Guns Win; DeVos Moves Ahead Thanks to Pat Roberts

Jan 31, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Gun bill SB 53 allowing colleges to prohibit firearms on campus FAILS to move out of Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs despite hearing from hundreds of proponents including parent groups, students, educators, law enforcement, and others.
  • HB 2074 (identical bill) hearing in House Committee on Federal and State Affairs tomorrow morning, KNEA and dozens of proponents expected to testify in favor.
  • If House bill advances, Senate will have opportunity to reconsider and side with citizen majority rather than NRA lobbyists.
  • U.S. Senator Pat Roberts votes in lock-step with party to move anti-public education zealot on to full Senate vote for confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education.
  • DeVos’s fitness for the post continues to be questioned as new allegations surface that she plagiarized responses on her committee questionnaire.
  • Call Senator Jerry Moran and encourage him to vote against Betsy Devos confirmation:  Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

Senate Committee Backs NRA, Turn Backs on Students & Faculty

This morning the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs voted to reject Senate Bill 53 which would have allowed colleges to decide for themselves whether or not to allow guns on campus.

Testimony before the committee had been overwhelmingly in favor of the bill with students and faculty joined by parent groups and other education groups but still a majority of committee members bowed to the NRA.

A House Bill with the same content, HB 2074, will get a hearing in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee tomorrow. Should that bill go through the House, the Senate will have a chance to reconsider.

In the meantime, you can communicate your frustration with the continued dominance of the NRA despite public support for the bill. If the bill does not pass, then come July 1, 2017, colleges will no longer be able to prohibit the carrying of firearms on campus unless they can provide metal detectors and security staff at every building entrance on campus. As a side note, the legislature will provide no funds at all to pay for the installation of metal detectors or the ongoing cost of security staff.

Members of the Senate Federal and State Committee are: Republicans Jacob LaTurner, Bud Estes, Bruce Givens, Jeff Longbine, Ty Masterson, Rob Olson, and Caryn Tyson and Democrats Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Lynn Rogers. You can find their email addresses and phone numbers by clicking here.

The vote was a voice vote so we cannot tell you exactly how each Senator voted. As best we could tell there were three votes in favor of the bill. Senator Jeff Longbine was not at the committee meeting having been called to a Senate leadership meeting on tax policy.


US Senator Pat Roberts Votes to Approve Anti-Public Education Zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Washington Post

In the United States Senate today, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 12 to 11 to advance Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for Consideration. All 12 Republicans – including Kansas Senator Pat Roberts – voted YES on DeVos while all 11 Democrats voted NO.

The DeVos nomination now goes before the full Senate where Kansas Senator Jerry Moran will have his chance to vote.

It’s time to let Moran know what you think. Call his offices and urge him to vote NO on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. She is unqualified – in her hearing she was unable to identify IDEA as special education and suggested that schools needed guns to fight off grizzly bear attacks – and she has a long history of working to destroy public education in Michigan.  Just today, new questions about Devos’s fitness for service have arisen as some of her responses given during her confirmation proceedings appear to be plagiarized. 

Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

 

 

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Gun Scare Under the Dome!

Jan 26, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Packed house for hearing on SB 53 allowing colleges to keep guns off campus.
  • Hearing coincided with statehouse buzz over Rep. Willie Dove having left his loaded .380 pistol in 5th-floor conference room for anyone to access (including the dozens of children who visit the statehouse daily).
  • More than 50 proponents testified in favor of SB 53 with a handful of opponents testifying against the bill including former Senator Forrest Knox.
  • House Ed Committee hears bill allowing districts to strip homestead exemption in order to gain revenue for special needs students.
  • Bill characterized by its main proponent Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand as a “bad bill” but allows legislators to avoid having to vote for a tax increase (passing on that responsibility to the local community instead).
  • KNEA advocates for a comprehensive and sensible tax policy instead of trickery to solve Brownback’s legacy of failure.

Read media coverage here.

Keeping Guns Off of College Campuses

Rep. Willie Dove provides tangible evidence of need for responsible gun laws

KNEA testified in favor of SB 53, a bill that would allow college campuses to ban firearms. Our testimony focused on the fact that college campuses are occupied by young people under an enormous amount of stress – the stress of being away from home for the first time, the stress of adjusting to roommates, the stress of grades and adjusting to new kinds of teaching and learning schedules, the stress of new romantic relationships. We’ve had plenty of examples of what can happen when a highly stressed, anxious individual can do when carrying a weapon on campus.

Those who favor allowing anyone and everyone to carry a gun on campus somehow believe that these tragic events will be less tragic if more people pull out weapons and try to quickly “take down” an attacker. The sad fact is that adding more guns to the situation including guns in the hands of untrained individuals simply increases the possibility that more people will be shot. Additionally, it puts law enforcement responders who must react quickly and decisively in the position of trying to sort out the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guy.”

This week also had a special “gun show” under the dome! During a House Education Committee meeting in which the Kansas Teacher of the Year team was making a presentation, Representative Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) left the committee room appearing to be in anger. And he left behind his own loaded handgun! We can only assume that Rep. Dove needs to carry heat in the capitol to protect him from angry constituents.

The capitol hosts hundreds of school children every day. Teachers take those children through committee rooms. When the committee rooms are empty, children pose at the tables where Senators and Representatives debate bills. Imagine what happens when a curious 9-year-old finds a loaded pistol just sitting there.

Will SB 53 stop an individual intent on doing harm from acting? No. Will it decrease the likelihood that a tragic situation will escalate into something more deadly? Certainly. And will SB 53 stop law-abiding citizens from making a Willie Dove mistake? Absolutely. If the capitol was a firearms free building, we assume a law-abiding citizen like Rep. Dove would have left his weapon in his car. No weapon would have been inadvertently left loaded and ready where anyone could pick it up.

House Education Committee Considers Letting School Boards Waive Homestead Exemption

Kansas homeowners get a break on property taxes with something called the Homestead Exemption. This allows the first $20,000 of assessed valuation to be exempt from property taxes.

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) introduced HB 2078 which would allow school boards to waive part or all of the Homestead exemption by passing a resolution. Such a resolution would be subject to a protest petition. The impact would be to allow school districts raise additional money through property taxes.

Aurand held a hearing for HB 2078 yesterday during which he emphatically called this a “bad bill” before reversing course saying, “maybe that’s a stretch.”

Most of the questions on the bill dealt with how it would impact equity issues in school finance. The state has already lost the issue of equity at the Supreme Court level. The legislature responded with legislation to restore equity. The Supreme Court ruled then that the equity issue was appropriately addressed.

Aurand believes that the exemption is constitutionally questionable and further noted that passage of this bill would allow districts to get more money while legislators would not have to vote for any tax increase. This has become a common trend in the Kansas legislature – they love to pass the hard decisions on taxation and revenue collection on to local units of government. Legislators can then boast that they did not raise taxes even as their constituents complain about their taxes going up.

Legislative policy under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback has been to cut revenue to the point where services suffer and then count on cities, counties, and school districts to use whatever authority they have to make up the difference.

It’s time for legislators to abandon trickery and face up to the task at hand. The legislature needs to reverse course on the disastrous and irresponsible tax policies they have put in place since 2012 and pass a new tax plan that provides for the needs of our citizens.

 

 

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Guns and good beef

Jan 25, 2017 by

First Gun Bill in Senate Scheduled for Hearing

Senate Bill 53 which would create a permanent exemption for public buildings to the current gun carry law. Under current law college campuses will have until July 1, 2017 to provide security solutions that will stop guns from coming into buildings. If a college cannot provide such security – a metal detector and security at every building entrance – then they cannot prohibit the carrying of firearms in their buildings. Senate Bill 53 strikes the date. While the bill does not outright ban weapons from campuses, it allows each college to put a policy in place based on their situation.

Student, faculty, and administrative groups have all opposed the current law, wishing to keep their campuses safe. College campuses are stressful places for students. Many of these students are away from home for the first time, adjusting to new kinds of schedules, and trying to get along with roommates. They are worried about grades. They might be in new romantic relationships that can go wrong.

While colleges might prohibit firearms on campus, there is of course no guarantee that someone won’t violate the policy. That will always be a problem. But to have multiple persons pull out firearms in defense simply increases the likelihood that there will be victims. Beyond that, it creates a serious problem for law enforcement when responding to an incident. A police officer has no way, in the split seconds it takes to respond, to determine who are the “good guys” and who is the perpetrator.

The bill just came out today and a hearing has been scheduled for Thursday.


Who Among Us Prefers a Select Grade Steak Over Prime?

That is the question that came to us last night during the continued hearing on HB 2023, the repeal of the LLC income tax exemption.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Americans for Prosperity all claimed in their testimony against the repeal that the state of Kansas has plenty of money and before business owners should have to pay income tax like the rest of us, the legislature should cut and cut and cut spending. It’s apparently not enough that we have essentially depleted our highway fund, robbed over $100 million from employee pensions, and cut services for Kansans with disabilities in order to give the income tax exemption to business owners, we must continue on the path of service destruction.

One of their lobbyists, in response to a question about where to cut, told the committee that it was easy to “cut the fat cap off a piece of beef, but much harder to cut the marbling.” We could not think of a better analogy!

The legislature has indeed “cut the fat cap off.” And they’ve begun digging out the marbling. What they fail to remember is that the marbling is what moves a steak from “select” to “choice” to “prime.” Any lover of a good steak knows that marbling – more of it – is what makes steak taste so good. One can look at a steak and know what grade it is by the marbling.

Kansas for years provided prime grade services from education to public safety, from highways to a social service safety net. The fat cap was cut off years ago – Kansans by their nature are fiscally conservative – but there was always enough marbling to let schools go from okay to excellent, enough marbling to make our neighboring states envious of our roads and highways, enough marbling to make life better for our seniors and those with disabilities.

The last few years, legislators have been digging out the marbling. Kansans are experiencing for the first time what no marbling tastes like. It tastes sour. Kansans want better and they started demanding better last August and again in November.

 

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