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!


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!