Thank you to all who took the time to contact legislators this week urging them to oppose the K-12 budget bill tied to bad education policy! We had hundreds of engagements on our alert, and with your help we were able to narrow the vote. It did ultimately pass the House 75-48. The good news is that this is not the last we will see of this bill – our work continues!
H Sub for SB 113 now goes to the Senate. Because the contents were placed within a Senate bill that previously passed that chamber, it will now go back to the Senate for a vote on whether to accept or reject the changes and send it to conference committee where 3 legislators from each chamber will negotiate the changes. We will start seeing conference committee work next week.
This week also marked the end of committee work. Next week, both chambers are scheduled to be on the floor all day debating and voting on a host of bills as we work our way to first adjournment which is scheduled for April 6.
WHERE THINGS STAND
- H Sub for SB 83 is the major voucher scheme bill at play. It passed the House last week on a vote of 64-61. The Senate Education Committee held a short briefing on the bill today (Friday, March 24) and committee members were asked to provide their input to chair Molly Baumgardner, vice chair Renee Erickson, and ranking minority leader Dinah Sykes. The policies contained within the bill were never worked in the Senate nor did they ever have a vote on them. Thus, the Senate is going into negotiations with no positions. The conference committee is scheduled to begin on Monday.
- SB 128 is a voucher scheme that provides tax credits in the amount of base state aid to individuals with children attending nonpublic schools. This bill initially failed to make it out of committee. The Senate Tax committee reworked it late Thursday afternoon and advanced it out of committee. It now awaits action by the Senate as a whole.
- HB 2048 is the voucher scheme that expands the “low income” tax credit scholarship program. This bill remains in the House Committee on K-12 Education. However, that does not mean it could not show up in a conference committee next week.
- Senate Budget: The Senate version of the full budget, including the K-12 budget, is contained in Sub SB 155. It passed the Senate last week on a vote of 23-12. It is now in the House Appropriations committee and will be used for the basis of negotiations on the budget.
- 20-mill Continuation: The House bundled the continuation of the 20 mill statewide property tax levy for schools into H Sub for SB 113. However, the Senate has a stand-alone bill that passed out of committee this week. We anticipate action to be taken on SB 295.
- Parents’ Rights: The Senate Committee on Education amended the contents of the House bill seeking to further codify existing rights parents already have in directing their children’s education. HB 2236 then passed out of committee and now awaits action by the Senate as a whole. As a reminder, the bill passed the House 75-47.
- Educators Apprenticeship Program: HB 2292 includes a provision that creates a paid apprenticeship program for paraprofessionals or other school staff pursuing a teaching career. The bill passed the House 115-7. It is awaiting action in the Senate.
- Trans Athlete Ban: Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed HB 2238, a bill banning transgender girls from participating in club, intramural, or school athletics. An effort to override this veto is anticipated next week.
- Gender Affirming Care: SB 233 prohibits gender affirming care and creates a civil penalty for physicians who provide such care regardless of consent from parents. The bill passed the Senate 26-11. The House took no action in it; even the committee never scheduled a hearing. So, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee bundled it with House Bill 2263, a bill initially introduced to allow pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations.
- Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccines: SB 314 prohibits the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from imposing requirements of the COVID-19 vaccination as part of the required immunizations to attend childcare facilities or school. This bill is a simple amendment away from eliminating the Secretary’s authority to require any childhood immunizations. The bill passed out of committee and now heads to the full Senate.
- Expanding Vaccine Exemptions: SB 315 allows the expansion of exemptions from required immunizations on the basis of sincerely held beliefs without additional scrutiny. The bill also eliminates the requirement of the meningitis vaccination to live in student housing. The bill initially failed in committee on a vote of 3-4 but was reconsidered Friday morning and advanced to the full Senate.
- Infectious Disease Control Stifled: SB 6 restricts the duties and authority of the Secretary of Health and Environment and would make it more difficult to act in cases of public health concern. It would also prohibit schools from sending home students with infectious diseases. The bill passed the Senate before turnaround on a vote of 22 to 18. The House did not act on it so the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee bundled it in House Bill 2390, which originally would have decriminalized fentanyl test strips. The committee stripped that portion of the bill, however. It now awaits action by the Senate and is set up to go to conference.
- Increase Tobacco Age to 21 HB 2269 would increase the age to purchase cigarette and tobacco products to 21 years old. The bill passed the House 68 to 53. It advanced out of the Senate committee and now awaits action by the full Senate.
- Advance Ballot Grace Period: The Senate’s version of this bill, SB 209, has been passed out of the House committee and awaits action by the House. The Senate did not act on the House version of this bill.
- Eliminating Drop Boxes: SB 208 that was amended to eliminate advance ballot drop boxes has been gutted in the House committee with non-controversial policy. This elimination of drop boxes appears to no longer be in play, but that is always subject to change.
Culture Wars Rage On
A set of sister bills that emerged in February had dual hearings Wednesday in House and Senate Education Committees.
The bills basically require local school districts to adopt policies regarding the sleeping arrangements of students on school sponsored activities that require overnight accommodations. The bill’s intent is to prevent boys and girls from being required to share sleeping arrangements. Certainly, districts already have such policies; however, this bill targets transgender students.
Sadly, a few culture warriors appear to be conflating sincere parental concerns with ongoing efforts to cast LGBTQ+ students as deserving of the effort to marginalize them. Let’s be clear: Not every legislator who thinks this bill is a good idea fits the description of a “culture warrior” but there are a few of the regular suspects doing their Paul Revere routine, warning the village the “WOKE AGENDA IS COMING!!!” If only our elected representatives would focus on real problems like a growing shortage of teachers, recovering from a global pandemic, and strengthening our neighborhood schools instead of advancing a misinformation campaign.
We opposed the bill in both committees and we encouraged legislators to lean-in and listen to the educators and parents rather than sacrificing what’s best for ALL students just to advance a partisan agenda.
See our oral testimony at the links below.
Senate – Time Stamp: 2:04:15
House – Time Stamp 3:21:15
“Cross Examine” Time Stamp 2:12:20
Both bills passed out of their respective committee. The House bill on Thursday and the Senate bill today, Friday, March 24.
The House bill was amended to change the word “biological” sex to be substituted with the word “genetic” sex. The same amendment stripped the original definition of sex and replaced it to read any individual with a “Y” chromosome at the 23rd loci…. shall be considered male.
Members of the Senate committee tried to take the charged political nature out of the bill by putting more power into the hands of parents. The bill also allows transgender students to have the right to object to whom they may be forced to share a bed. You may have guessed the amendment was just too reasonable for the overly political members of the committee to support so it failed on a 3-3 vote.
The bill was later dropped into a new bill and coupled with a bill dealing with consolidation and school closures and will likely be in conference committee in the following days.
As reported last week, a mega tax relief bill was heard in the House Tax Committee this week. Though there are things in the bill we could support, like the acceleration of the exemption of state sales tax on food the bundled nature of the bill and its’ fiscal impact are still concerning.
Learn more about the bill here.
See our oral testimony here. Time Stamp: 4:50:00
The House Committee on Taxation passed the mega tax bill out of committee on Thursday. To the credit of the reasonable people on the committee, the bill was amended to bring the fiscal impact (revenue loss) down significantly. The committee chair noted the bill needed to be in the neighborhood of $500 million dollars to fit his estimate of “responsible.”
According to reporting by the Sunflower State Journal, the bill would do the following:
- Set a state tax rate at 5.25% across all earners while exempting income up to $6,150 for individuals and $12,300 for married couples filing jointly. The original flat rate would have been set at 4.95% in the bill before it was amended.
- Eliminate the state sales tax on groceries on July 1 instead of phasing it out through 2025. Gov. Kelly had called for an immediate phaseout of the food tax. The House plan only applies to the state sales tax. It would not apply to local sales taxes after local government officials implored lawmakers not to cut a vital revenue source.
- Increase the standard deduction for single individual taxpayers to $4,000 from $3,500 in tax year 2023. It also raises the standard deduction for all taxpayers to account for cost-of-living adjustments starting in 2024.
- Increase the property tax exemption for the 20-mill levy for public schools from $40,000 of valuation to $65,000 starting in tax year 2023. The bill provides for the amount to increase in future tax years based on the average percentage change in statewide residential real property for the preceding 10 years.
- End the tax cliff on Social Security taxes. Kansans currently don’t pay taxes on Social Security benefits if they earn $75,000 or less a year in federal adjusted gross income from all sources. But if they earn just $1 more than $75,000, they go over a so-called “cliff” when they are hit with a substantially bigger tax bill. The House bill gradually phases in the tax by increasing the threshold to $100,000. Under the bill, for example, if a taxpayer’s federal adjusted income is halfway to $100,000, only half of the Social Security benefits would be taxed.
The major heartburn we have is the regressive nature of the flat tax and whether it goes too far.
During the testimony on Monday, our Government Relations conferee was specifically asked whether KNEA believes this bill would harm public education. Our answer was – given the fact that public education is the largest line item in the state’s budget – we would be the first program harmed if the tax cut went too far.
We appreciate the sentiment of restraint. We hope this committee’s deliberations have left us with a bill that will not harm us.
The ESG/KPERS bills continue to bounce around like pinballs. One version of this family of bills was debated on the floor of the Kansas House on Friday. HB 2436, what is now being billed as the “compromise ESG bill,” passed the House on Thursday.
Meanwhile, SB 291, the Senate version and what is being regarded as “the bad ESG bill,” was pulled back into the Senate Federal & State Affairs committee on Thursday for “further work.”
We’re hopeful reasonable sentiment continues to guide this concept through the process and end in a bill that doesn’t damage KPERS.