Legislative Update

And the extremism continues... Governor Brownback signed the bundled education bill yesterday.

The Kansas Legislature is in recess now. The legislators who pushed through extreme policy changes during the 2014 regular session may be enjoying the break and cueing up more victory songs for the final days of this legislative session. But the same cannot be said for the Kansans who rallied behind the efforts of civic-minded state legislators who have been fighting for a smarter government and the traditional values embedded in our state constitution.

Up next on April 30 is the supposed Veto Session, a few days designated for the Legislature to react to any action taken by the Governor during the recess. But we expect the extremists to hijack it for more. Should we be prepared for another calculated attack on public education, the court system, quality health care, or our state’s financial viability come April 30?  Very likely. For a glimpse of additional extreme legislation to come, we have provided a view of the recent past and the changing face of Kansas that the MainStream Coalition is working diligently to stop, slow down, and reverse.

Be aware, Kansas budget projections under the Governor’s zero income tax policy go negative as soon as the 2016 fiscal year. The policy changes rolling across Kansas are dramatically different. Understand that these changes do not equate with party affiliation. Do not expect the same investments or protections Kansans have traditionally relied on to be there for you, your parents or your children.

Getting to 63 Votes

Take public education changes, for example. Sixty-three out of 125 Representatives was the magical vote count that Senate President, Susan Wagle, and Speaker of the House, Ray Merrick, needed to pass an education bill to champion their goal for Kansas – limited government.  As Merrick said, “If it's not helping the state economically, why are we [Kansas legislature] doing it?"

Under a limited-government directive, public education is a major target for funding cuts because it is the primary responsibility of any state and thus the biggest line item, typically a third to one half of any state budget.

The bipartisan education compromise bill that passed the House on April 4 by a vote of 91-31 apparently did not limit government enough. So, Wagle and Merrick orchestrated the 72 hour showdown that included confessed deception, promises, threats and sleep deprivation. They got their final votes on Sunday, April 6 when eight House members flipped and allowed the bipartisan, compromise education bill to die. The vote flippers include:  Barker (Abilene), Bruchman (Overland Park), Cassidy (St Francis), Corbet (Topeka), Johnson (Assaria), Ryckman Sr (Meade), Thompson (Chanute), and Waymaster (Luray).  


Understanding who wants Kansas to get to 63 votes: ALEC does.


These two elected officials, Wagle and Merrick, who hold the most powerful positions in the Kansas legislature, also hold 2 seats on the 16 member Board of Directors for ALEC, one of the most powerful conservative lobbying organizations in the country.

Click here for list of Kansas ALEC members - nearly 50 elected officials.

The construction of the education bill that passed - by one vote - was not about providing a quality education for all Kansas youth. The construction of their education bill was about limited government and cutting state costs, as advocated by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. The vast majority of ALEC's legislative members are self-identified conservatives or libertarians, advocating for a pro-corporate, limited-government agenda. 

Each of the education policy changes embedded in the Kansas education budget bill signed into law yesterday by Gov. Brownback are boilerplate ALEC bills. Each policy change was designed to remove ‘expensive’ students from the public education rolls, remove ‘expensive’ teachers, shift the cost of providing services off of the state funds, or to simply reduce the state’s overall financial liability.  Here are a few examples from among the dozen ALEC policies that Speaker Merrick and President Wagle tacked onto the education bill during the last 72 hours of the regular legislative session, without peer review:

  • Property Tax Credits for Private Schoolers – reduces state revenues for public education on the premise that Kansas residents should not have to pay for any government services they do not directly use at the moment. 
  • Income Tax Credits for Private Schools only – removes 'expensive' at-risk and special education students from the public schools, by way of distorted promises to parents, $7,000 of taxpayer dollars bounty for private, religious, unaccredited K-12 schools (aka vouchers) and risking equitable access to quality education for all Kansas youth.
  • Eliminates Teachers' Due Process Rights – removes ‘expensive’ teachers by allowing districts to fire them without just-cause, such as ‘expensive’ veteran teachers, along with teachers who might bring up safety concerns in a school building, lobby for costly special education services for a student, teach materials a parent objects to, or refuse to alter grades for star athletes.

While U.S. domestic policies tend to swing back and forth like a pendulum, the scope and scale of the swing has intensified. One of the differences today is the wholesale adoption of boilerplate legislation in states across the country, created by ALEC or other national groups and pushed by Americans for Prosperity (AFP). One of the most obvious tells that a Kansas legislator has introduced a bill that originated from outside our state is their inability to explain the bill, such as: Senator Arpke’s (Salina) failure to clarify teacher tenure changes or Representatives Dove (Bonner Springs) and Bradford (Lansing/Leavenworth) not knowing that their anti-Common Core bill would forbid Kindergartener’s from being taught how to count to 100, or when Senator Melcher (Leawood) championed a charter school with twice the administrative overhead as Kansas public schools and no external evaluation to validate student outcomes. 

ALEC initiatives by design are intended to limited government and promote the free-market, as stated on their website. Accountability and quality are no longer relevant to the state when services are handed off to the private sector – market forces are left to protect the consumer. 

This is a choice. Decide now whether you want the radical changes that have been initiated to take root in Kansas. Voter apathy is a vote for the ALEC agenda. We need Kansans to under the choices being debated and actively engage in the conversation. The privatization, free-market path that Kansas leadership, ALEC and AFP have been carving out is dramatically different and anything but conservative.  Ask yourself at what point is government small enough?  At what price are you willing to risk quality education, quality health care, the right to a fair and just trial, community safety, clean air and water, and equal opportunity for all Kansans?

ALEC Extremism in Kansas

Please note: this list is not comprehensive, these are just the most deplorable examples of ALEC-provided bills that have been put forward by Kansas legislators.

ALEC "Tax & Fiscal Policy" aka limited government, restricting revenues
KS Eliminates Income tax, restricting 50% of Kansas revenue stream
S Sub HB 2117 (signed 5/22/2012)
ALEC "Voter ID Act" aka voter suppression
KS Voter ID Act, knocking thousands of eligible Kansans off the voting rolls
HB 2067 (signed 4/18/2011)
KS Co-opting local election for partisan gain
HB 2407 (active for 2014 veto session)
ALEC "Education Reform" aka privatization
KS Bundled education bill, demanding restoration of funds for privatization of education
HB 2506 (signed 4/21/2014)
KS Enacting corporate education tax credit "Scholarship Program Act"
HB 2506 (signed 4/21/2014)
KS Re"Creating Public Charter School Act"
HB 2320 and SB 196 (introduced 3/2014)
KS District level removal of accountability and quality controls via "Innovative Districts Act"
HB 2319 (signed 4/22/2013)
ALEC "Free Market" Environmental Policy aka profit over pollution
KS Nearly eliminating Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standards
S Sub HB 2014 (blocked 3/26/2014)
KS Resolution "Opposing the EPA's Regulatory Train Wreck"
HR 6008 (adopted 3/28/2011)
ALEC "Free Market" Health Care Policy aka no safety net, corporate control
KS Restricting Medicaid expansion
HB 2552 (signed 4/21/2014)
KS Joining the Interstate Health Care Compact
HB 2553 (signed 4/18/2014)
KS Health Care Freedom Act including
HB 2182 (signed 5/25/2011)
ALEC "Conceal and Carry Outright Recognition Act" aka individual gun rights over community safety
KS Cannot prohibit conceal and carry on college campuses without security measures
S Sub HB 2052 (awaits Governor's signature)

Learn more here about ALEC and the lobbyists, corporations and 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states, amounting to nearly one-third of all sitting legislators, as well as more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered alumni. See also ALEC Exposed.

Attend Events

Challenging Corporate Power and Creating Democracy
Forum, TONIGHT, April 22, 2014 from 7-8 p.m. at Pierson Auditorium at UMKC, 5100 Rockhill Road - Kansas City MO hosted by Move to Amend. Attorney and national Move to Amend spokesperson, David Cobb, will give a rousing one hour talk--telling the story of the American creation myth and the US Constitution as it pertains to Corporate Personhood. He will advance a realistic remedy to the overarching power of huge corporations and big money in American politics.

What's Up with Voting
Forum Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 7-8:30 pm, 9948 Metcalf Avenue, hosted by the League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters of Johnson County has assembled a panel of experts to answer your questions about voting in Kansas. What do the new Kansas voter registration laws do? Have these laws made it more difficult for citizens to register to vote? What election bills are currently before the legislature?

Kansas’ Costly Tax Cuts: A Moderated Discussion with Dr. Michael Leachman 
Forum on Tuesday, April 29th from 7-8:30 pm at the Main Branch of the Johnson County Library, 9875 W. 87th St hosted by The Kansas Center for Economic Growth and the League of Women Voters.  The program will include a presentation with the report’s author, Dr. Mike Leachman, Director of State Fiscal Research, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities; a bipartisan panel of policymakers, including Senator Pat Pettey, Representatives Barbara Bollier and Melissa Rooker; and moderated by Tom Robinett, United Community Services of Johnson County Board member.

ALEC Convention right here in Kansas City
Watch for word on the Annual ALEC Convention being held right here in Kansas City, May 1-2, 2014 at the downtown Marriott. Click here to see if your state senator or representative is one of the nearly 50 Kansas ALEC members.  

Picking Up the Pieces: Life after the 2014 Legislative Session
Forum on May 29, 2014 from 7-8:30 pm at Colonial Church in Prairie Village
Join us for a forum on this past legislative session, and what to do now. There is an election between now and the next Legislature. Join us after at the Tavern in the Village for drinks and thoughtful conversation.

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