2016 Legislation Tracked

2016 Kansas Legislative Session - Archived Tracker

January 11, 2016 - May 1, 2016 (after midnight, so technically May 2)

Bills are organized by topic for easier casual browsing. Please use your browser's page search function if you're looking for a specific bill.

Education Bills

SB 311 - Fundamental changes to school finance

Status: Withdrawn by Sen Masterson with much complaint

This bill would move responsibility for handling of school funds from the Kansas Department of Education, to the Department of Administration, where they will be overseen by the Governor's office. This would include all state aid, but also Federal funding. This would be disastrous for public education in Kansas, as it would consolidate even more power in the hands of the Governor.

Mar 8, 2016 - Legislature Considers Stripping Control of School Funding Budget From Dept. of Ed. - KNEA
Mar 10, 2016 - Chairman cancels school finance hearing, blasts tone of debate - Topeka CJ

HB 2457 - Tax-credit scholarship act expansion

Status: Passed over

This bill would expand the existing tax credit scholarship act to make it more clearly a private school voucher system. As proposed, it would return 100% of donations to the donor as a tax credit, and allow the "scholarships" to go to any child whose family is at or below 250% of poverty. These scholarships of up to $8,000 could be used to pay for private education at any school, accredited or not, religious or not. This is tantamount to using taxpayer money to pay for private, religious schooling.

In committee, the return was lowered to 90%, and the eligibility scaled back to 185% of poverty, or $45,000 for a family of four. It passed out of committee to be considered for passage by the House.

Feb 2, 2016 - MainStream testified against this bill
Feb 8, 2016 - Bill expanding tax credits for private school scholarships advances - Lawrence JW

HB 2292 - Remove Common Core (and all high achievement testing and programs) from Kansas curriculum

Status: Failed to pass the House

This bill would ban any use of the Common Core standards in Kansas schools, and prevent any entity associated with education in Kansas from making decisions about curriculum without the approval of the legislature. This, despite a clear mandate in Section 6 of the Kansas Constitution that says, "The legislature shall provide for a state board of education which shall have general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state." (page 26, here) All the Legislature is to do, as they keep pointing out, is provide money to fund public education.

The joke is of course, that this bill would ban education, because every test and assessment and course is tied to the Common Core standards, from AP and ACT to IB and even the Lexia reading standards used in elementary school. This is an ALEC led witch hunt, and legislators should not be dictating curriculum standards. That is what the Board of Education is for. As stated in the Kansas Constitution.

A similar measure was attempted in the 2015 session, and didn't get out of committee.

Feb 22, 2016 - Primer: Kansas' math and reading controversy - Topeka CJ

HB 2207 - Stripping ethnic studies of meaning

Status: Passed over

This was a bill introduced in 2015 by John Alcala (D) to promote and support ethnic studies in Kansas schools. It went nowhere, but came back just yesterday and was amended to strip it of its original intent. Now, it precludes the teaching of any non-listed ethnicities (Islamic, for example) and anything to do with "social justice remedies." This is one where reading the amended bill language is telling.

Feb 15, 2016 - KS Republicans: Black History Month May Be Too Long; Move Bill Prohibiting Social Justice Education - Daily Kos
Feb 17, 2016 - Ethnic studies bill passes Kan. House Education Committee - Salina Post

SB 410 - Creating a new class of foster parent

Status: Passed over

This bill creates something called CARE foster parents, who can qualify for this special status by being "lawfully married" for seven or more years, passing background checks, having no alcohol or tobacco in the home, having one parent at home, etc. Basically, your traditional, religious couples, without saying that. What it really does, is give these foster parents the new right to decide how their foster children are educated, and if they choose private or home schooling, it provides them with up to $4,000 reimbursement for this schooling.

So, yes, public funds being used for private or parochial schools, again. Here is the supplemental note that explains it.

Feb 22, 2016 - Kansas Senate bill could set up special category of foster parent - Wichita Eagle

HB 2486 and SB 356 - Reducing state funding for school district building projects

Status: Passed over

This bill would create a(nother) panel of the Legislature to review bonded building projects in school districts, to determine if they were related to instruction, and to pull the state funded portion if they were not. This would affect most school facilities, including auditoriums, stadiums and pools, hallways, etc.

Feb 10, 2016 - Bill targets rising state aid payments for school bond issues - Topeka CJ

HB 2504 - Consolidating school districts statewide

Status: Passed over

This bill, ostensibly to save funds, would consolidate all but a handful of the largest districts in the state, reducing the number by almost half. Many members f the education community pointed out that it might save on the salaries of some superintendents, but the remaining superintendents would need additional staff and assistant superintendents. In addition, it would cause closure of schools, eventually, and further diminish the power of local communities to govern themselves.

Feb 8, 2016 - Kansas school district realignment bill stalls, but educators still feeling the stress - Lawrence JW

HB 2731 & SB 512 - Meeting school funding equalization requirement by taking from rich districts and giving to poor

Status: Both bills referred back to committee; dead

These bills, introduced by Rep. Ron Ryckman in the House, and Sen. Ty Masterson in the Senate, would try to meet the Kansas Court's requirement that the state equalize school funding by bringing back only the equalization portion of the school funding formula from before the block grants.

The Senate bill would not require additional funds, and would equalize solely by taking money from "rich" districts and giving it to "poor" districts. This bill has made it to the Senate floor.

The House version would require $39 million in additional funds, $17 million of which would come from eliminating the block grants' extraordinary needs fund. The difference would be made up by, again, taking from rich districts and giving to poor ones. This bill is dead.

The dollars have been changing as the bills are worked, and would change every year as property tax values change and districts become richer or poorer.

Mar 11, 2016 - Two bills are introduced to revamp school finance in Kansas - KC Star
Mar 11, 2016 - Sen Ty Masterson's school finance bill cuts overall funding for most districts - Wichita Eagle
Mar 17, 2016 - GOP criticism leads House leader to drop Kansas school funding plan - Lawrence JW
Mar 17, 2016 - Kansas Senate school equity fix advances, but a similar House plan dies - KC Star

Voting Bills

SB 368 - Blocking local entities from sending out information about ballot initiatives

Status: Never advanced

Pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, this bill would prohibit local governments and boards from using state funds to publish information about upcoming the issues on ballots or initiatives. In committee, it was received with some trepidation, and rightly questioned as to First Amendment issues. This would effectively prevent communities and public entities from informing the electorate about the issues around important votes.

Feb 4, 2016 - Kris Kobach presses to block use of tax dollars for ballot-question mailers - Topeka CJ

HB 2558 - Ostensibly about making sure canvassers can canvass

Status: Passed and sent to Governor

Originally, this bill was pretty simple, it simply pointed out that door-to-door canvassers are not solicitors, and are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. But in floor debate there were several amendment attempts. One to allow canvassers into apartment complexes, another to reduce advance voting from twenty days to fifteen. They were defeated, and the bill remained boring.

Judiciary Bills

SB 439 - Making it easy to impeach Supreme Court Justices

Status: Referred back to committee; dead

Clearly yet another petulant reaction to not getting their way, the Kansas Senate has introduced this bill, which outlines reasons a Kansas Supreme Court Justice might be impeached. Among the reasons are these two choice options, "(g) attempting to subvert fundamental laws and introduce arbitrary power; (h) attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branch of government;"

As well, this was tried last year, as seen in the old news article below.

This bill was amended onto a judicial bits-and-bobs bill, SB 440, so that it could proceed without a hearing. That cobbled together bill was presented on the Floor of the Senate, but the SB 439 language was stripped back out. The other bill, SB 440 remains waiting for action. From this supplemental note (pg 6): "The Senate Committee of the Whole amended the substitute bill by striking the language taken from SB 439, regarding grounds for impeachment."

SB 439 continues to live in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Mar 24, 2015 - Bill lists grounds for impeaching Kansas Supreme Court Justices - Wichita Eagle

Reproductive Health Bills

SB 56 - Criminalizing sex education

Status: Passed over

This bill, resurrected from the 2015 legislative session, aims to remove protections in place for teachers teaching sex education. The bill is vague, broad, and reactionary. There are already protections in place for children receiving instruction, and this takes them after out of the hands of health professionals and makes it subject to morality.

Feb 2, 2016 - MainStream testified against this bill
Feb 2, 2016 - Kansas lawmakers push bill to enable prosecution of teachers - Wichita Eagle

HB 2199 - Mandating sex education be "opt in" only in public schools

Status: Passed over

This bill is codified morality, requiring that all sexual education in public schools be 'opt in' only. That means that to receive common sense, age-appropriate information about healthy sexual topics, parents would have to opt in. Any materials or instruction would have to be hidden from those kids who were not opted in, including those whose parents paid no attention to the permission slip. Keep in mind, this would even outlaw delivering abstinence-only information to kids not opted in.

 Church and State Bills

SB 175 - Allowing religious discrimination on campus

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Brownback

This bill would allow university and college student groups to discriminate on their membership if it is based in religious reasons, and to continue to receive government funding even while doing so. Under the premise of "protecting religious freedom," this bill really just protects discrimination.

Mar 30, 2015 - MainStream testified against this bill
Apr 2, 2015 - Kansas House panel: Religious campus groups don't have to admit gays - Topeka CJ 

Budget Bills

H Sub for SB 161 - 2016-17 House and Senate budget fix ignoring Court mandated equity fix to school finance

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Brownback

These bills were arrived the usual way, with a conference committee in which the minority disagreed but was unable to stop them. The resulting bill was signed by Gov Brownback, but he used the line-item veto to remove a restriction on the use of STAR bonds to lure business to Kansas. That issue has continued to come up as the session has progressed. In addition, the $6 million ending balance was wiped away the very next month by a $53 million miss in projected February revenue.

Mar 4, 2016 - Gov. Sam Brownback signs budget bill but vetoes ban on STAR bonds for American Royal project - KC Star

 HB 2719 - A tax bill that would endanger public library funding

Status: Passed over

This bill is basically a tax bill that requires constant re-affirmation by voters of county taxes, taxes which, among other things, fund regional public libraries. Opponents to the bill have said it could close xx public libraries statewide, and cripple the existing ones. In hearing, several legislators said they had not intended it be so drastic, and would re-work it. Opposition was swift and strong from the public.

Mar 14, 2016 - Librarians, others throw book at House bill clipping tax authority - Topeka CJ
Mar 14, 2016 - Area library officials raise their voices over measure that stirs expense/closure fears - Hutchinson News


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