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Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

In Our Community

On Sunday, April 8th, I spent a lovely afternoon in Marvin Auditorium at the TSCPL for the Wilder Society Tea.  This is an annual event sponsored by the Library Foundation Board to recognize library donors who have made a planned gift, or an annual lifetime gift, to the Library Foundation. We had a very entertaining presentation by historian and author Cindy Harris who told us stories of Kansas native, Clementine Paddleford, one of the world's most widely read and best-known food editors, who began her journalism career at age 15 in Manhattan, Kansas.  It was a fascinating presentation!  I am a Trustee on the Library Foundation Board.



Another one of my favorite Community service projects is serving “brunch” at Let’s Help with my fellow Topeka South Rotarians.  During session I have a tough time making the weekly meetings, but I try to never miss a Saturday serving opportunity! We had a group of hardworking educators the last time…including the current Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, Dr. Tiffany Anderson.

At the Capitol

It is my privilege to serve on the Children and Seniors Committee in the House. On Thursday, April 5th, each member of the House of Representatives was given a blue pinwheel on their desks in the Chamber.  “Pinwheels for Prevention” is the Prevent Child Abuse national campaign based on the belief that all children should be raised in healthy, nurturing homes, free from abuse and neglect. It was my honor to deliver the Child Abuse Prevention Month Resolution to Dona Booe, the CEO of Kansas Children’s Service League, on the floor of the House with the Children and Seniors Committee.

Pages

I had my final pages of the session on March 22nd.  We had a very busy day for these 8th graders from Washburn Rural Middle School!  Pictured with Governor Colyer in his ceremonial office are Tori Wagner, Hope Oswald, and Ethan Carlton.   I always enjoy being able to share what’s happening in state government with our students and these 3 students were delightful!
 

 

Master Teachers

On behalf of the House Education Committee, it was my honor to recognize the Kansas Master Teachers on the floor of the House at the end of March. Emporia State University established the Kansas Master Teacher awards in 1954. The awards are presented annually to teachers who have served the profession long and well and are simply the “best of the best”.  These are remarkable educators who love what they do and are passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of their students.  The 7 teachers are:
  • Constance Allmond, high incident/intellectual disability teacher at El Dorado Middle School in El Dorado;
  • Deanna K. Burton, social studies teacher at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan;
  • Abby Cornelius, library media specialist at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park;
  • Todd Flory, fourth-grade teacher at Wheatland Elementary School in Andover;
  • Chitra Harris, science teacher for Wichita South High School;
  • Matthew Irby, science teacher at Emporia High School; and
  • Kimberly S. Schneweis, visual arts teacher at Hays Middle School.

 

First Adjournment Overview

Veto Session

After three months of deliberation, discussion, and voting, the Legislature adjourned for three weeks until April 26th, which is the beginning of Veto Session.  This “First Adjournment” which was scheduled for Friday, April 6th, didn’t actually happen until after midnight on Saturday, April 7th….and it was not without some drama!!

Backstory

Both the Senate and House needed to pass an adjournment motion by midnight on April 7th or the session would have officially and abruptly ended at that time and all work would have been lost…..all bills that had not been signed, school finance legislation still being debated, etc. We would have had to start over with just about everything.
 
The Senate had to act first on a Concurrent Resolution for Adjournment, and they did pass SCR 1615, on Saturday afternoon.  The House believed this Resolution was problematic because it contained a very unusual procedure declaring May 4th as Sine Die.  If May 4th is Sine Die, then the Legislature would not be able to act on vetoes. May 4th is the 90th day of the Session and designated as Final Adjournment.  Sine Die was originally planned for May 24th which is 20 days after Final Adjournment.  Here is the problem……Should the Governor choose to veto legislation after Sine Die, the Legislature would not have an opportunity to respond. The House unanimously passed its own Adjournment Resolution on Saturday… HCR 5030, which set Sine Die for the original planned date of May 24th and sent it over to the Senate.  Earlier that day the House also completed work on a School Finance Bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration.  All of this happened on Saturday, April 7th, and we had the feeling a perfect storm was beginning to brew.
 
Earlier in the week, leadership in the Senate made a decision that no floor action would take place in the Senate, including debating a School Finance Bill, until the House passed a constitutional amendment limiting the power of the Supreme Court. A bill to amend the constitution was passed out by the House Judiciary Committee, but House leadership determined that there were not enough votes in the House in support of the amendment. It would require 84 votes; therefore, no further action was taken by the House on this issue.
 
The Senate finally began debate on a School Finance bill and passed a funding proposal that was approximately $250 million with some interesting policy initiatives.
 
The House plan was for approximately $530 million over 6 years and contained some policy initiatives, but not as many as the Senate.  The two bills went to conference committee where talks appeared to not make much progress.  Ultimately, the House passed a blend of the two bills and placed it in a Senate Bill (SB 423). When the bill was sent back to the Senate, it could not be amended or debated…. only voted up or down.
 
Late on Saturday night, the Senate spent hours discussing the provisions of the school finance bill, after spending a significant amount of time earlier in the evening on a tax bill.  There were hundreds of teachers in the Capitol listening to the discussion.  The Senate did not complete their work on the bill prior to the constitutional midnight deadline and they did not consider the House’s Resolution to set Sine Die on May 24th so, the House, just before midnight, passed SCR 1615. This action by the House allowed the Senate to continue their work on school finance past the midnight deadline. Additionally, passing the resolution also protected the work of nearly every committee that was not approved by both chambers by April 8, 2018.   It was rather tense for a few minutes prior to midnight!

K-12 Funding Bill Sent to Governor

SB 423 is to be signed by the Governor at Seaman High School on Tuesday, April 17th at 8:45 in the morning.  The Governor will sign the bill passed by both chambers which we have since discovered has an error in the calculation for Base State Aid Per Pupil caused by a change in a provision added to the Local Option Budget language.  We will need to correct that error when we convene on April 26th in order for the Attorney General and his staff to prepare their briefs for the Supreme Court’s deadline of April 30th.  We have not made it easy for the state to defend its position.  Hopefully, we can get this taken care of and our districts will realize the additional funds we had intended to allocate.  This School Finance Bill does not require a tax increase

Constitutional Amendment Approved by Judiciary Committee


On April, 2nd, Attorney General Derek Schmidt gave a presentation on School Finance litigation trends and the Gannon litigation.  On April 3rd, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HCR 5029, which would amend Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. On Wednesday, April 4th, the committee amended the concurrent resolution in an effort to ensure that both adequacy and equity are determined by the Legislature, but the courts would retain oversight concerning equity.

During the hearing, three hours of testimony took place, where conferees were given an unrestricted amount of time to express their concerns to the committee.  The proponents included several representatives from the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding, a group of agriculture, business and industry groups working to clarify that the legislature shall determine the total amount of funding that constitutes suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. They also alluded to the perpetual cycle of litigation between schools and the State of Kansas, under the leadership of five Republican and five Democrat governors.  These lawsuits began before Governor Brownback assumed office, and long before the 2012 tax cuts were implemented.  Proponents believe the people of Kansas ought to have the opportunity to weigh in on this never-ending issue.

The opponents asserted that the Kansas Constitution is fine as is, and since amended in 1966 has guaranteed Kansas students an excellent educational system.  The current provisions outlined in Article 6 assure that the courts are able to hold the Legislature accountable—that a suitable education is provided to every Kansas student.  The instability of school funding has been chiefly caused by the Brownback tax policy enacted in 2012, and amending the Kansas Constitution to remove judicial oversight over the adequacy and equity portions of a school finance formula would result in poor outcomes for Kansas children.  Parents have been waiting for the Legislature to fulfill their constitutional duty for years—they should focus on that responsibility rather than attempting to bypass their obligation to create a suitable formula.
 
On Wednesday, the committee passed HCR 5029 favorably.  The concurrent resolution now sits below the line awaiting consideration by the House, but it requires a super majority to pass (84 votes).  I would appreciate your thoughts on this Constitutional Amendment.

House Appropriations Omnibus

During the legislative break, the House Appropriations Committee will hold Omnibus meetings following the release of the Consensus Revenue Estimates (CRE) on April 20.  The Committee will be briefed on the CRE and will then consider changes to the Mega 2018-2019 budget bill (HB 2364) that they have already adopted.  Changes may include the adoption of Governor’s Budget Amendments, which are adjustments proposed by the Division of the Budget.  In addition, the Committee has deferred a number of enhancements and additional expenditures for review at Omnibus.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday April 20: Release of the Consensus Revenue Estimates
  • Monday April 23: Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight: Presentations on KanCare from Individuals, Providers, and Organizations; Updates from KDHE, KDADS, KanCare Ombudsman; Responses from: Agencies and MCOs; Presentations by MCOs: 9 AM, Rm 548-S
  • Wednesday April 25: House Appropriations: Joint Meeting with Senate Ways and Means: Consensus Revenue Estimates Update, Consensus Caseloads Estimates, and Governor’s Budget Amendments: 10 AM, Rm 112-N (Joint Meeting will be held in 346-S)
  • Wednesday April 25: House Appropriations: Discussion and Action on: Omnibus Bill: 1 PM, Rm 112-N

Reminder of Dates

Thursday, April 26th Veto Session begins.
Friday, May 4th Day 90.
 
 
To view a complete list and status of all pending legislation for the 2018 session, visit this site:
 
 http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/bills/house/

Contact Me

If you have any questions about the activities in my committees or want to share your views on any of the issues before the legislature, please feel free to email me or call my office.
 
Representative Brenda S. Dietrich
Room 166-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-7648
Email:  Brenda.Dietrich@House.ks.gov

If you or your friends would like to receive my Legislative up-dates, you can click here or visit my website at http://kansansforbrenda.com, and enter your email address in the space provided on the right side.

Contact Brenda

Room 166-W
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66610
Phone: 785 296-7648
Email Brenda


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