Resolutions and Reports; Conference Committee Time!

Apr 28, 2016 by

A Day for Resolutions

This is the time in the legislative year when there is plenty of down time as conference committees meet to work out differences in bills and then rush those reports back and forth for floor votes. That means there is time for honoring folks and today was no exception.

In the House this morning we listened with interest to resolutions honoring championship high school sports teams. We love high school sports. Our own children participated in high school wrestling, baseball, track, soccer, cross country, bowling and golf – activities that taught them teamwork, cooperation, sportsmanship and many more of the “soft skills” so talked about by legislators and educators today. Of course it is not lost on us that the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees have introduced a school finance bill that would prohibit the expenditure of any state education aid on athletics. Honoring the teams while considering banning the funding seems a tad…what’s the word we’re looking for?

There was also a resolution honoring the University of Kansas for 150 years of excellence the reading of which was concluded with legislators calling out “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” Pretty soon they’ll begin conversations about the recommendation by Governor Brownback that millions of dollars in cuts to our universities continue for another year to shore up the budget collapse brought on by his reckless tax policy.

Oh well, we can only hope that the resolutions honoring our student athletes and excellent universities that they adopted today will give them pause as they consider legislation to ban athletic funding, mortgage our preschool funding, and cut our universities.

A Day for Conference Committee Reports

This afternoon, the Senate adopted an education conference committee report dealing with post-secondary education. The report, CCR 2622, holds four items:

  • The degree prospectus program under which institutions would provide prospective students with data on graduation rates and performance,
  • The CLEP provision that standardizes the use of CLEP examines for earning college credit,
  • The performance based funding incentives for career and technical education, and
  • Adjustments to some fees charged by the Board of Regents.

This conference committee report must now go to the House for consideration. That may happen later this evening. Click here to read the conference committee report.

How do conference committees work?

Conference committees are established to work out differences in the versions of bills passed by both chambers. Since each chamber has the opportunity to amend and vote on every bill, if the same bill comes out of the second chamber in a form different from what was passed by the first chamber, a conference committee negotiates a compromise bill.

Conference committees are made up of three Senators and three Representatives. Usually they are the Chair, Vice-Chair, and Ranking Minority Member of the committees that worked the bill.

If the conference committee report (CCR) is in a House bill (See CCR 2622 mentioned earlier), then it must be adopted by the Senate before returning to the House. Likewise, if it is in a Senate Bill, it goes first to the House for approval.

To be voted on by the chamber, all six members of the conference committee must sign the bill unless they “agree to disagree.” Often the minority party members will not sign a report due to some poison pill being inserted into the report. If a report comes with only four signatures, the full chambers must adopt a motion to “agree to disagree” after which the report needs only four signatures for a vote.

If the motion to agree to disagree is not adopted, the report goes back to the conference committee where it can be re-negotiated to get the six signatures.

Yes, the whole back and forth and voting to agree to disagree reminds us of a Bob Hope quote in the film The Lemon Drop Kid (based on a story by Manhattan, Kansas native Damon Runyon): “I swore on a plate of black eyed peas and candied yams…it’s messy, but it’s binding.” The whole conference committee process to an outsider may appear messy…but it’s binding.

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Bathroom Use; CLEP Credit; Equity Bills; In-State Tuition

Mar 17, 2016 by

New Bill Introduction in Senate

Just up this afternoon is a Senate Bill – SB 513 – “creating the student physical privacy act.” Word under the dome is that this bill comes from Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee). It would prohibit a student from using a restroom for a gender other than that identified at the student’s birth.

The bill would prohibit policies allowing transgendered students from using the restroom facilities of the gender with which they identify. Alternative facilities may be made available to transgendered students. The bill would also give a private cause of action against the school if that student should encounter a student of the opposite gender in a facility provided for his/her gender if the school “gave such person of the opposite sex permission to use facilities designated for use by such student’s sex” or the school “failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit such person of the opposite sex from using facilities designated for use by such student’s sex.”

Currently, policy decisions on the use of such facilities are left to the wisdom of locally elected school boards in consultation with teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents.

House Ed Committee Advances CLEP Bill

The House Education Committee today held a hearing on SB 388, requiring the State Board of Regents to adopt a policy on awarding credit hours based on CLEP test results. The bill would standardize the granting of credit for performance on a CLEP examination such that the credits could easily transfer among Kansas higher education institutions.

The bill was passed out of committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

Working the Equity Bills

The House Appropriations today worked HB 2731, the Ryckman bill dealing with school finance equity in response to the Supreme Court decision. It became clear very quickly that the bill did not have enough support in the Committee to move forward.

Most of the negative comments were directed more to the Court than to the provisions of the bill itself. One legislator even asserted that the Court had no understanding of either school finance or equity.

Reps. Jerry Henry (D-Cummings), Sidney Carlin (D-Manhattan), and Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) tried to impress upon their colleagues that the Court did not choose to weigh in, there was a lawsuit that they were required to hear, that the Court relied on a study commissioned, paid for, and adopted by the Legislature as the only evidence brought forth, and that the demands on schools have grown tremendously over the years and are more costly.

In the end, Ryckman chose not to put the bill to a vote.

In the Senate Ways and Means Committee, SB 512, the Masterson bill dealing with school finance equity was quickly passed out of committee and has been sent on to the full Senate for consideration.

Both bills return to the previous equity formula (before block grants) and sweep the $17 million out of the extraordinary needs fund. The balance of the needed money is new spending in the Ryckman bill and is redistributed from school districts in the Masterson bill.

On the Floors Today

House Bill 2700 was scheduled for debate on the House floor today but was pulled and returned to the Pensions committee. We suspect it will be placed in another bill and sent back for reconsideration. This is likely an effort to put the bill in a position that it can be quickly voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor.

No other bills we are tracking were on the floor for debate today.

As we write this the Senate is still in deep debate on the second bill of nine on their debate calendar today. And the first bill was passed over after a long debate while they wait on another amendment to come forward.

We are waiting for the debate on the fifth bill, HB 2567 which deals with tuition rates for military personnel. It is rumored that there will be an attempt to pass an amendment that would repeal in-state tuition to the children of undocumented workers.

We will report on this tomorrow.


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