I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season with friends and family. My time
was spent spoiling grandchildren with my wife, Nancy, and enjoying our entire family. Prior to the holidays, I enjoyed reading to students at Minneha and Price-Harris Elementary schools in Wichita and Wheatland Elementary in Andover.
It was good to get back to Topeka for the 2018 session. Since I know a few of the “ropes” now, I can be more focused and prioritize my time towards the many issues
confronting our state.
I wanted to mention early on that ALL House Committee meetings will have an audio live streaming. Eventually, there will be video live streaming as well. Go to
http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/ to access meeting list. The video version should be up and running within three weeks.
Governor Brownback gave his final State of the State address to the joint legislative body on Tuesday, January 9th. He proposed a 5-year $600 million increase to K-12
education. He cited that no tax increase would be necessary but most of us wonder how the state will fund the money. Early analysis of the FY 2020 budget, which begins July 1, 2019, indicates a $300 million plus deficit. This condition is based on the continuous sweep of the Highway Fund and the ongoing transfer from the CIF (Children’s Initiative Fund).
He also outlined some conditions on which the additional school funding is based including attaining high school graduation rates of 95% and 75% of graduating seniors pursuing additional formal education. The actual funding increases to “satisfy” the Supreme Court will be potentially answered with a new study expected out for review within thirty days.
The date for the hearing before the Court is set for May 22nd, so there is much work to be done allowing ample time for the legal process to occur prior to this date. In addition to the funding remedy, other pending legislation will offer a constitutional amendment with language designed to limit Court authority over school funding and what suitable provision by the Legislature means. The amendment could be a referendum by which Kansas voters decide. Another referendum would allow local school boards to decide whether schools would remain open should the Court find that the school finance formula remains unconstitutional. Obviously, our progress in a timely manner on school funding will determine the balance of the agenda. Many important issues hang in the balance:
A new Lansing Prison,
Curing the Osawatomie issues,
Budget and Appropriations adjustments.
A little good news is that receipts are up $83 million thus far in FY ’18 (July-December). Most of that total is in individual income tax receipts. Many tax payers may have paid by December 31 to take advantage of the new Federal tax law.
A sampling of bills introduced so far:
HB2439-Creating an additional crime of involuntary manslaughter for certain violations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs,
HB 2442- Prohibiting the possession of bump stocks, or similar devices/attachments
for semi-automatic weapons,
HB 2451-Enacting the statewide broadband deployment authorization act,
HB 2457-Enacting the asbestos trust claims transparency act,
HB-2459-Amending the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act and establishing the Kansas asset seizure and forfeiture repository,
HB246-Firearm safety education program in public schools.
This Wednesday, ALL Legislators will attend a class on Sexual Harassment provided by the YWCA. I don’t know if current Sexual Harassment Policy (1993) will be reviewed for updating. With the recent events nationally, I can assure you that Kansas public officials are taking the issue very seriously.
I wanted to close by saying that your emails, phone calls, letters, and personal visits are always welcome. My goal is to respond within 48 hours of your inquiry. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2018. It is a real privilege for me to serve the citizens of the 87th District.