The Kansas Legislature is wasting no time with their work during these last weeks of the regular session. Next week, the week of March 6, we have 20 bills scheduled for hearings and/or final action – meaning, the committee is set to work the bills and vote on them. We are entering the part of session where the policy making starts to get really ugly: we see more political maneuvering and manipulation of the legislative process.
As a reminder, all legislative activity – whether it is in committees and on the floor – is live streamed and archived. The calendar listing each activity by date and time can be found by following this link. Simply click on the corresponding activity and it will open up a tab with the video and audio of the legislative activity.
These bills include the following:
- Para to Teacher Apprenticeship Program HB 2292 would enact the Kansas apprenticeship tax credit act to encourage development of apprenticeship programs in Kansas by providing income tax credits for participating businesses that employ apprentices. The bill includes an apprenticeship program for education support professionals to become teachers. There is a hearing on this bill on Thursday, March 9, in the Senate Commerce Committee. KNEA is supportive of the bill.
- “Parents Bill of Rights” This year’s version of the Parents’ Bill of Rights contained in House Bill 2236 has a hearing in Senate Education on Thursday, March 9, at 1:30 p.m. Although the bill does not mandate as much as last year’s versions did, it is still an unnecessary bill that is ripe for unintended consequences.
- Voucher Schemes The House K-12 Education Budget Committee is scheduled Monday, March 6, at 3:30 p.m., to work on a voucher scheme bill that came over from the Senate (SB 83). This is the bill that had the hearing “in name only.” Chairperson Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) has told reporters she plans to insert the contents of the education savings accounts bill (HB 2218) – aka the ultimate voucher scheme bill – into the bill.
The Senate does not have an equivalent education savings account bill. By placing the contents of a House bill into a Senate bill that has already passed out of the Senate, it usurps the committee process in the Senate entirely. This means the Senate will have two options: 1) accept the changes from the House to the Senate bill; or 2) reject the changes and send it to conference committee. In either scenario, the Senate as a whole loses the ability to hold a hearing on the bill or offer amendments.
Under no circumstances do we support any effort to divert public funds to private schools.
- Making Elections Less Accessible Two bills seeking to make it more difficult for Kansans to vote with advanced ballots are scheduled to have hearings in the House Elections committee the week of March 6.
Senate Bill 208 prohibits the use of remote ballot boxes for the return of advance voting ballots. All ballots would then have to be returned relying solely on the United States Postal Service or through hand delivery to the county election office. The hearing on Senate Bill 208 is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, at 3:30 p.m.
Senate Bill 209 eliminates the 3-day grace period for returning advance ballots. This grace period was initially implemented to account for the shifts in mail processing centers to out of state. Removing the grace period means all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. The hearing on Senate Bill 209 is scheduled for Thursday, March 9, at 3:30 p.m.
We oppose both bills.
- Firearm Safety Mandate A bill that passed the Senate on a vote of 30 to 8, directs the Kansas State Board of Education to establish curriculum guidelines for firearm safety education utilizing the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program. Senate Bill 116 has a hearing in the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Wednesday, March 8, at 9:00 a.m. We oppose this bill because it ties the hands of the state Board of Education members to make these decisions.
- Budget The Governor’s budget proposal is going to see quite a bit of action this week as both chambers are scheduled to hold hearings, work, report out various components to the budget, and likely pass the final products out of committee. The budget is the most important component of the legislative session and is quite often the last bill worked before they wrap up and go home. The budget is contained on the Senate side in SB 155 and the House side in HB 2273. The Senate Education Committee works the education portion of the budget and reports its recommendations to the Senate Ways & Means Committee while the House K-12 Education Budget committee works the education budget and reports to the House Appropriations Committee. We support the Governor’s proposed budget.
- Fentanyl Test Strips In light of the current fentanyl crisis that has made its way into schools, KNEA is supporting HB 2390, which seeks to remove fentanyl test strips from the definition of drug paraphernalia. This bill already passed the House unanimously. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday, March 9, at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate Committee on Public Health & Welfare.
- “Women’s Bill of Rights” This bill has a hearing Monday, March 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the House Committee on Health and Human Services. It creates a system of discrimination by oversimplifying what constitutes a male and a female by the biological reproductive system functions they are born with. Senate Bill 180 is referred to as the so-called “Women’s Bill of Rights” but this is simply a poorly disguised attack on transgender Kansans and women. We oppose this bill.
- Teacher Mobility Compact SB 66 would enact the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact. The purpose of the compact is to facilitate the mobility of teachers across the member states with the goal of supporting teachers through a new pathway to licensure. The compact would establish a collective regulatory framework that expedites and enhances the ability of teachers to move across state lines. There is a hearing on this bill on Monday, March 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the House Committee on Education. KNEA has testified against this bill in the past and will continue to oppose because this work lies with our elected state Board of Education members.
- Trans Athlete Ban HB 2238 would require student athletes to compete in gender-specific sports based upon the student’s biological gender. The bill would require athletic sports in any public school or postsecondary educational institution to expressly designate sports as men only, women only, or coed. Male gender student athletes would be prohibited from participating in sports designated for women or girls. There is a hearing on this bill on Monday, March 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Education Committee. KNEA has testified against this bill in the past and will continue to oppose it.
- Killing KPERS Bill SB 224 is a bill that would enact the so-called Kansas protection of pensions and businesses against ideological interference act. In short, this bill would require KPERS to divest from and prohibit state contracts or the deposit of state moneys with entities engaged in such boycotts as determined by the state treasurer. It would also prohibit discriminatory practices in the financial services industry based on ideological boycotts involving environmental, social or governance standards (ESG). Many companies are attempting be good corporate citizens by not investing in companies that may be promoting behaviors that cause damage to the environment. This bill would prohibit KPERS from investing in such companies. KNEA believes this bill could be devastating to KPERS. There is a 3-day hearing on this bill starting on Tuesday, March 7, in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.