Legislative Update

Week five in the Kansas legislature closes the door for individual representatives to introduce bills in all but about a dozen committees. This lessens the opportunity for an individual’s extreme personal agenda but allows for the continued flow of irresponsible legislation through select committees. This Legislative Update begins with a brief overview of current happenings.

Legalized Discrimination HB 2453     Rep. Charles Macheer’s (Johnson County District 39) bill that legalizes discrimination under the guise of religious freedom passed in the House on Tues., Feb. 11th. MainStream provided testimony opposing the bill which now moves to the Senate. The vote count: 

  • Nays 49: We would like to thank the following legislators for their vote against this bill… Representatives Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Barker, Becker, Bollier, Bridges, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, P. Davis, Dierks, Doll, Finch, Finney, Frownfelter, Gandhi, Henderson, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Johnson, Kuether, Lane, Lusk, Lusker, Menghini, Perry, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Todd, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore, thank you!!!
  • Yeas 72, Not voting 3. 
Issues with HB2453 continued to arise during debate on the floor and an amendment failed that would have sent the bill back to committee for further study. The business community has concerns with the bill intruding against private employer/employee relationships in that it would allow an employee’s religious beliefs to selectively withhold goods or services from customers with no recourse even if their employer disagrees. AT&T’s Kansas leader, Ken Hahn, in a release said "As a major employer and retailer in Kansas, we strongly urge the Kansas Senate to reject HB 2453".
While the Speaker of the House, Ray Merrick, admitted “The buck stops here. I decide what legislation is heard on the House floor. That’s part of this job. When this came forward, I saw it was ready to go,” (Wichita Eagle) The Senate, on the other hand, played word games regarding the bills status. As the Senate discusses their options, the rest of America is reading the headlines about discrimination in Kansas. 
Your calls, emails and activity on social media HAVE made a difference as the bill is now stalled. This isn’t over though, if you are outraged, plan on joining ua at the February 25, rescheduled Brightline Legislative Luncheon: Sharing a Commitment to Church/State Separation and Individual Freedom. Following the luncheon, MainStream encourages you to stay for a rally at 1pm, on the south steps of the Capitol where MainStream is joining activists across the state and partner organizations; ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Equality Kansas, in speaking out against discriminatory bills such as HB2453 and others.

Other bills OUT of Alignment with MainStream
The manipulation of elections and voter rights continued this past week. The House Elections Committee held a hearing on HB 2227, moving municipal and local elections from Spring to November in odd-numbered years. Local governments, school board members, and education advocacy organizations spoke out against this bill. Local elections are about local issues and should not be partisan or mixed with state and federal issues. The bill is being held for further work. 
HB 2210, a 2013 carryover bill, is related to the act of changing party affiliation. The bill changes current law by not allowing the change of party affiliation between the deadline for candidate filings through the primary election result certification. This bill restricts voter participation by prohibiting registered voters the opportunity to make informed voting decisions based on the candidate’s positions, not just by party affiliation. Independents are no longer allowed to register same day and must comply with the filing date requirement to participate in the primary elections.
This bill was scheduled for a hearing but has since been cancelled. We will be watching for further developments. Read MainStream’s testimony here. 
Separation Church and State – Health
On the heels of Senator Mary Pilcher Cook’s courtroom antics and horrendous bill to ban surrogacy, she has moved her attention to another outrageous bill. SB 376 – Concerning health and human sexuality education policies and procedures, co-sponsors Pilcher-Cook (Shawnee) and Senator Greg Smith (Overland Park) are proposing an unfunded and irresponsible curriculum mandate. 
The bill mandates an in-writing opt-in for health and human sexuality instruction by parents or legal guardian, instead of the best practice of opting out. The House version HB 2620, introduced in Representative Kasha Kelley’s, House Education Committee will have a hearing on Tuesday, February 18th at 1:15 pm. 
These bills dismiss medical research that found young adults will seek answers and tend to base their decisions on misinformation from peers and un-vetted Internet sources without a comprehensive sexual education program facilitated by a professional who is educated in these issues.
Strong Public Education – Proposed Expansive Charter School Legislation
Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 196 – A carryover bill from 2013. In the name of choice, this bill will allow for-profit, private entities to run public charter schools with minimal accountability. The choice, in reality, is in the hands of the school not the parent, by giving schools the authority to establish waiting lists, fine students for misconduct and delay special education due process – all while draining funds from local public schools and reducing state revenue. 
MainStream provided written testimony that focused on the risks associated with for-profit ‘authorizers’ and the absence of fiscal responsibility. Testimony documents from last year reported tax credits up to $93.8 million in lost revenues (Steve Anderson, former State Budget Director) and the cost of legal bills from the constitutional conflict inherent in the bill (Kansas Association of School Boards). 
Regarding performance, research shows that charter schools have at best, an equal chance of performing the same or worse than the local public schools and on average cost more to operate. Further concern: Charter schools in Texas are teaching religion disguised as science, confounding the roles of church and state. This bill could open the door to the same happening in Kansas. 
Note: The hearing had overwhelming testimony against the bill, and no action was taken. We will keep you abreast as both the Senate and the House Education Committee agendas have picked up their pace.

Bills IN Alignment with MainStream
In our efforts to reclaim the voice of moderate Kansans, consider these bills calling for Responsible Government.  
These bills have been referred to committees but have not had hearings scheduled.
Responsible Government – Transparency and Accountability Act (HB2438
By Representatives Clayton, Christmann, Dierks, Hibbard, Hildabrand, Hill, Hineman, Howell, Menghini, Moxley, Perry, Petty, Rooker and Whipple; the bill would provide public live audio and video broadcasts of committee meetings, where bills are worked and public testimony is allowed. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Appropriations.
Responsible Government – Kansas Protection Against Voter Suppression Act (SB253 / HB2428)
This protection bill would allow Kansans and the 20,200 suspended voter registration applicants to submit an affidavit, in lieu of a citizenship document, swearing that they meet the requirements for voter registration in Kansas.  Co-sponsors are Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Rep. Jim Ward.
Separation of Powers – Requiring Court of Appeals Applicant Information Made Public (SB252)
The bill would require Governor Brownback to disclose applicants name and city of residence no less than ten days prior to appointment. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the 13th of January. Sponsors include Senators Hensley, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk and Pettey.
Strong Public Education – 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. This 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. Sponsored by Sen. Ty Masterson. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Strong Public Education – All Day Kindergarten (SB341)
Governor Brownback’s proposal to fund all day Kindergarten has been referred to the Senate Education committee. The bill phases in full day funding in increments over five years achieving the goal of full funding in 2018-2019. The House has appointed a special committee on all day Kindergarten. Their first meeting was Thursday, February 13 with Jon Hummel, Policy Director for the Governor and Diane DeBacker, Commissioner of Kansas Department of Education reporting. Meanwhile the House Education Budget and Senate Ways and Means Committees stripped the funding this week from the public school budget, showing once again the continued setbacks for this proposal.

Pending - Gannon School Finance Lawsuit
We continue to watch for the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the Gannon School Finance lawsuit. The court typically files its decisions on Friday mornings. MainStream will publish a special Legislative Update, following the announcement.

Don’t get Mad, get Registered – Kansas Online Voter Registration
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 July 14 for advance voting.  And don’t forget, local spring general elections are April 1, 2014.
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