School finance lawsuit dominates Legislative return
Last Thursday the Kansas Supreme Court delivered its ruling on the Gannon school finance case. The Court found that the current block grant funding formula is unconstitutional and gave the legislature until June 30 to pass a suitable replacement. See; Opinion #113,267
The June 30 deadline comes from the original block grant legislation in which the law allowed a two-year “time-out” so legislators could craft a better option. As of this writing, no funding formula has been proposed.
To catch up on all the school funding news please see: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article136365778.html - KC Star; Kansas SupCt. issue school funding adequacy - LJWorld.com; Kansas school funding formula plans vie-legislative approval – cjonline.com
During the Monday morning House Appropriations Committee, we heard from Dale Dennis. He informed the committee that the state would need another $372 million to get back to FY09 funding levels. Dennis also stated that support staff for teachers are down and special education teachers are also down. Dennis provided anecdotal evidence when he stated that 5th grade classes in Emporia average 28 students. Garden City is short 38 elementary teachers, Kansas City down almost 100.
This funding issue will persist throughout the remainder of the session. However, legislators must still craft a tax plan, a budget, and consider Medicaid expansion and teacher due process. Over the break, several legislators held town hall meetings or coffee meet-ups around the state. The response from constituents ran the gamut. See; Kansans urge lawmakers push amid fights over taxes schools - cjonline.com
KBA proposals still in process are:
This KBA proposal was passed out of the House Committee of the Whole on a 124-0 vote. It is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
This KBA proposal was subject to an amendment from Rep. Stogsdill (D-Prairie Village) who offered to include a provision dealing with teacher’s due process rights. The amendment was germane to the underlying bill because HB 2186 amended arbitration statutes, and teacher due process rights would be subject to these new laws. After more than two hours of debate the amended bill passed 68-57.
HB 2125 has been approved by the House on a 124-1 vote. The sole NO vote was cast by Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita).
The KBA worked with the Kansas Land Title Association and the Kansas Attorney General’s office on SB 10. The original language of the bill contained a provision criminalizing the filing of certain liens on public officials. The KBA negotiated with KLTA and the KSAG on a compromise amendment that satisfied all parties. However, when the amendment was added to the bill, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook expanded the protection against such liens from “public officials” only, to the “public” in general. The KBA finds this significant change unacceptable. As such, the KBA Title Standard Committee opposes the bill. The KLTA and the KBA sent a letter to senators opposing the amended bill. Prior to debate, SB 10 was referred to an exempt committee and remains alive for the remainder of the 2017 session.
JUDICIAL BRANCH BUDGET
HB 2279 was heard in house appropriations, an exempt committee, which means this measure is unaffected by the turnaround deadline. Under current law the judicial branch receives 33% of reinstatement fees. If HB 2279 is not passed, these fees will be diverted to other groups and the judicial branch will be out around $950K. These funds are already in the FY18 & FY19 judicial budget request. If the bill does not pass, the courts face a significant budget cut.
HB 2041 was passed by the House Committee of the Whole, 122-0 and has already been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The KBA continues to support this legislation.
These two bills are the judicial branch’s stand-alone budgets for the next two fiscal years. The judicial budget has already been folded into the mega-appropriations bill, but should it be stripped out, the judicial branch can fall back on these two measures.
The second half of the legislative session begins on March 6. Legislators will work until First Adjournment scheduled for April 7. Legislators will then recess until Veto Session which begins on May 1. House and senate Leadership projected the 2017 session to last 100 days with the 2018 session lasting only 80 days, averaging out to 90 days per session. However, many anticipate the 2017 session will run much longer. As a reference point, May 14, will be the 90 day of the session.
One highlight of the 2017 session is the ability to access some hearings via the internet. A good link to use is Upcoming Events. This link provides the time and date of the committee meeting along with a very easy access port to hear, and in some cases, see the committee in action.