School Finance, Tax Reform, & a Veto Pen

Jun 6, 2017 by

Tell your legislators to override the Governor’s veto of CCR for SB 30!

School Finance Passes on Second Try

Yesterday saw the consideration of two school finance plans. The first was created from the conference committee work on HB 2168. The House put tax policy in the bill. Three provisions were included: the establishment of three income tax brackets, the repeal of the glide path to zero, and the repeal of the LLC loophole. Additionally, the bill would direct all state income tax receipts to K-12 education in Kansas. Under this, all other state services would have to be funded with sales and excise taxes and fees.

This bill also required a “trailer bill” (CCR SB 30) that included other tax provisions many of which lowered the income tax receipts possible under the change in brackets. The revenue raised in the bill was lower than other tax bills considered this year.

KNEA, along with other education organizations, opposed the bill (contained now in CCR SB 19). This bill failed on a vote of 32-91 and was sent back to the conference committee. Since the tax trailer bill was tethered to the school finance bill through a provision that assured if one of the bills failed, they both failed, there was no need to then vote on the trailer bill.

Back in the education conference committee, the income tax changes were stripped out of CCR SB 19 and it was sent back to the floor as a school finance bill only. With the tax policy stripped out, the report was adopted in the House on a vote of 67 to 55 and later in the Senate on a vote of 23 to 17.

KNEA believes that the education finance bill that passed is not likely to meet constitutional muster because the funding is not adequate and because there are several provisions which may be considered by the court to be disequalizing. Additionally, the bill expands the tuition tax credit program diverting state money to private schools. We know that many legislators voted against the bill for these reasons; others voted against it because they have no interest in increasing funding for schools. We also know that many legislators who agree with us on the above issues also voted for the bill because they firmly believe at this late date something must be sent to the court for review. They are counting on a court ruling to move more legislators to support a better plan perhaps in a July special session.

Tax Bill Finally Passes; Governor Vows to Veto

After the failure of the tax/school combo bill, the tax conference committee met and assembled a new tax plan (again in CCR SB 30) that restored the three income tax brackets at higher levels than now but lower than 2012, repealed the glide path and the LLC loophole, and phased back in to law some of the family-friendly deductions (medical care, property taxes paid, mortgage interest, child care) over several years. This bill raised significant new revenue – about $600 million per year – and helped Kansas families. KNEA, AFT, Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Organization of State Employees, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, and other allies in Rise Up Kansas threw their support behind the tax bill.

The stand-alone tax bill (CCR SB 30) was ultimately adopted by the House on a vote of 69 to 52 and then by the Senate after midnight on a vote of 26 to 14. We were delighted that a good tax plan was finally adopted but of course, there is still one more hurdle – the intransigence of the man on the second floor.

It wasn’t long before Governor Brownback let it be known that he would veto CCR SB 30. We expected this. After all, Brownback has invested much of his tenure in destroying the tax basis of Kansas, starting with the reckless and irresponsible tax cuts of 2012.

Legislators and Kansas voters know it is time to get the state’s fiscal house in order. In August and November of last year, voters threw out many of the most vocal supporters of the Brownback experiment, replacing them with moderate Republicans and Democrats. Despite Brownback’s lame duck status and persistent rumors of his pending appointment to a position in the Trump administration, he vows to leave the state in fiscal collapse. And sadly, it appears that some in the Legislature are okay with that.

At this time, after six years of falling revenue, after 19 rounds of cuts to state services from universities to K-12 education to public safety, roads and highways, and the social service safety net; after multiple credit downgrades; after putting the state in massive debt through bonding and skipping payments to KPERS, it is time to turn this ship around. It is time to get on the path to fiscal stability.

The Kansas House and Senate must stand up and override the Governor’s veto of CCR SB 30. If they do not, they risk the closure of public schools on July 1.

We need every Kansan who cares, to contact their Representatives and Senators and call upon them to override the Governor’s veto of CCR SB 30.

You can tell your legislator that you want them to override the Governor’s veto easily here.
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Big Gun Debate; Perhaps a Late Education Meeting

Jun 1, 2017 by

The House this morning did not concur in the Senate changes to HB 2186 (a House judiciary bill turned into a Senate school finance bill) and so a conference committee has now been formed. This action allows the work of putting together what will likely be the last school finance bill of the regular session.

With the Senate embroiled in a gun bill debate, the conference committee plans to meet today. It may be just a preliminary meeting as the House will reconvene at 5:00 to take up the newly passed gun bill.


Now, about that gun bill…

The Senate debated Senate Sub for House Bill 2278 which would allow state hospitals to ban firearms. This issue has been a hot topic all session and wrapped up in it additionally have been attempts also to allow colleges to ban firearms. The Governor and hard right conservatives passed a law a few years ago that opened essentially every public area in the state – colleges, municipal buildings, state hospitals, etc.  – along with “constitutional carry” that allows the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit or training (although both still exist).

The law prohibits state hospitals from disallowing weapons on their premises unless all entrances are secured with metal detectors and security personnel. The cost for such security exceeds $24 million annually.  It wasn’t until the Governor learned of these costs that there was a sudden cry to change the law as it relates to hospitals.   Sadly, the Governor and his NRA allies have no concern whatsoever about the cost to colleges and universities, so adding colleges to the bill protecting hospitals would jeopardize the attempt to help the hospitals.

The bill came to the floor with only the change for hospitals and a plea from Senator McGinn (R-Sedgwick), who was carrying the bill on the floor, to please not add amendments for fear of losing the bill entirely. Supporters of banning guns from colleges agreed to support the bill as-is while noting their desire to take the fight for colleges forward.

Of course, the NRA objected strongly to banning weapons from our state mental hospitals but sensing support for the effort, NRA lobbyists wrote an amendment that would allow guns in the hospital parking lots and reception areas. Further, the NRA amendment would require that, if a hospital wished to ban guns beyond reception, it would have to provide secure gun lockers. Senator Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) offered the NRA amendment and remarkably in her closing remarks actually said, “The NRA chose to allow us” to adopt their amendment.

The Senate rallied behind Senator McGinn and the hospitals and defeated the NRA-written amendment on a vote of 16 to 24.

Senator Masterson (R-Andover) then offered an amendment to allow colleges to ban firearms also noting when questioned, that he would not support such an amendment. This was a cynical offer, intended to get supporters of the colleges to vote against the amendment to protect the underlying bill. Alternatively, Masterson was working from the knowledge that if the amendment were approved, the underlying bill would likely be defeated or vetoed and the NRA would carry the day. The Masterson amendment failed on a vote of 5 to 29.

Senator Alley (R-Arkansas City) offered an amendment to get gun safety programs based on the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” program into Kansas public schools. His amendment was ruled non-germane and so was not considered.

As the debate was winding down, Senator Olson (R-Olathe) made the argument that everyone should be allowed to carry guns anywhere they want whenever they want on the off chance that a bad guy might be there. He made the point that he thought this happened once in his district back in 1985 although he wasn’t entirely sure, but someone had told him. And for the second time, he asserted that these killings only happen in “gun-free” zones because the bad guys wander the streets looking for “no guns” signs.  He also explained that people die in KU Med all the time.

Olson then made a motion to dual refer the bill back to both Ways and Means and Federal and State Affairs, Fed and State Affairs being a more NRA-friendly committee. This tactic is often used to kill a bill. Both committees have to send it back to the floor, and it is sent to one that just won’t act. Olson’s motion failed on a vote of 11 to 27.

Senator Pilcher-Cook offered an amendment to prohibit colleges from adopting any regulations regarding guns or ammunition. They could, she said, put up signs telling students it might not be a good idea to carry ammo into a lab where it could explode. This amendment failed on a voice vote.

The bill was approved on a final action vote and upon final action- done immediately- the bill was passed by a vote of 24 to 16.

KNEA supports a safe learning environment for all students. Part of this is allowing the colleges and universities to make the determination about the carrying of weapons for themselves and in the best interests of their students, staff, and community.

 

 

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First School Finance Bill Passes; Four Day Weekend

May 25, 2017 by

The House this morning passed Sub for HB 2410 on final action on a vote of 84 to 39, moving it on to the Senate.

The Senate meanwhile has crafted their own school finance bill which was originally in SB 251 but on moving it out of committee, it was put into HB 2186.

We now know what’s in HB 2410 and can report that we believe the policy in the bill makes for a good school finance plan and will likely be found to be constitutional. The bad news is that the funding in the bill remains low and we expect the Court to call it inadequate.

Sub for HB 2410 contains many important policy pieces including:

  • Full funding of All Day Kindergarten and funding for 4-year-old at-risk,
  • A higher level of at-risk funding and a floor of 10% for districts with fewer than 10% free lunch students,
  • High-density at-risk weighting, low enrollment, and high enrollment weightings,
  • Enrollment count provisions to protect districts impacted by military deployments/transfers, and
  • Funding for mentor teacher and professional development programs.

The bill contains many provisions that re-enact elements of the school finance formula that was in place before its repeal and replacement by the unconstitutional block grant system.

The bill also makes changes to the corporate tuition tax credit scholarship program. The bill would require that private schools receiving students under the program be accredited by the State Board of Education. Eligible students would have to be in one of the 100 lowest performing schools as determined by the Kansas State Department of Education and be free lunch eligible. 50% of those students would also have to be directly certified by the Department of Children and Families. While KNEA still opposes the payment of state monies either directly or indirectly to private schools, HB 2410 makes significant improvements to the program.

The Senate Bill, contained in Sub for HB 2186, is perhaps a different animal altogether.

While it started out similar to HB 2410, there are a number of significant differences including an even lower funding level.

In crafting the bill, while legislators had a copy of SB 251 as drawn up for Senator Denning, very few amendments were submitted in written form. They were offered and debated as “conceptual” amendments all of which were further amended by more conceptual amendments. With nothing in writing it was very difficult to determine the impact of most of the amendments ultimately adopted.

As of today, the amended bill was not available for review. So we apologize, but we will have to wait to report to you on the specifics of the bill until we have had the chance to read it. The word under the dome is that the Senate will caucus on HB 2186 on Tuesday with a vote to follow on Wednesday. If this bill passes, it is possible that the two chambers will go directly to conference with their two versions of school finance as the guides.

And just remember – we have a long way to go before this is done. The Senate must deal with a school finance bill and then a House/Senate Conference Committee will need to hammer out the differences before a final bill can be submitted to the Governor and ultimately the Supreme Court.

It Still Has to be Funded

Yes, funding is needed. Something the state does not have right now.

A tax plan that restores revenue to the state and allows for an increase in school funding has yet to be passed.

On Monday, the House defeated a tax conference committee report in SB 30 that would have restored three income tax brackets, repealed the glide path to zero, and ended the LLC tax loophole. The no votes came from conservatives who don’t believe there is a revenue problem or that schools need more money and from Democrats who pointed out that the bill was not big enough to fund the current budget and increase school funding.

Like HB 2410, KNEA believes that SB 30 (the Monday version) was the right policy but we agreed that more would need to be done to fund schools. We supported the bill because it would have put the income tax system back on firm ground but we agreed that a second bill would be necessary to cover school funding increases.

The House put SB 30 back in committee and the next version to come out was a smaller, more anemic bill. This time we opposed SB 30. And apparently, a lot of legislators did as well because it was pulled before it hit the floor.

Okay, so here’s the problem in following along – SB 30 is the tax bill. It is the tax bill over and over (Groundhog Day?) and each time it emerges out of its hole, it’s different. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad. The next tax bill is likely to be SB 30 and we don’t know if it will be a good SB 30 or a bad SB 30. But look for it on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Should We Be Mad That There is a Four-Day Weekend?

We know, it seems somehow wrong that as soon as they hit 101 days, they decided to take a four-day weekend.

But this has been an extraordinary week under the dome. They have been building tax plans, debating them, arguing about them. The House has finally passed a school finance plan that was the result of a lot of hard work and long hours. This week they’ve been meeting late into the evening and it has been trying.

We know we are exhausted and we also know that they are exhausted. And knowing that good work is seldom done by the unrested, we hope that they will use the long weekend to relax and refresh. That’s what we will do.

But here’s the big thing – we are fully expecting them to come back on Tuesday rested and ready to roll up their sleeves. There’s still a lot to be done and we’re about out of time. There will be long days and night work ahead.

 

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House Fights for Kansans; Senate Bows to Brownback

Feb 22, 2017 by

House Stands Up for Kansas, Overrides Tax Veto

The excitement under the dome this morning was a motion to override the Governor’s veto of HB 2178, the tax reform bill that ends Brownback’s disastrous tax policies first enacted in 2012. The bill represents the first effort to reverse course and restore stability and prosperity to Kansas.

We are exceedingly proud of the strong bipartisan majority who worked to first create the bill and then to override the veto.

Voting to override the veto were Alcala, Alford, Aurand, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Eplee, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans in bold italic.)

Voting NO on the override were (all Republicans) Representatives Arnberger, Awerkamp, Barker, Blex, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Delperdang, Dove, Ellis, Esau, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Lakin, Landwehr, Mason, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Resman, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, A. Smith, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Weber, Whitmer, and Williams.


16 Senators Fail Kansans

Sadly, the Senate had other ideas. Senate leadership (President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning) joined the Brownback allies in blocking the override of the Governor’s veto of HB 2178. Their refusal to join their House colleagues in overriding the veto means that we are back to square one where the majority of legislators try to pass responsible tax reform, the Governor vetoes it while clinging to his delusional confidence in a plan that has done nothing but bankrupt the state.

Brownback will veto any bill that challenges his delusion. His plan is to rob KPERS and Highways and early childhood education programs; his plan is to do nothing and continue in the belief that some magic will occur to save him. And sadly his allies continue to give him anything he wants.

Until the Senate stands up to Brownback, there is little hope that Kansas can get back on the track to stability and prosperity.

The motion to override the veto failed on a vote of 24-16. Those 16 who voted to support the Governor’s program (all Republicans) dismantling Kansas services were: Alley, Baumgardner, Denning, Estes, Fitzgerald, LaTurner, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Suellentrop, Tyson, Wagle, and Wilborn.


House Passes Due Process Restoration; Sends it to the Senate

The House this morning to approve HB 2186, the arbitration bill that includes the Stogsdill amendment restoring due process for Kansas teachers. The amendment inserted the contents of HB 2179 into HB 2186. The bill passed on a vote of 72-53. The vote is as follows:

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

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Due Process Moves on House Floor

Feb 21, 2017 by

House Takes Preliminary Vote on Due Process and It Passes!

When Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) cancelled the education committee meeting yesterday, it was done with the intent of ending the possibility that due process rights for Kansas teachers would be restored. Instead, he got the supporters for HB 2179 looking for another way forward. They found that other path this morning.

With the full House on general orders, a bill dealing with dispute arbitration came up for debate, HB 2186. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (R-Prairie Village) offered an amendment that would restore due process rights for Kansas teachers exactly as it was to be done in HB 2179.

Aurand tried to block the amendment by challenging whether the amendment was germane or related to the underlying bill. The rules committee considered the challenge and ruled that the amendment was indeed germane and that debate could continue.

Much of the debate focused on “local control,” the idea of letting every local school board decide whether or not they would choose to grant due process protections to their teachers. While some school districts have done this, a large majority of school boards simply refuse to even bargain the issue. Teachers in districts that have not bargained due process rights, those teachers may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, typically aren’t told the reason for the termination, and have no recourse to a hearing to determine if they were treated justly or capriciously.

One freshman legislator, Trevor Jacobs (R-Fort Scott), called upon Stogsdill to give him proof that any teachers have been fired for having a bad day since 2014. Of course, no one can be certain of the answer since school districts don’t give reasons for termination unless that has been bargained into the contract.

After a long floor debate, the amendment was adopted on a vote of 66 to 59 as moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting AYE.

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Judd-Jenkins, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

Following that vote, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby), decided to get one dig in at teachers and offered an amendment he called “merit pay.” The amendment was not a merit pay amendment but called for the creation of a mandatory state-wide evaluation system for teachers and school administrators. Additionally, it would direct the State Board of Education to set compensation for teachers and administrators.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) challenged the germaneness of this amendment. The rules committee determined that the amendment was not germane and so it was not debated or voted upon.

The bill was then advanced to final action with 68 votes. That final action vote will likely come tomorrow.


Your call to action tonight!

If your Representative voted AYE on the Stogsdill amendment, take the time to let him/her know that you appreciate the support for Kansas teachers. If your Representative voted NO on the amendment, ask him/her to reconsider and vote AYE on final action on HB 2186.

Find a roster of Representatives with a link to their email addresses by clicking here.


Changes to Working After Retirement (WAR) Get Preliminary OK

HB 2268 passed a preliminary vote in the House today by voice vote.  If the bill passes on Final Action in the House it will then proceed to the Senate.

The bill, as amended makes numerous changes to KPERS in relationship to Working After Retirement.

The current rules for Working After Retirement, as applied to newly retired individuals, caps an individual’s annual earnings at $25,000. Once the cap is reached an individual must either quit working or stop receiving KPERS benefits for the rest of the year.

Also, the current rules for certain groups in KPERS exempt them from the $25,000 cap. This includes nurses at certain state institutions, those in KP&F, those in the Judges Retirement System, local government officials and those employed with a participating KPERS employer prior to May 1, 2015.

Additionally the current rules make an exemption for certain types of licensed school district employees from the $25,000 cap. Importantly participating employers who hire retired licenses school employees are required to contribute to KPERS at rates varying up to 30% of the employee’s salary.

The current exemptions for licensed school district employees include those hired for emergency vacancies, special education teachers, and those who are hired under the hard-to-fill provisions of the current law.

HB 2268 combines all the current special exemptions into a single special working after retirement exemption. The bill also continues the existing provisions of the WAR rules regarding a bona fide separation period, employer assurance protocols, maximum period of employment-three years plus a one year extension-and the current contribution to KPERS rates. Retirees working under the current law would continue to be exempt, subject to the time limits in HB 2268.

Additionally starting on July 1, 2017, those who retire at age 62 or older and who are re-employed by a school district would also be exempt from the earnings cap. The district would be required to contribute to KPERS equal to 30% of the retiree’s compensation.

The bill also exempts those who are re-employed by the Board of Regents and covered by the Regents Retirement Plan from the earnings cap. The Regents Retirement Plan is not administered by KPERS.

 

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