Of Taxes, College Credits, and the Sad Case of Foreign Languages

Jan 28, 2019 by

Tax decoupling on the Senate fast track

There’s been quite a tax kerfuffle in the Senate. Tax Committee chair Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) appeared to have fast tracked a tax giveaway bill – the so-called “windfall” bill. Her intent was to decouple part of the Kansas income tax code from the federal income tax code. 

When Congress adopted the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the changes they made to the code would prevent many middle income Americans from itemizing deductions and instead taking a higher standard deduction. But since the state code and federal code are “coupled,” itemization would go away for most Kansans but without the benefit of a higher Kansas standard deduction. Thus some Kansans would see their state income taxes go up. 

This additional tax revenue is being portrayed as a “windfall” to the state that the state never planned on getting. Republican conservatives are crying foul and demanding that the state give this revenue back to the taxpayers (and conveniently forgetting that the entire Kansas Republican Congressional Delegation gleefully voted for the Trump tax changes). 

So here’s where things get sticky. Tyson’s bill also included a number of other tax changes not related to the income tax changes. Then Tyson invited the Kansas Chamber to present their wishlist of tax changes to benefit corporations. These are tied up largely in two complex provisions dealing with overseas earnings – the GILTI provision and the Repatriation provision. 

It was clear that Tyson intended to put the corporate tax revisions into the bill which would further clutter up the package. 

And, that’s when Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) stepped in. Wagle apparently wanted to go in a slightly different direction and so she formed a new committee to deal specifically with federal tax implications naming herself as Chair – The Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Implementation.

Speculation is that Wagle wants the decoupling for itemized deductions and the GILTI and Repatriation provisions requested by the Chamber but doesn’t want them jumbled up with a bunch of unrelated provisions. Some say Tyson disagreed, wanting to push her bigger tax bill. 

That’s where things sit right now. And Wagle’s Select Committee will be meeting Tuesday through Thursday this week to hear SB 22, the bill decoupling from the federal tax code. The plan is to have final action by the Committee on Thursday.

The Governor is opposed to the decoupling at this time, urging the Legislature to go slowly on tax issues. No one has yet been able to accurately determine the impact of the decoupling and Kelly is suggesting that until that can be done – possibly this summer – there should be no changes as those changes could have a significantly negative impact on the state budget.

Meanwhile, the House Tax Committee, instead of rushing into the abyss, are engaged in thoughtful discussions about the actual impact of the federal tax changes on Kansas taxpayers, whether or not there is an alternative to decoupling that would accomplish the same thing, and what the fiscal impact of each option might be.

More tax issues being discussed

The House Tax Committee moved on to discussing new options on the collection of internet sales taxes.

This discussion is the result of a recent US Supreme Court decision that changes the standard for collection of sales taxes on internet sales. In the past, under a decision called the “Quill Decision,” sales taxes on internet sales were required only if the the seller had a physical presence in the state. This new decision – the “Wayfair Decision” – overturns the physical requirement and says physical presence or economic presence counts.

States are adopting a minimum sales threshold under which an internet sales provider would be required to collect destination sales taxes. Most states have adopted $100,000 in sales as the threshold; some have an either/or situation – either $100,000 in sales or 200 sales transactions in the state. Also in this discussion is how to handle the sale of digital properties like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc.

The Kansas legislature will likely take this matter up.

Concurrent enrollment discussion in K-12 Budget Committee

A discussion in a meeting of the House K-12 Budget Committee focused primarily on the issue of concurrent enrollment programs for Kansas high school students.  Dr. Blake Flanders, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, joined Kansas Commissioner of Education, Randy Watson to present a plan to grow the current program.  Both presenters extolled the virtues of attainable post-secondary programs and the impact those graduates have upon the Kansas job market, salary growth and overall growth of economic prosperity.  

By growing the concurrent enrollment program, along with other pathways to post-secondary opportunities, more students in all parts of Kansas can seek certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Under this program, teachers of concurrent enrollment courses would be employed and paid by the district while the post-secondary partner institution- typically a community college- would receive funding for tuition, books and supplies for each enrolled program student.  The tuition fee- paid through an allocation of state dollars to this program- would be approximately $275 per course.  

Both the committee chairperson, Representative Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Vice-Chair Representative Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), had questions regarding the funding amounts, who would be paid (the district or the college) and why this program would- in effect- be akin to double paying for students.  The funding amount- per enrolled student- is the median of a range of tuition amounts from ongoing programs throughout the state.  Dr. Flanders indicated that it would be the institution that would receive the funds under this program but that local agreements with districts could push portions of those funds back to the district. 

Are foreign language studies disappearing?

Last week we were sitting the House K-12 Budget Committee listening to a discussion on school performance and the Kansas school accreditation system. At one point Chairperson Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) commented on the importance of foreign language instruction. As Kansas educators know the value of studying foreign languages, we were pleased and surprised to hear a representative mention a subject other than STEM subjects.

But today we came across an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reporting that from 2013 to 2016, colleges in the United States lost 651 foreign language programs (among those were 118 Spanish programs, 129 in French, 86 in German, and 56 in Italian). By comparison, only one program was lost between 2009 and 2013.

Given the global world in which we operate and in which today’s young people will compete, we hope this is an anomaly and not a trend but expectations are that the decline will continue into 2020.

You can read the article in the Chronicle by clicking here.

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Committees continue to gather information; Governor Kelly gives State of the State Address

Jan 16, 2019 by

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly delivering her first state of the state address.

House Appropriations gets thorough update on revenue resources

Chairman Troy Waymaster opened the appropriations committee with a round-robin introduction of members, legislative staffers and his personal staffers.  Waymaster called his committee the “best committee in the House” because this committee will “have its hand on everything the state government does.”  If introductions by the dedicated staff focusing of fiscal analysts and revisors is any indication, Waymaster is probably right.  

Following introductions, an agent from the Kansas Department of Revenue, gave a summary of Kansas revenue estimates and forecasts.  In summary, while FY 2018 ended better than forecast, several state and national factors could negatively impact FY 2019 estimates.  The revenue official continued to describe the forecast as a “mixed bag” of good and bad indicators as we move into an uncertain economic future.

Chairman Waymaster noted, that agriculture is KS leading economic driver and Pres. Trump’s shutdown is impacting KS agriculture due to frozen stimulus payments to farmers which came as a result of the negative impact from Pres. Trump’s tariffs.  The revenue official agreed that negative impacts upon agriculture could certainly impact the state economy and consequently the revenue estimates.

What remains very clear, is that the FY 2019 approved state budget leaves an ending balance of $905 million.  With this money on hand, the state is in a position to fully fund public schools according to the Kansas Constitution for the first time in almost a decade.  There is also enough to begin to address some of the myriad other budget issues left behind by the Brownback / Colyer administration, like KPERS, highways, and social services. 

Today, many of those reps who supported the Brownback agenda that created the budget holes we’re dealing with now, are pushing not for filling those holes, but instead warning against the threat of a bleak national economy on the horizon and the need to hold onto our reserves.  We call on our representatives to take the final step in fully funding public schools according to the constitution by using the surplus to account for inflation adjustments in the ‘out-years’ of the funding formula.  Doing so now while the money is available would end litigation and more importantly, give our students access to a fully funded and constitutional K-12 experience.  

Tax policy: Understanding GILTI and Repatriation

The Senate Tax Committee met again today to continue discussion of SB 13 with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce bringing in more information and an tax expert from the Seaboard corporation to explain the GILTI and Repatriation provisions of the Trump/Ryan tax reform and their impact on Kansas taxes.

We can assure you that these provisions have no direct impact on individuals but instead impact what corporations pay in income taxes and they both deal with overseas earnings.

It’s best to let the experts explain these provisions to you, so click here to get an understandable explanation of GILTI. Then click here to get an understandable explanation of repatriation. They are both short reads and might be illuminating.

House Ed and House K-12 Budget Committees meet today

The House Education Committee met for the first time today simply to get to know each other and to review their committee rules. There are plenty of new faces this year including many freshman. The new freshmen are Dave Benson (R-Overland Park), Rene Erickson (R-Wichita), Cheryl Helmer (R-Mulvane), Mark Samsel (R-Wellsville), Adam Thomas (R-Olathe), and Rui Xu (D-Westwood). John Toplikar (R-Olathe) is technically a freshman now although he served a number of years ago in the Legislature.

New to the Committee are Stephanie Clayton (D-Overland Park) and Steven Johnson (R-Assaria). Rounding out the committee are Steve Huebert (R-Wichita), Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka), Jim Ward (D-Wichita), Adam Smith (R-Weskan), Jim Karleskint (R-Tonganoxie), Mark Schreiber (R-El Dorado), Jane Vickrey (R-Lousiburg), and Jerry Stogsdill (D-Prairie Village).

The K-12 Budget Committee today received the same school finance overview that was presented to the Senate Education Committee yesterday.

Governor Laura Kelly gave her first state of the state address: schools, Medicaid expansion, and the Foster Care System

In her first state of the state address, Governor Laura Kelly laid our three priorities for Kansas. We need to fund our schools and end the cycle of litigation; we need to expand Medicaid to help 150,000 Kansans get health insurance, to keep Kansas tax dollars in Kansas, and to preserve our rural communities; we need to overhaul and restore our failing foster care system.

We’ll talk more about her speech after we review it more thoroughly, but in the meantime, you can read it by clicking here or watch it by clicking here.

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Legislature Jumping Right In

Jan 16, 2019 by

It’s not usual for us to have four committee meetings to attend on the first day of the session – often it’s not usual to have four on any day of the first week. But not so this year. We’ve been in the statehouse all day today!

First big tax bill

First up was a meeting of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee where they planned an informational hearing on a bill, SB 13. Informational briefings are often held before a bill has been officially referred to a committee in order to get a jump start on learning the issue.

SB 13 is a new version of CCR 2228 which was defeated at the very end of the 2018 session. This so-called “windfall” bill has a number of parts in it but the most talked about has been a provision decoupling part of the Kansas income tax code from the federal income tax code.

When the Trump/Ryan tax reform bill was passed at the federal level, it was aimed at tax relief primarily for the highest earners. It ended itemized deductions for many taxpayers by putting in a restriction tying itemization to a certain percentage of income. Since most people don’t hit those thresholds, they essentially can no longer itemize. And since the Kansas tax code is coupled to the federal code, the same thing applies to state income taxes. If one can no longer itemize on their federal taxes, one can’t itemize on state taxes.

Many middle income taxpayers who could itemize in the past can no longer do so and as a result, they may have seen an actual increase in taxes or, at best, saw no benefit from the federal law.

If SB 13 were to pass, these taxpayers could once again itemize deductions on their state income tax forms. Unfortunately, as tax relief goes, this would benefit few Kansans – it is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 25% of Kansas taxpayers were itemizing before the change. Certainly, the highest income Kansans were itemizing and continue to do so now. Itemization tends to benefit higher earners and as incomes decline, so does the ability to itemize deductions. While this change will provide some relief to those taxpayers who were itemizing and lost the ability, it would also have a significant fiscal impact on the state tax revenues.

Since five of the nine members of the Committee are co-sponsors of the bill, we would expect it would have an easy time in committee.

Gannon is topic in two committees

Revisors (the folks who write statutes for the Legislature) gave presentations in the Senate Education Committee and the House K-12 Budget Committee today.

Essentially, these presentations are intended to bring the committee members up to speed on how school finance got to the point it is today and what the Supreme Court ruled in their most recent finding. Essentially, the Court found no problems with the structure of the school finance formula but still called the funding inadequate but only because it did not account for inflation in the years during which the funding is to be phased in.

Committees Getting First Briefings on the State of Kansas Revenues and the Budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee was the first to receive an update on the status of the state’s budget and predictions about revenue collections.

So far, things are looking stable with ending balances available for several years. But as if to remind us of the need to stay the course on maintaining and managing our revenue stream, they noted that by 2022, we could be back to a 0% ending balance.

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Sykes and Clayton Join the Democrats in Topeka!

Dec 19, 2018 by

Dinah Sykes (L), Stephanie Clayton (R)

Two more incumbent Kansas Republican legislators have decided to leave the Republican Party, register as Democrats and join the Democratic caucuses in the Statehouse.

As you already know, Senator Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), left the Republican Party earlier this month and joined the Democrats. Bollier had angered Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) by endorsing Democrat Tom Niermann for US House District 3 over Kevin Yoder and Democrat Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach for Governor. Wagle stripped Bollier of her leadership position on the Health and Human Services Committee (Bollier is the only physician serving in the Senate) and publicly chastised her.

Today it was announced that Senator Dinah Sykes has also left the Republicans and joined the Democratic Party. Sykes is from Lenexa and represents Senate District 21.

Both Sykes and Bollier have been stalwart supporters of public schools, children, and public school educators. Both also held Republican seats on the Senate Education Committee. Bollier served in the House from 2010 through 2016 before being elected to the Senate in 2016. Sykes was elected to the Senate in 2016. She ran on a promise to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and fund public schools. Bollier and Sykes have both kept their promises to voters and to our public schools.

Sykes summed up her thoughts in a press release announcing her decision:

“I strongly believe elected officials should serve the people they represent. That belief drove me to run for office. I ran for the Kansas Senate to protect the Kansas quality of life and to bring common sense to Topeka. At this time, I feel like I can either fight to change the Republican party or fight for the state I love and the people I serve. I think I can better serve my state and constituents as a member of the Democratic party.”

“I am a moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district that expects me to focus on issues and solutions that impact their day-to-day lives. Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”

In welcoming Senator Sykes to the Democratic caucus, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) said, “Senator Sykes is a commonsense leader who serves with the best interests of her constituents in mind, no matter the party label. She will be a great addition to our caucus.”

And across the rotunda…

Also this morning, State Representative Stephanie Clayton announced her switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Clayton is from Overland Park and represents HD 19.

Clayton made it clear in a press release announcing her decision that public education was front and center in her thinking. Said Clayton, “I first ran for office in 2010, when my daughter was in first grade, because of the lack of stable funding for public education. Leaders in the Kansas House and Senate have now indicated that they will seek to scrap the bipartisan education plan achieved over the last two years, just as we are so close to solving this problem and ending the cycle of school litigation.”

Clayton has been noted for her bipartisan work and was an organizer and leader of the bipartisan “Women’s Caucus”, which moved the agenda on comprehensive tax reform in the 2017 legislative session. It was that work that pushed the legislature to finally adopt a tax bill that reversed the failed Brownback experiment and set the state on the path to fiscal stability.

In welcoming Representative Clayton into the Democratic House Caucus, Minority Leader-elect Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita) said, “Rep. Clayton will be welcomed into the House Democratic Caucus. We have continuously worked with her on important issues such as education and healthcare, and look forward to working alongside Stephanie as a member of our caucus. She is a public servant with incredibly impressive passion, grit, and drive to do the right thing for Kansans.”

These changes put the Senate at 11 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and 1 Independent; the House is now 41 Democrats and 84 Republicans.

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How NOT to End the “Cycle of Litigation” and New Democrats in the Senate

Dec 12, 2018 by

Republican Leaders Want to Toss Out the Constitutional School Finance System?

If we had a dollar for every time that Republican leadership in the Kansas House and Senate last year said they want to “end the cycle of litigation over school finance,” we would be retired today.

Of course, back then we thought nothing of these statements because we, too, want to see an end to the cycle of litigation because that means our schools would be both adequately and equitably funded. That’s what everyone wants – or so we thought.

This is why it came as such a surprise when we read in the Wichita Eagle that House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) told an audience in Johnson County that they were interested in tossing out last year’s school finance plan and starting completely over. Why? According the the Eagle article, it’s because “Republican leaders are skeptical the state could pay for the change and say the funding plan may need to be changed instead.”

In essence, they don’t want to fund schools adequately.

Here’s what we know about last year’s plan and the status of the current school finance litigation:

In response to an earlier Supreme Court ruling that school funding was constitutionally both inadequate and inequitable, the Legislature passed bills in 2017 and 2018 that repealed the unconstitutional Brownback block grant funding scheme.

The Court subsequently ruled that the new formula met the equity test but was still somewhat short of adequacy. The adequacy ruling was based on the fact that the phased-in increases in school funding did not account for inflation. Evidence showed that inflation would eat up about $90 million of increased funding in the out years of the plan. Essentially, a $100 million funding increase next year would only be a $10 million increase in funding after accounting for inflation.

The Court directed the Legislature to return and deal with the inflation issue.

Given that the Wagle/Denning school funding study conducted by Dr. Lori Taylor found the state to be shortchanging schools by as much as $2 billion, the Court’s call for dealing with inflation only after the additional $525 million provided by the Legislature seems modest. But apparently, Republican leaders are not interested in meeting the Court ruling.

There are two ways currently to end the cycle of litigation.

One is to address the inflation issue in the out years of the 2018 legislation and then provide an ongoing mechanism to maintain the funding level so established.

The other is the Ryckman/Denning way which is to ban litigation. They would rather just pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting school finance lawsuits and then not worry whether schools are adequately funded at all.

We believe that the best approach for the Legislature to take in 2019 is to first leave the constitutional school funding formula alone – why mess with the good work done to get a constitutional formula written and passed?

Then, address the inflation issue in last year’s legislation. Thanks to the hard work the Legislature did in reversing the disastrous Brownback tax experiment, revenues are coming in better than expected and adding the inflation increase is affordable.

Finally, resist the temptation of prohibiting the public from going to court. All citizens must have the option to go to court if they feel aggrieved and the court system must not be politicized. We must honor our system of checks and balances under which the Legislature makes the laws but the citizens can ask the court to review whether or not those laws are constitutional. The proposed constitutional amendment is a slippery slope which could result in dismantling the very system our founders envisioned and established.

Click here to read the Wichita Eagle article.

Three New Democrats Coming to the Senate

The Senate Democratic Caucus will welcome three new members when they convene for the 2019 Legislative Session.

Two are replacements for newly elected Governor Laura Kelly and Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers.

Kelly, who is still technically the Kansas State Senator from SD 18 covering parts of Shawnee, Wabaunsee, and Pottawatomie Counties will be replaced by Vic Miller who is currently representing HD 58 in the Kansas House of Representatives. Rogers, currently the Kansas State Senator from SD 25 in Wichita, will be replaced by Mary Ware, a community activist from Wichita.

The third new Democratic Senator is a familiar face to those who watch the Kansas Legislature. Senator Barbara Bollier from Johnson County has switched party affiliations and will join the Democratic caucus. We can now officially say “Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills).”

With Bollier’s switch, the Democratic caucus increases by one member for 2019.

In a press release, Bollier had this to say of her decision, “I’ve been a proud Kansas Republican for 43 years. I always embraced the common-sense policies of Governor Bill Graves, US Senator Nancy Kassebaum, and President Eisenhower. But during the last eight years, I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with Republican leaders’ hardline rhetoric, contempt for compromise, and obsession with putting political power before children and families. With this recent election, it has become clear that the majority of the Republican Party does not accept moderate Republicans any longer.”

In welcoming Bollier to the Democratic caucus, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said, “She has been a longtime friend and respected colleague with the best interests of Kansas at heart. Her expertise, pragmatism, and courage enrich the entire Kansas Legislature — regardless of whether she calls herself a Democrat or Republican.”

Bollier has long been an advocate for health care, public schools, and pro-family policies. Bollier came into conflict with Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) over her endorsement of Laura Kelly for Governor and Democrat Tom Niermann for Congress. (Niermann lost the Democratic Primary to Sharice Davids who was elected to Congress in November.) Wagle stripped Bollier of important positions in the Senate – most notably her leadership position on the Committee on Public Health and Welfare. As the only physician in the Senate, Bollier was a natural fit for such an important committee.

Bollier has also been a staunch supporter and defender of public schools, students, and the educators who staff those schools. Bollier was a member of the Senate Education Committee.

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We Had an Election!

Nov 7, 2018 by

Governor-Elect, Laura Kelly

The 2018 election is finally over and the preliminary results are in. It’s what you might call a “mixed bag.”

On the one hand, on the federal level, the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Kansas is part of that change with the defeat of Kevin Yoder and the election of Sharice Davids in CD 3 which includes Johnson and Wyandotte Counties and part of Miami County. The new House of Representatives is likely to act as a check on President Trump and especially the wishes of his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Kansas has also elected a Democratic Governor and sent Kris Kobach back to the private sector- although no one really believes he will be gone for long. The extreme conservative ideology of the Brownback administration will be replaced by an administration known for cooperation and compromise. We look forward to that!

But there are some significant changes to the Kansas House of Representatives and the possibility of big changes in our Senate as well despite the fact that only one Senate seat was on the ballot this year.

So what follows is our preliminary analysis. We should let you know that we are working off the Secretary of State’s preliminary election results and final results won’t be available for a while yet. While not likely, it is possible that some results could change.

Additionally, we warn you that when looking at new Republican legislators it is sometimes difficult to be certain whether they will fall into the Moderate or Conservative camps once they start voting. We rely on the wisdom of those who have some familiarity with them but it’s not a scientific analysis!

Here we go!

The Democrats

The House Democratic Caucus has declined by one seat, going from 40 to 39. While six incumbent Democrats lost their re-election bid (Adam Lusker HD 2, Debbie Deere HD 40, Tim Hodge HD 72, Ed Trimmer HD 79, Steve Crum HD 98, and Eber Phelps HD 111), five new Democrats were elected making it almost a wash.

The six incumbent Democrats who lost were all defeated by Conservative Republicans.

The five new Democrats are Susan Ruiz in HD 23 who defeated Moderate Republican Linda Gallagher, Rui Xu in HD 25 who defeated Moderate Republican Melissa Rooker, Brandon Woodard in HD 30 who won an open seat where incumbent Randy Powell retired, Mike Amyx in HD 45 who will replace retiring Moderate Republican Tom Sloan, and Dave Benson in HD 48 who defeated Conservative incumbent Abraham Rafie.

Three of the new Democrats are replacing Moderate Republicans while two took seats from Conservatives.

The Moderate Republicans

Moderate Republicans picked up four seats currently held by Conservatives: Mark Samsel HD 5 replaces Conservative Kevin Jones who lost his primary for Congress, J.C. Moore HD 93 who defeated Conservative John Whitmer in the primary and went on to win the general, Nick Hoheisel HD 97 who will replace retiring Conservative Les Osterman, and Bill Pannbacker HD 106 who will replace retiring Conservative Clay Aurand.

But Moderate Republicans lost three seats they currently hold to Democrats in the general (Gallagher, Rooker, and Sloan) and an additional six Moderates will be replaced by Conservatives who defeated them in the primary. Those six are HD 8 where Chris Croft defeated Patty Markley, HD 28 where Kellie Warren defeated Joy Koesten, HD 39 where Owen Donohoe will replace retiring Shelee Brim, HD 74 where Steven Kelly defeated Don Schroeder, HD 75 where Will Carpenter defeated Mary Martha Good, HD 80 where Bill Rhiley defeated Anita Judd-Jenkins, HD 87 where Renee Erickson will replace retiring Roger Elliott, and HD 104 where Paul Waggoner defeated Steven Becker.

That’s a loss of 11 Moderate Republican seats offset by three Democrats resulting in Conservatives taking eight Moderate seats.

The Coalition

So with Democrats down by one seat and Moderate Republicans down by 11, the Conservatives will have a solid block that can control leadership elections and then the appointment of committee chairs and vice chairs.

In analyzing the Democrat/Moderate coalition that managed to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and restore a sound school finance system, we must look at a couple of factors. First, Democrats usually vote as a solid block in favor of public education which means there will almost certainly be 39 votes in support of public education issues. Sadly 39 votes cannot pass good legislation or defeat bad legislation. That means the Democrats must have the support of 24 Republicans to get to the necessary 63 vote majority.

Our legislative agenda is tied to the ability of Democrats and Moderate Republicans to work together to overcome the Conservative plurality. We believe that the new House will have just enough solid Moderate Republicans to reach the 63 vote threshold with the 39 Democrats. There are also an additional eight or nine Republicans who vote sometimes with the Conservatives and sometimes with the Moderates. If we can move some of those Republicans to support the coalition, we might be okay.

That’s where the cooperation comes in. With diminished numbers of Moderate Republicans and Democrats, it will be more important than ever that these two factions work together and cooperate in developing and passing good legislation that helps our schools and keeps our state moving forward.

In the Senate

While only one seat was up in the Senate- a special election to finish the term of SD 13 currently held by Richard Hilderbrand who was appointed to the seat when former senator Jake LaTurner became State Treasurer. Hilderbrand survived a challenge from Democrat Bryan Hoffman to retain the seat so the Senate remains 30 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Independent.

But the actual membership and make-up of the Senate will be changing.

Democratic Senators Laura Kelly and Lynn Rogers were elected as Governor and Lieutenant Governor meaning new Senators will be selected to replace them. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt was elected as Insurance Commissioner and a new Senator will be selected to replace her. These selections are made by the precinct committee chairs in the District representing the party of the departing Senator. So Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 18 will pick a Democratic replacement for Kelly, Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 25 will pick a Democratic replacement for Rogers, and Republican precinct committee chairs in SD 20 will pick a Republican replacement for Schmidt.

There is no telling yet who their replacements might be. They could be chosen from out of the House meaning some new House members would then need to be selected in the same manner or they could select entirely new people. In the case of Vicki Schmidt, the selection depends on the ideology of the precinct committee chairs. If they are mostly conservatives then Moderate Republican Schmidt could be replaced by a Conservative.

There is also much speculation about two other Senators. Independent John Doll left the Republican Party to run as Greg Orman’s running mate. What will he decide to do? Will the Republicans welcome him back? Will he stay as an independent or will he become a Democrat? Will he decide to resign from the Senate? The other one is Republican Senator Barbara Bollier whose public endorsements of Democrats Laura Kelly for Governor and Sharice Davids for Congress brought the wrath of Senate Republican leadership down upon her. What will happen to her if she returns as a Republican? Will she be given the worst assignments or welcomed back? Might she become a Democrat or another Independent?

So the Senate is still up in the air as to how it will look come January.

We have a new Governor!

We are very excited that the election of Laura Kelly as Governor means the door has finally been shut on the extreme conservative administration of Sam Brownback.

Kelly and her Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers are staunch supporters of public schools and public school educators. Kelly has twice won the KNEA “Friend of Education Award” and Rogers has served as a member of the Wichita Public Schools School Board. Both are known for an ability to reach across the aisle to seek compromise for the good of the state.

We are confident that Kelly will do her utmost to include all legislative factions in the process of crafting good legislation to address the issues facing Kansans but also that she will be willing to use her veto pen should she be presented with legislation that turns back the progress made during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

We look forward to working with her throughout her time as Governor.

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