impact on our schools would be devastating –
Potential Losses in the Millions: Arkansas City to lose $5, Hutchinson to lose $9, Pratt to lose $2, Blue Valley $46, Kansas City Kansas $47, Salina $14, Chanute $4, Lawrence $23, Shawnee Mission $56, Dodge City $15, Liberal $6, Spring Hill $5, Gardner-Edgerton $9, Manhattan $11, Topeka $30, Great Bend $6, Olathe $59, Wichita $110.
The ruling on the case also prompted the Kansas Department of Education to request the Attorney General’s opinion on the Innovative District bill passed in 2013. The act has been on hold, yet the state went ahead and chose the two innovative districts, McPherson and Concordia.
Voter Suppression. The march to voter suppression and control over elections continued this week with two bills, the Kansas voter party affiliation registration deadline HB2210 and the state hijack of local elections now HB2141. One awaits the Governor’s signature and the other, its appearance on the Senate floor for debate.
Restricting Changes to Party Affiliation HB2210. Contact Governor Brownback to veto this bill. This bill would prohibit a person from changing party affiliation from the time of the candidate-filing deadline (June 1) through the time of primary election results are certified by the Secretary of State (on or before Sept 1). The bill is another reminder of an earlier quote by Craig Gabel, Kansans for Liberty President who said "We’re taking it on as our mission to, let’s say, improve the breed," (Salina Journal, 11/25/13). Senator Hensley said it best on Wednesday "It's because you want to protect yourself. You want to protect yourself from some future primary election opponent"(KCUR 3/13/14). Certainly a wake-up call for Traditional Republicans.
House passed on March 1, 2013 Senate passed on March 12, 2014
Moving municipal elections from Spring to Fall. SB211 now is S Sub HB2141. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee took the substance of Senate Bill 211 on Wednesday and stuck it into House Bill 2141 – aka “gut &go.” The bill passed out of committee, as amended, on Thursday. There has been overwhelming opposition to this bill from school districts, school board members, and local municipalities. The question we ask, is why is the current leadership so focused on changing and controlling local elections?
The only way to stop it is by contacting Senate Leadership, President Susan Wagle, Vice-President Jeff King, Majority Leader Terry Bruce, Assistant Majority Leader Julia Lynn and Assistant Majority Whip Garret Love and asking them to not run the bill.
Two fatal flaws of the bill: installs newly elected school board members right in the middle of a school year or creates a lame duck board members, and turns city councils, school boards, county commissioners into quasi-partisan elections.
House bill on Changes to Local Elections HB2227. This bill was not worked, action was focused on the senate version (now S Sub HB2141). No hearing scheduled.
4th Annual Voices for Choice Legislative Luncheon at the Kansas State Capitol
During this critical time in Kansas, we hope that you will join us for the annual Voices for Choice Legislative Luncheon. In 2014, while the Kansas Legislature continues to take action on abortion restriction legislation, the legislature has advanced multiple bills through the legislative process aimed at reducing the number of Kansas students receiving human sexuality education and reducing the number of schools that include sex education instruction in their health/science curricula.
Next Wednesday in the state capitol, we will be honoring four extraordinary advocates for their work protecting and promoting access to reproductive health care in Kansas: Lifetime Achievement Award – Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri; Outstanding Ally in Government – Rep. John Wilson; Dr. George Tiller Courage Award – Julie Burkhart, Trust Women; Next Generation Award – Ashley Brink, WSU student and community activist.
Join the ACLU of Kansas, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, Trust Women, the MainStream Coalition, and other advocates from across Kansas as we thank our legislators for standing strong for women's health! The event invite is attached. Click here for more information or to RSVP.
We will continue to inform you as soon as we know which bills will be worked on a given day; however, political maneuvering is the tactic now being used. We will attempt quick alerts by email and on social media.
Bills OUT of Alignment with MainStream
Human Sexuality/Sex Education. Political shenanigans! HB2620 in the House Education Committee on 3/13/14. The committee had a hearing on Mary Pilcher Cook's sex-ed bills and ultimately reworked it to contain opt-out language. The chair wasn't happy with this so Chair, Kasha Kelley orchestrated a gut & go. She didn't like how her committee reworked the bill so she removed the wording out of a live bill from 2013, HB2307, and inserted the original language from HB2620. It is now H sub HB2307, “re”amended to remove the health component. It now requires districts to have an explicit parental notification and curriculum review policy, and returned the bill to an opt-in. Representative Melissa Rooker tried to amend the bill to opt-out when Representative Amanda Grosserode put in a secondary motion to pass the bill out favorably. Representative Kelly Meigs quickly seconded and the bill passed out. Thank you to the no votes: Trimmer, Boldra, Bridges, Dierks, Houston, Lusk, Rooker and Winn. It now moves to the House calendar where speaker Merrick will decide if the bill is debated on the floor. This bill is a clear violation of limited government principles and blurs separation of government powers, with legislators overstepping the authority of our State Board of Education.
Vouchers, by way of Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships H Sub SB22. This bill circumvents the Kansas Constitution and establishes a legal loophole to divert taxpayer dollars for private/parochial schools. The bill is unnecessary and irresponsibly jeopardizes the state’s capacity to protect equitable and equal access to quality education for ALL, including at-risk and special needs Kansas youth. The bill passed the Senate chamber in 2013, failed to get referred to an exempt House committee before turnaround week, sitting in House Education committee but may return. MainStream provided testimony opposing the bill.
Ban on Education Standards HB2621. This bill would ban the implementation and funding of the current College and Career Ready Education Standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards. This bill is now back in the House Education Committee and will be worked. Look for action alerts. MainStream testified against this bill. We will continue to track this bill and let you know when your call will be most effective.
Not so Speedy Trials SB312. Rather than adequately fund our courts, this bill extends the holding time from 90 to 150 days (an additional 2 months) to await criminal trial before a person is entitled to be discharged. This bill just passed the Senate Feb 27, 2014 as amended. The House Committee on Judiciary has scheduled a hearing scheduled on Wed, March 19, 3:30 pm. To OPPOSE, contact Connie Bahner, Committee Assistant at 785-296-5805.
Legalized Discrimination HB2453. This bill passed in the House Feb 2014 and was referred to the Senate Judiciary committee. MainStream provided testimony opposing the bill and your action and advocacy made a difference. A lengthy hearing on the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, passed last year, occurred on Thursday, March 6. The outcome was a promise by the Senate Vice-President Jeff King not to consider HB2453 this year. Still, pressure remains to run the bill. Please note “we won’t consider it this session” is code for ‘take out the moderates in the 2014 elections’ and run it in 2015.
Requiring a Municipal Vote to Retain Increased Property Revenues HB2047. As amended, this bill bans municipalities, absent a majority vote and publication of the vote in official county newspapers, from approving annual budgets or other appropriations funded by increases in property taxes over the prior year that are in excess of the rate of inflation. It awaits a vote of the House and if concurred, goes on the Governor. This bill is a violation of limited government principles and essentially puts effective practices unnecessarily into statute.
Other Bills OUT of Alignment - Still on the Watch List
- Health Care Compact HB2553. This bill is an attempt to impose a Kan-Care type system on Kansas seniors, where Medicare participants would no longer receive guaranteed benefits. This bill remains on the House calendar.
- For-Profit/Private Run Charter Schools SB196. Think of this bill as a wolf in sheep's clothing. It allows for-profit, private entities to run public charter schools with minimal accountability and places choice in the hands of schools, not parents. Read more to learn how Ohio wasted over $180 million on for-profit charters (Charter fraud in OH).
- Take from Capital Improvement Funds to Pay for Classroom Instruction SB305. This bill takes state money from capital improvement state aid (bricks and mortar) and shifts it to the supplemental general state aid (operational budget for classroom instruction) - creating a new problem to resolve an existing one.
- Bribery Campaign Contributions HB2381. This bill allows party-designated campaign committees to take contributions DURING the legislative session, from anyone—anytime.
- Censoring Art and Literature in our Schools SB401. This bill not only allows for the removal of books and art, but opens educators up for criminal prosecution, where: "a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors."
Bills IN Alignment with MainStream
In our efforts to reclaim smart government, consider these bills calling for responsible investments.
Legislative Meetings Transparency and Accountability Act HB2438/SB413. These bi-partisan bills would provide public live audio and video broadcasts of committee meetings, where bills are worked and public testimony is allowed. Both bills were heard in their respective committees, the House Appropriations and Senate Federal and State Affairs committee, on March 13 and 14. There were only a handful of opponents and an uncommon alliance among the proponents. MainStream was among those who provided testimony in support. Discussion focused largely on implementation approaches.
All Day Kindergarten SB341. The weekly All-Day-K committee hearings have featured fairly tame testimony - by invitation only, during which established research on the effectiveness of comprehensive early childhood education has been routinely denied by committee leadership. Funding is structured to phase in incrementally over five years, working up to $80 million annually by 2018-2019. However, superintendents have been under fire, with legislators threatening to reallocate a portion of existing at-risk funds to pay for All-Day-K which would force school districts to choose which at-risk youth to serve – existing students or new kindergartners. No action has been taken on the bill.
Funding Levels for Local Budget Authority with Equalization SB277. The bill would extend funding the local option authority with state equalization at $4,433 per pupil thru 2019. Current calculation rate is set to expire June 30, 2014 and drop to the current base state aid rate of $3,838, which is a cut of $595 per student. Districts could lose millions. This bill was introduced in the exempt Senate Ways and Means committee Jan 2014 and a hearing was held. This bill will likely become a pertinent component during the debate in complying with the Supreme Court ruling.
Don’t get Mad, get Registered Help a friend and neighbor register today. Mark the August 5, 2014 primaries on your calendar for state and national elections. Set the calendar reminder to mid-July for advance voting. And don’t forget, local spring general elections are April 1, 2014.