Guns on Campus & The Misunderstood Legend of Bernard P. Fife, Tuition Tax Credits, Pensions and more…

Mar 9, 2017 by

Guns on Campus Gets Another Hearing

The issue of allowing firearms on college and university campuses is a hot topic this year as post-secondary institutions approach a July 1, 2017, deadline by which they must install security measures (metal detectors and staff) at every entrance if they plan to prohibit concealed weapons on campus. As you can imagine, the cost of such security would be prohibitive making it almost a certainty that campuses will be open to guns beginning in July.

Bills have been introduced to repeal the deadline essentially allowing each institution to decide how to handle weapons on campus for themselves. Those bills had hearings earlier in the session and went nowhere.

But today the House Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on HB 2220 which would prohibit post- secondary institutions from adopting any policies about firearms at all. Under this bill, anyone could carry a weapon anywhere on campus at any time – a kind of wild west approach to college campuses. And despite the fact that the institutions oppose the bill, student and faculty groups oppose the bill, and parent groups oppose the bill, the fact that the NRA was there to support it appears to carry more weight.

Rep. Ken Corbet (R-Topeka) tried to crack jokes about the situation saying that if Barney Fife had been allowed to keep his bullet in the chamber instead of his pocket, he could have stopped more crime.  Of course, most know that the bumbling but lovable character played by the late Don Knotts was prohibited from keeping a loaded weapon due to his penchant for misfiring his pistol.

No action was taken on the bill today.


Tuition Tax Credit (Voucher) Bill Hearing Postponed

The hearing on HB 2374, the expansion of the tuition tax credit or voucher bill, was canceled for tomorrow. It will be moved to Wednesday of next week. KNEA will be there to oppose the bill.


Senate Committee Working on Pensions

The Senate begins work on pensions in the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee chaired by Senator Jeff Longbine. The committee has begun pension work by hearing testimony from the Executive Director of KPERS Alan Conroy who reviewed the KPERS System with the committee (KPERS 101) and a review of Working After Retirement issues. The Senate committee will hear testimony next Wednesday regarding HB 2268 which is the House version of updates to Working After Retirement. The Senate committee will hear testimony on Tuesday of next week regarding their version of an update of Working After Retirement covered in SB 138. Look for summaries and current information next week in Under the Dome.


Long-time Education Research Staffer, Sharon Wenger, Retires

We are sad to say that Sharon Wenger, the Legislative Research Department’s staff member assigned to the education committees will be retiring after tomorrow. Anyone of you who has ever attended an education committee meeting in the statehouse would have seen Sharon answering questions and providing resource materials for committee members. It’s not only the legislators who love and admire Sharon, we lobbyists do as well. Her expertise, her demeanor, and her smile will be missed. And as jealous as we are, we can still manage to wish her well and thank her for her years of service to education in Kansas.

Sharon was honored today by the House Education and K-12 Education Budget Committee members.

 

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Senate Kills Gov’s Tax Bill; Then There’s Guns, Vouchers, and Efficiencies

Mar 8, 2017 by

Brownback’s Tax Bill Goes Down in Flames

The Senate yesterday debated Governor Brownback’s tax proposal (SB 175) which would simply raise alcohol and tobacco taxes and increase registration fees on businesses in a hopeless attempt to get out of the massive budget hole created by his reckless tax cuts.

The Senate clearly recognized this and killed the bill by passing an amendment to strike the enacting clause on a vote of 37 -1. The enacting clause indicates when the bill would become law and by removing the clause, the underlying bill can never become law. The motion is the equivalent of killing the bill.

One would think that this action would send a clear message to the Governor that the Senate, like the House, wants tax reform that brings Kansas back from the edge. Of course, the Governor is sticking to his failed policies like a pit bull on a rib bone.

This vote moves the Senate to consideration of a better tax reform bill and that’s the good news.


House Committee to Talk Guns on Campus Tomorrow

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing HB 2220, a bill that would prohibit post-secondary institutions from adopting any policies governing concealed weapons on campus. This is the opposite of earlier attempts to allow those institutions to prohibit firearms on campus.

HB 2220 essentially makes college campuses wild west institutions where anyone can do whatever they want with firearms. Under this bill, no campus could restrict where guns were permitted or who could carry them. Campuses would be completely unregulated when it came to firearms.

KNEA opposes this bill and has called for the passage of legislation to allow colleges to make these decisions.


K-12 Budget Committee to Take Up Radical Expansion of Tuition Tax Credits (i.e. Vouchers)

On Friday, the K-12 Education Budget Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2374, a bill expanding the corporate tuition tax credit program. Under current law the state allows corporations to pay the tuition of at-risk children in Title 1 schools to attend a private school. The corporation gets a 90% tax credit for this. That means the state is giving away $10 million in taxpayer money to send a few kids to unaccountable private school.

We are always fascinated by legislators and lobbyists like Dave Trabert who continually demand more and more accountability and testing in public schools but are perfectly okay sending millions of dollars to unaccredited private schools that report no results to the state at all. But then, we’ve been here a long time and hypocrisy should not surprise us.

At a time when the Court has determined that our public schools are not adequately funded and that many in the legislature are still calling for cuts to public education; at a time when the state faces a two-year budget hole of over $800 million, it is irresponsible to continue to give away tax money for which there is no accountability whatsoever. The best thing for the legislature to do at this time is to simply repeal the program entirely and put that $10 million back in the budget where it belongs to serve all Kansans.


School District Purchasing, Health Care Consolidation Discussion

Last week Secretary of Administration Sarah Shipman called together education stakeholder groups to discuss two of the “efficiency” recommendations that were included as part of the Governor’s budget this year.

Brownback included a requirement that all school districts centralize purchasing through the Department of Administration. State agencies currently use this system and the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study had suggested that there would be significant savings to the state if school districts joined.

He also included an A&M recommendation that school districts consolidate into one health insurance plan like the State Employees Health Plan.

Bills were filed that would accomplish both of these requirements.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee was skeptical about the potential savings and asked Secretary Shipman to bring people together to discuss both issues and come up with recommendations.

KNEA joined KASB, USA/Kansas, the Wichita schools, and Greenbush at the meeting. Also present was the anti-government Kansas Policy Institute.

Today Secretary Shipman reported on the results of the meeting to the committee. In short, the recommendation was that the negatives far outweighed the positives and that there was no way to deliver any savings in 2018 even if the bills were passed.

Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) announced that he would not work the bills but instead let them lie until next year. He will also report to the Appropriations Committee that the bills would not have saved any revenue in 2018.

Representative Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) also pointed out that neither bill would provide a penny of savings to the state unless the legislature reduced school funding by an amount equivalent to the savings instead of letting any savings be redirected to classroom programs.

 

 

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It’s Turnaround! What’s gone? What’s Where?

Mar 2, 2015 by

KNEA has been following, testifying on, and reporting here on a number of bills in the first half of the session. While generally speaking, if a bill has not passed its chamber of origin by Turnaround, it is considered dead for the year. There are some exceptions to this however.

Bills that were introduced in or referred to the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, or Taxation are exempt from timelines. A common practice at Turnaround is “blessing” a bill. A bill that is in a non-exempt committee and has not been acted upon can be referred to an exempt committee and so kept alive into the second half of the session.

Here then is the status of a number of bills we have been tracking.

House Bills:

HB 2139, repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented aliens. KNEA opposes this bill. It still awaits action in the House.

HB 2034, Dave Trabert’s “minority report” bill changing collective bargaining. KNEA opposes this bill. It has been killed.

HB 2199, mandating opt-in for human sexuality education. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2292, repealing the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, ending use of AP and International Baccalaureate programs. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2257, the education community consensus collective bargaining bill. KNEA supports this bill. It was amended into HB 2326.

HB 2236, the bill ending exclusive bargaining rights. KNEA opposed this bill as introduced. It now contains the education community’s consensus collective bargaining bill. It passed the full House and now goes to the Senate. KNEA now supports the bill.

HB 2220, restoring teacher due process. KNEA supports this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2031, school district plans addressing child sexual abuse. KNEA supports this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2232, personal financial literacy course as a graduation requirement. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2234, prohibiting post-secondary institution employees from using their titles when writing in the newspaper. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2028, creating a legislative committee to write education standards. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

Senate Bills:

SB 2, authorizing school districts to offer multi-year contracts to teachers. KNEA is neutral on this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 60, participation by homeschool and private school students in KSHSAA activities. KNEA opposed this bill as introduced. It was significantly amended and has been passed by the Senate. The bill is now in the House. KNEA is neutral on the bill as amended.

SB 70, background checks and fingerprinting of teachers every five years. KNEA opposes this bill. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House.

SB 71, changing the LOB calculation creating a cut in supplemental general state aid in the current year. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 56, Removing the affirmative defense from K-12 public, private, or parochial school teachers. KNEA opposes this bill. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House.

SB 67, Common Core repeal (see HB 2292). KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 212, prohibiting the use of payroll deduction for dues collection. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 179, modifying the Public Employer Employee Relations Act (PEERA) limiting negotiations and eliminating the Public Employees Relations Board. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

For information on other bills we’ve been tracking this session, click on the “Bill Quick Look” link to the right.

For information on the status of collective bargaining, see our post below.

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LOB Cuts, PNA Hearing, Bi-Partisan Bill to Restore Due Process

Feb 3, 2015 by

Ways & Means considers LOB aid cut

The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 71, a bill that would change the way LOB state aid is calculated and reduce LOB funding to schools by more than $39 million.

Here’s how Budget Director Shawn Sullivan explains the bill in a report to Committee Chair Ty Masterson:

Under current law, the amount of state aid that a school district is entitled for its Local Option Budget (LOB) is based on its assessed valuation per pupil (AVPP) and what the statewide AVPP is at the 81.2 percentile. If a district’s AVPP is above the 81.2 percentile, the district receives no LOB State Aid, also known as Supplemental General State Aid. If a district’s AVPP is below the 81.2 percentile, the district is entitled to LOB State Aid, based on how far the district’s AVPP is from the 81.2 percentile. SB 71 would change the calculation of LOB State Aid from using the 81.2 percentile to using the district with the highest total valuation of taxable tangible property for the preceding year.

LOB State Aid expenditures totaling $482,755,000 from the State General Fund have been included in The FY 2016 Governor’s Budget Report. According to the Kansas Department of Education, enactment of SB 71 would reduce LOB State Aid expenditures by $39,098,023.

The Committee room was packed with parents and public school employees testifying in opposition to the bill. It comes on the heels of the last Supreme Court ruling that found the legislature unconstitutionally underfunded equity provisions (LOB and Capital Outlay) in the school finance formula. The Legislature last year boosted those aid payments to address the court ruling.

Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) blasted the proposal as “flying the face of Gannon.” Passage of the bill would almost certainly put the state in jeopardy in the ongoing school finance litigation.

Senate Education Committee working bills

The Senate Education Committee was set to work Senate Bill 2, a bill allowing school districts to offer teachers two or three-year contracts based on their number of years of experience.

The bill had been introduced by Senator Jake LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) at the request of constituents.

During the hearing, KNEA and KASB both testified as neutral on the bill raising a number of concerns about how it might be implemented and what the impact might be on morale.

The committee today chose to take no action on the bill.

The committee then took up Senate Bill 32 from the Efficiency Commission. This bill would require annual efficiency audits of school districts and set up a commission to determine efficiency standards. The committee first amended the bill to ensure that the minority party had representation on the commission. Then, when it appeared the bill was moving along, Sen. Tyson asked about the $2.8 million fiscal note. In the discussion, it was determined that funding the audits was based on a demand transfer – something the legislature often does not do.

Sen. Schmidt noted that if the demand transfer did not get made, then school districts would have to pay for the audits out of their budgets. The bill was pulled back and an amendment will be drawn up that ensures school districts will not have to conduct the audits if the state does not foot the bill.

Finally, they took up Senate Bill 33 which sets up a Commission to set standards aligned with the Rose Capacities. This bill also came from the Efficiency Commission.

Senator Abrams immediately indicated his discomfort with the bill noting that it appeared to interfere with the State Board of Education’s constitutional responsibility for the general supervision of schools. Senators Schmidt and Pettey agreed with Abrams position and it was decided to let the bill lie on the agenda in case they should decide to take it up at a later time.

PNA hearing tomorrow

The House Education Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on House Bill 2034, the minority report bill that would gut collective bargaining rights.

The bill came from a minority of members of the K-12 Efficiency Commission. The majority recommended no changes in PNA pending the completion of on-going talks among education groups to find ways to make collective bargaining more efficient, effective, and focused.

Those talks concluded on January 21 with an agreement signed onto by KNEA, KASB, USA-KS, and KSSA. A bill reflecting the agreement has been introduced in the Senate Education Committee.

All four organizations will testify in opposition to HB 2034 tomorrow and ask the Committee to instead adopt their recommendations.

Bi-partisan bill to restore teacher due process introduced

Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) introduced a bill that would restore due process rights to teachers. These rights were stripped in dead of night legislative maneuvering last April.

The bill is not yet printed but will be House Bill 2220.

When it is available we will have the names of co-sponsors to share with you. Several Republican legislators made a point of telling us today that they had signed on as co-sponsors.

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