Kansans Deserve Better

We never really thought it was over, did we? We suspected that the $500 million education finance legislation passed last weekend was not going to be enough to satisfy the Court. We expected we would have to revisit it. We just thought it would be in a Special Session this summer.

Now, word comes that the bill that was passed has an error in it. One that will short change many school districts to the tune of $80 million. Lawmakers will have to work extra fast to pass a correction when they return April 26, to meet the Court's deadline of April 30.

How did this error slip through? It came about because the bill was rushed, because Kansas Legislative Leadership refused to work on it until the last minute. First, they were waiting for their school finance study. When that went awry (it recommended even more money than school advocates had recommended) they waited for their follow up study. When that study concluded that the first study was accurate, especially where it discussed the sheer efficiency exhibited by Kansas public schools, they pushed their Judicial exemption amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning went so far as to refuse to work any school finance bills until the amendment reached the Governor! When their bluff was called, they filibustered until literally the last minute of the legislative session, putting much of the work done all year on non-education matters in jeopardy.

But finally, in the early hours of the morning, the Senate passed the bill. And it turns out it has a mistake.

About the mistake

Some people are saying it's just a technical mistake, easily fixed. But others recognize two things. First, just like the "loophole" that let LLC owners avoid taxes in Brownback's tax policies, someone knew about this problem, but neglected to point it out. There will be resistance to this "easy fix," whether it takes to form of parliamentary roadblocks or excessive amending, and it will be used to try to wring further concessions from those trying to fund our schools. Second, there's a lot more wrong with this bill than just this mistake. While fending off challenges to good policy or adequate funding, school advocates will also be trying to improve the underlying policy in the bill. This will be politics of the lowest order beginning on April 26.

Kansas deserves better than it is getting. Demand better.

Other legislation in the wings

What else is still out there to be dealt with come April 26?

  • Medicaid Expansion, passed last year and just barely unable to defeat Brownback's veto, has not had any work done save one hearing in a friendly Senate committee. Leadership has shut it down.
  • Women's reproductive rights are under attack in an otherwise good telemedicine bill that remains to be voted on. There is a provision in the bill to ban abortion procedures from telemedicine, a measure which is already in already state law. At issue is a second clause, which would nullify the entire bill if the abortion portion were found unconstitutional by a court. The Kansas Supreme Court is currently hearing a case which could decide if the Kansas Constitution contains a guarantee to the right to an abortion. If they decide it does, then this law would be at risk because of this clause.
  • Civil rights are under attack in an otherwise excellent adoption reform act. The underlying bill was worked on for over two years to improve adoptions in Kansas. But in this year's session, stop us if you've heard this before, an amendment was added to allow religious adoption agencies to use their "sincerely held religious beliefs" to discriminate against foster parents. It is aimed at same-sex parents, but could equally apply to Muslim, Hindu, or Christian couples an agency disapproves of. 
  • Gun rights are still in the mix, too, with an already dangerous bill designed to allow out-of-state gun owners to carry in Kansas as their state would let them (called reciprocity) having been made even worse (by, you guessed it, amendment!) in also lowering the age of concealed carry in Kansas to 18 from 21.

What can you do?

The time for action doesn't start on April 26, it starts now. Legislators aren't on vacation these next ten days, they are in their home districts, listening to constituents and planning for the veto session. They need to hear from you.

  • Contact your legislators. Find out who they are at ksleglookup.org and contact them

Who else needs to hear from you? The leadership in both chambers, who have the power to make or break any legislation that needs to come forward. Here they are:

Thank you for all that you do. Change begins with you.

It starts here. Do more than vote.

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