Dissent is treason… and other tidbits.

Mar 15, 2016 by

House Committee Holds Hearing of First Equity Fix Bill

The House Appropriations Committee this morning held a hearing on HB 2731, a bill proposed by Rep. Ron Ryckman, Jr. (R-Olathe) intended to address the equity finding of the Supreme Court.

Under the bill, the state would return to the pre-block grant equity provisions for LOB, Bond & Interest, and Capital Outlay. It would require about $40 million in funding. The bill provides for $17 million by repealing the extraordinary needs fund and applying that appropriation to equity funding and then finding an additional $23 million. We don’t know where that money is to be found.

While Ryckman said there was no intent to create “winners and losers,” the bill does. Some school districts will lose funding while others gain. Some legislators have suggested that the Ryckman approach might be viable except that it would likely lose the support of his fellow Johnson County legislators due to the loss of funding some of them would experience.

Some legislators have suggested a “hold harmless” provision would be necessary but at least one member of the committee this morning wondered aloud if such a provision would simply continue the inequity that caused the problem to begin with.

There were only four conferees on the bill, all listed as neutral although one, Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute suggested there would be at least four “shades of neutral.” Others conferees were KASB, Shawnee Mission School District, and Blue Valley School District.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Tomorrow the Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on SB 512, the equity fix proposed by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover). Under SB 512, equity is achieved by moving existing funds in the block grant around. There is no new money in this bill whatsoever. Most people wonder if passage of the Masterson bill wouldn’t seriously damage the state’s position in the yet-to-be-resolved adequacy decision.

House Education Committee Meeting Delayed

The House Education Committee was expected to meet today at 1:30 to continue work on HB 2456, the bond and interest review panel bill. Yesterday Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) offered an amendment that would provide for a measure of certainty in cost (the biggest complaint of the proponents) within the current system.

There was interest around the committee in the Trimmer amendment but not agreement on the details. We understand that Trimmer has worked with others including Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa), chair of the House Education Budget Committee to come up with a proposal that a majority of the committee could support. It was expected that this compromise would be considered today.

When they finally convened at 2:30, Rep. Trimmer offered a new amendment reflecting a compromise. The new amendment would use the current calculation for bond and interest state aid but for elections on or after July 1, 2016, the same system will be used except that the total amount spent cannot exceed the average of the past six years as determined by the State Board of Ed. The SBOE can prioritize districts or pro-rate amount should requests exceed the total allocated funds. The amendment would not have the project review board.

Veto Overrides Considered In Senate

The Senate today took action on two of Governor Brownback’s vetoes.

The first dealt with their razing of the Docking State Office Building. The Governor had made a secret deal to build a new capital complex power plant that required the razing of the building. Legislators were not happy when they learned of the deal and passed a bill stopping him from razing the building. Brownback has since said the contract for the plant was cancelled but he still fought the override. Recently he claimed that an override would jeopardize the state’s bond rating. The vote to override today fell one vote short after a call of the Senate. Senator Jeff Melcher was mysteriously absent.

The second veto dealt with an economic development program known as STAR bonds. STAR bonds deny sales tax revenue to the state from certain development projects. The Governor has proposed using STAR bonds to lure the American Royal across state lines. The Legislature given the current revenue crisis was loathe to give up so much revenue and passed legislation stopping the use of these bonds. The Governor vetoed the action and today, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to override his veto. If the House takes similar action, it will represent a significant loss for the Governor.

Palace Intrigue!

Merrick

House Speaker, Ray Merrick

Representative John Rubin (R-Shawnee) was unceremoniously stripped of his chairmanship of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee and Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) was stripped of his position on the House Rules Committee by Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell).

It came as a shock to the those watching proceedings as Merrick made the announcement at the close of floor work this afternoon.

Rubin announced to the press that he would be resigning from the House as of midnight tonight.

Word under the dome is that the action was take because Rubin dared to challenge a ruling of the chair and perhaps Barker gave a ruling that was contrary to the chair. We’ll likely never know for sure but that’s the whispering going on over here.

We’ve been writing a lot the past few years of an increasing attitude of “dissent is treason” within Republican leadership. From the purging of moderate Republican senators in 2012 by Governor Brownback, to stripping pro-public education Republicans of seats on the education committee and taking pro-medicaid Republicans off the House and Human Services Committee, to multiple bills seeking to silence public employees, the hallmark of Republican leadership today is the demand for blind obedience to their ideology.

That’s why we would love to have you make a presence in the Capitol this week as part of our Celebrate Freedom Week. We can’t let our participatory democracy that values debate and compromise to be dismantled in favor of ideological purity. It’s spring break – come celebrate freedom under the dome!

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Celebrate Freedom Week Day 1! Due Process Bill Moves!

Mar 14, 2016 by

Celebrate freedom week was instituted by the Kansas Legislature in 2013.  The purpose was to mandate that students be taught specific aspects of Kansas and United States history.  Setting aside the fact that some in the Kansas Legislature seem to have lost sight of the participatory democracy at the heart of free society, we encourage you to come and remind them that celebrating freedom means EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS.

Many school districts are currently on spring break offering an excellent opportunity for teachers, parents, and families to come to the statehouse and engage their representatives.  Each morning this week, a KNEA staffer will be available at about 9:30 a.m. in the statehouse to help you connect with your representatives.  Take advantage of the time and plug-in.

Today marked the final leg of Game On for Public Schools’ walk to Topeka.  Started by a parent, Heather Ousley, from Merriam, Kansas four years ago, this advocacy event has grown massively.  This year, three groups of walkers from Kansas City, Manhattan, and Emporia spent the weekend walking to Topeka to highlight the plight of public schools in Kansas.  Walking the final mile to the statehouse were a group of public education advocates approaching and perhaps exceeding 1,000 parents, teachers, school administrators, board members, and most importantly kids.  This group seized an opportunity to stand up strong for public education.  Now is the time to follow-up their efforts and keep a visible and vocal presence in the statehouse this week.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.29.46 PMClick Here to view a photo essay from today’s public education rally at the statehouse.

 


Education in the A & M Report

The House Appropriations Committee this morning heard reports from Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa), chair of the Education Budget Committee and Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego), chair of the House Education Committee on the discussions held in their committees on the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

There were three recommendations that were particularly controversial; two were in the Education Budget Committee.

The first proposal would have the state sweep unencumbered cash balances from school districts. A&M suggested that fund balances could be capped at 15% and have a minimum of 10%. The sweep in the recommendation would provide a one-time influx of cash. A&M also said that such an action should not be taken until the legislature introduced year-to-year stability in school funding.

Grosserode reported that the committee should not proceed with this recommendation without first gathering a lot more information and balances that were more up to date.

The other proposal deals with requiring school districts to make purchases via the Department of Administration’s procurement list. Grosserode reported that the committee has proposed legislation to require districts to use the procurement list unless there is an existing contract or the district is making the purchase via a service center or the district can source the item within 1% of the price on the procurement list.

Highland reported on the proposal to create a state-wide health insurance plan for school employees. Highland said the state should proceed very cautiously as there were so many complications to consider. As with the cash balance proposal, the committee suggested a lot more data was needed including how benefit plans interacted with salaries in teaching. The expected a lot of push-back from teachers and school districts should they move forward with this proposal at this time.

Chairman Highland also reported that they were recommending that the state go ahead with recommendation to establish a centralized grand writing function to capture more grant money for schools.


House Education Committee Deals with Anti-due Process Bill

The House Education Committee went ahead with plans to gut a Senate Bill (SB 136) and fill it with the contents of House Bill 2531, stripping community and technical college instructors of due process protections.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) successfully amended the bill by adding in a requirement that those colleges utilize the e-verify system to ensure that they were hiring only legal workers. After the amendment passed, a motion to reconsider was offered by Rep. Kevin Jones (R-Wellsville). The amendment was reconsidered and passed yet again.

Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) offered an amendment to move the effective date to July 1, 2018, two years from now. Winn argued that this would give the colleges and their employees time to negotiate their own due process provisions.  Many of the opponents said they would never deny due process protections so the Winn amendment would let them demonstrate such a commitment. The Winn amendment failed.

The bill, as amended, was then passed out of committee and will go to the full House for consideration.

 

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