March 10 marks Day 1 of the second half of the 2021 Kansas legislative session. There are a number of things we’ve got to focus on for the second half.

All bills that were not in “exempt” committees (those committees to which legislative timelines don’t apply) had to be passed by the chamber of origin by “turnaround” (March 5) in order to be considered by the second chamber. Of course, there are ways around this – primarily “blessing” a bill which is a procedure in which leadership temporarily refers a bill to an exempt committee, keeping it alive for the rest of the session.

Exempt committees include Appropriations in the House, Ways and Means in the Senate, and the Federal and State Affairs and Tax committees in both chambers.

Status of bills on which KNEA provided testimony

House Bill 2068 – Radical expansion of the tuition tax credit voucher program. This bill was blessed and KNEA testified in opposition.

House Bill 2354 – A bill limiting public employee rights to use payroll deduction for union dues. This bill was not blessed and is now dead as a bill. However, it could come up again as an amendment somewhere. KNEA testified in opposition.

House Bill 2038 – A bill providing excess liability insurance for teachers paid for by the state. The intent is to discourage teachers from joining a professional organization. The bill was rejected by the committee and has not been blessed. It is dead for this session. KNEA testified in opposition.

House Bill 2039 – A bill mandating students pass a citizenship test in order to pass a high school civics class, essentially micro-managing teaching and assessment in those classes. The bill passed the House and will now go to the Senate for consideration. KNEA testified in opposition.

House Bill 2058 – A bill providing for reciprocity with other states for concealed carry of firearms permits. The bill was amended on the House floor to create a concealed carry permit for individuals 18 through 20 years of age. Currently there is no permit for individuals under 21. When combined with legislative restrictions on the ability of post-secondary institutions to control firearms on campus, this bill means that essentially all students on Kansas public, post-secondary campuses will be allowed to carry firearms. The amended bill was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration. KNEA has no position on the reciprocity of concealed carry permits but provided testimony in opposition to the amendment establishing a permit for individuals under the age of 21.

House Bill 2340 – Raising the age for the sale or possession of tobacco products to 21. The bill was passed out of committee but not debated on the floor. This bill is still alive since it was introduced in the Federal and State Affairs Committee. KNEA testified in support.

House Bill 2301 – A bill establishing legislative mandates on personal financial literacy classes in public schools. The bill was blessed. KNEA testified in opposition.

House Bill 2066 – A bill enacting changes to licensure reciprocity. The original bill would have given a Kansas license to any individual with a teaching license from another state. KNEA opposed this limit on the Kansas State Board of Education’s ability to enforce rigorous licensure status. It was amended on the House floor to allow licensing boards to deny a Kansas license when the out-of-state license was not based on standards as rigorous as those in Kansas. It passed the House and is now in the Senate. KNEA opposed the bill in its original form and is now neutral.

Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, is chair of the K-12 Education Budget Commmittee

House Bill 2119 – A full blown voucher bill letting most students take their base state aid and use it in private schools including non-accredited private schools. The House K-12 Budget Committee turned it into a school finance bill loaded up with anti-public education policies. It includes the Governor’s budget for K-12 education. It was voted out of committee but not debated on the floor. The bill was blessed. KNEA testified in opposition to the original voucher bill and remains in opposition to the bill as it is now.

Senate Bill 144 – A bill repealing the high density at-risk sunset. This bill was not blessed and is dead for this session. KNEA testified in support.

Senate Bill 173 – A bill changing the acceptable uses of at-risk money and repealing the sunset on high density at-risk weighting. This bill was voted out of committee but not debated on the floor. It has been blessed. KNEA testified in support.

Senate Bill 208 – A bill prohibiting transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams. This bill is still alive since it was introduced in the Federal and State Affairs Committee. KNEA testified in opposition.

Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover) introduced SB 235

Senate Bill 235 – A bill mandating that all schools offer a full-time, in-person learning option for every student by March 26, 2021, and in every school year going forward. The bill passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House K-12 Ed Budget Committee. It will have a hearing on March 10. KNEA testified in opposition in the House and will do so again in the Senate.

KNEA also testified in support of Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget for education. Both the Senate and House committees have recommended her education budget although the House bundled it into HB 2119 with many negative, anti-public education bills. 

Other Bills We’re Following

House Bill 2411 – A bill intended to destroy the ability of teachers to negotiate contracts under the professional negotiations act (PNA). This anti-union bill changes the PNA to mandate the local school board chooses the union’s representative for bargaining. The bill remains alive having been introduced in the Appropriations Committee. There has not been a hearing on the bill. KNEA opposes this bill.

House Bill 2154 – A bill allowing the Kansas State Department of Education to contract with private vendors to install, operate and maintain stop signal arm video recorders on school buses. This bill has been blessed.

House Bill 2287 – A bill that creates the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act, which provides scholarships to students who attend post-secondary educational programs that correspond to high-need career fields. This bill, supported by the Kansas Board of Regents and the community colleges, has been blessed. KNEA supports the bill.

Senate Bill 13 – A bill putting mandates on local units of government when raising tax revenue due to increased property valuations. Originally the bill exempted school districts, however, after passing the Senate, it was amended on the House floor to remove the exemptions. It now applies to school districts as well. KNEA opposes the bill in its current form and is working with KASB, USA/KS, and other public school advocates to hold off on passing the bill until concerns about its impact on school funding can be addressed.

Senate Bill 161 – A bill allowing for robotic automated delivery vehicles on city streets and sidewalks. This bill has been blessed. KNEA believes this bill will result in lost jobs but also creates a serious safety concern for children using sidewalks to walk or bike to school. These vehicles weigh as much as 500 pounds and run at speeds between six and ten miles per hour.

Senate Bill 212 – This bill prohibits the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from permanently requiring additional immunizations to attend a child care facility or school. This is part of the anti-vaccination movement in the United States.

Senate Bill 93 and House Bill 2067 – These identical bills require school districts to allocate sufficient funding in a manner reasonably calculated so that all students may achieve the educational goals known as the “Rose Capacities.”