The 2014 legislative session reached First Adjournment on Friday, April 4 and continued working until Sunday, April 6 when a school finance plan was approved by the Kansas House. First Adjournment is the last official day of the regular session but legislators wanting to finalize the school finance issues it dragged on for the entire weekend. The importance of this date cannot be understated because bills not passed by both houses (exempt committees have some leeway) are dead for the session. This being an even numbered year also means they do not carry over and must be reintroduced as a new bill with a new bill number next year.
Legislators went deep into the night on Friday, April 4, Saturday, April 5, and Sunday, April 6 before finally managing to pass a plan with the minimum number of yes votes (63-57). Initially, both chambers introduced bills hoping to bring an end to the issue early on but charter school and private tuition proposals became a huge sticking point. The fallout from the botched bill extended to Rep. Marc Rhoades who decided to resign as chair of House Appropriations instead of support the new bill. Seehttp://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/31/4927226/kansas-house-panels-leader-quits.html; see alsohttp://watchdog.org/136217/marc-rhoades-resignation/; and http://www.kansas.com/2014/03/20/3358134/gop-plan-would-hike-aid-to-poor.html.
Once the dust settled, the Senate had the upper hand and passed their bill first. The House concurred to the Senate position that eliminated tenure for K-12 teachers. This is seen as a union busting measure and praised by a number of conservatives who championed teacher reform measures.
The big pieces of the school finance bill (Senate Sub. for HB 2506) are as follows:
- Provides an additional $109,265,000 for Supplemental General State Aid (Local Option Budget Equalization).
- Transfer $25,200,786 to the Capital Outlay Fund from the state general fund.
- Changes the definition of At-Risk Pupil to exclude those students in grades 1-12 who are not full time and those over 19 years of age. Provisions wouldn’t apply if a student had an individualized education program (IEP).
- Establish the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission.
- Alternative Teacher Licensure provisions.
- Increase to 20 percent the number of Kansas schools that can participate as an Innovative School Districts.
- Changes statutory Base State Aid Per Pupil to $3,838.
- Eliminates due process rights for tenured public school teachers.
- Corporate Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program, allowing companies to give $10,000 for scholarships for kids who come from families who make less than $43,000 a year or have a IEP.
For more coverage of the issue see the following:
In addition, both the House and Senate voted to approve the Conference Committee Report on HB 2338, which contains the judicial budget. The KBA was unsuccessful in removing the policy provisions that de-unified the court system.
Senate Sub. for HB 2338, Judicial Budget (Passed Senate 26-11; House 66-57)
- Appropriates $2 million additional from the state general fund for FY 2015.
- Increases existing docket fees and create statutory filing fees for appeals to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
- Allows chief judge in a judicial district to elect to be responsible for submitting a budget for the judicial district to the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.
- District court judges in each judicial district would elect a district judge to serve as chief judge.
- Requires the chief justice to provide notification of a vacancy in the office of district court judge or district magistrate court judge to the chairperson of the district judicial nominating commission not later than 120 days following the date of the vacancy.
- Deletes requirement for the payment of longevity to Judicial Branch non-judicial staff.
The KBA was able to thwart an attempt by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to alter the collateral source rule in Kansas. The bill, SB 311, increased the cap on non-economic damages to $350,000. The bill included two policy provisions; one adopted the Daubertexpert witness standard. The other allowed evidence of collateral source payments to be introduced to a jury. The KBA worked diligently with Kansas Association for Justice to remove the provision. The final agreed upon bill passed both chambers without collateral source.
The KBA received good news when both of its bills (HB 2398, dealing with LLCs, and HB 2444, dealing with spend thrift trusts) passed prior to First Adjournment and are now on their way to the governor for his signature. The KBA has requested a bill signing ceremony with the governor for HB 2398. This will be an excellent way to recognize the hard work of the LLC subcommittee (Bill Quick, Bill Matthew, Webb Hecker, and Joe Jarvis). I hope to have photos taken for the KBA Journal.