About the Author
Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director
The Kansas Legislature reconvened last week to begin discussing a resolution to the school finance issue. Both chambers were in session and several committees held hearings. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed out a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Kansas Supreme Court from closing schools. See http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/scr1602/. This is the same proposal discussed during the Joint Meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee. The KBA submitted testimony opposing this proposal at the Joint Meeting. See http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/2016SpecialSession-Testimony.html
The Senate debated this resolution but was unable to garner the requisite votes need to pass it. The measure failed 26-13. This basically ended the discussion of limiting the court’s power in the Senate. See http://bit.ly/28Xg6nc
The House Judiciary Committee introduced a constitutional amendment that would limit school funding to no more than 45 percent of the state budget and remove the word “suitable” from the Article 6 Section 6 of the Kansas Constitution. See http://bit.ly/28Z71Qo. This proposal was introduced by Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee) who is not seeking reelection.
Rep. Craig McPherson (R-overland Park) introduced HB 2002 that would create the superior court of Kansas and limit the power of the Kansas Supreme Court. The superior court would hear all cases assigned by law and be the court of final appellate review in cases under its court’s jurisdiction. See http://bit.ly/28XDogT
Rep. Barker did not set a committee meeting to hear either of these proposals. So both died without debate.
Both chambers debated the school finance bill. The House discussed HB 2003 and the Senate debated SB 3. Both bills are designed to shift current appropriations around to fund the equity portion of the school finance case. The total money being discussed is $38 million. Some money comes from tobacco funds ($4.1 million), some from the extraordinary needs fund ($7.2 million), virtual schools ($2.8 million) and a cut for base state aid ($13 million). The cut to base state aid will take operation money and shift that to property tax relief. See http://bit.ly/28Z6NbT
After some thoughtful reflection and some prodding from Johnson County lawmakers, the idea to cut school funding by $13 million was dumped and replaced with monies from the sale of the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Should this sale not produce the needed revenue, the equity portion of the school finance issue would be buoyed by the extraordinary needs fund. All parties, including the plaintiffs in the case, agreed that this solves the equity issue. See http://bit.ly/28YqKvP, http://bit.ly/291VLQE, and http://bit.ly/298jdLd
With the passage of the school finance bill, the 2016 Special Session came to an end. A constitutional crisis was averted and the courts withstood early challenges to its powers. The focus now shifts to August primaries, then general elections. Look for anti-court/non-retain ads and information to begin appearing all over the state—It should be an interesting summer.