Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 (VP Pence broke tie) to confirm Gov. Sam Brownback as the U.S. Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Brownback will officially resign as governor on Wednesday, January 31st, handing over the executive branch to Lt. Gov. Jeff Coyler.
See: http://bit.ly/2DRHkyE; See also: http://nyti.ms/2rCNOfS; and http://bit.ly/2BteZJr.
This has been in the works for several months now and allows for a certain level of stability in the Capitol. The big question is how the new governor will handle the biggest issue on the session: K12 funding. While serving as the Lt. Gov., Colyer hinted at possible solutions, but he failed to provide any specific details (See: http://bit.ly/2EaYzIE). Legislative leaders have taken a different approach by challenging Kansas Board of Education Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis who is the pre-eminent figure on K12 funding. The allegations include misallocation of transportation funds totaling $405 million over several decades. See: http://bit.ly/2ngovKT; See also: http://bit.ly/2FjlxN9.
Senate President Wagle and Speaker Ryckman sent a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education outlining the audit’s findings and asking that Dennis be placed on administrative leave pending a forensic audit. The legislators also met with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to discuss other options.
The public reaction to this letter has been swift. All the major teaching associations and school groups issued a letter in support of Dennis. Many legislators have publicly supported Dennis and joined the “Team Dale” movement. For its part, the Kansas Board of Education met in executive session last week to discuss this issue.
The audit findings are curious, but some believe that scapegoating Dennis is a way to undermine the K12 funding formula currently in place. This could open the door for an argument that the Kansas Supreme Court made its ruling on erroneous facts. We will see how far this strategy goes.
Last week, Kansas also got a new U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas when Steve McCallister was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. McCallister was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last month.
The KBA will be testifying on two bills. They include:
- SB 257 which the family law committee OPPOSES. There is an identical bill in the House, HB 2529. The Family Law Section also OPPOSES that bill, but HB 2529 has not been set for a hearing yet.
- SB 309 dealing with docket fees which the KBA SUPPORTS.
Legislative Bill Tracking Chart