Legislative newsletter from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

Sen. Pat Pettey
Sen. Pat Pettey

Legislative newsletter from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

Feb. 9
In this issue:
• Last week at the Capitol
• Brownback cuts education
• House passes budget adjustment, Senate concurs
• Equalization debate
• Bundling bills
• Filling municipal office vacancies
• Voting college students
• Newsworthy notes

Last week at the Capitol

We had an eventful week at the Capitol with two celebrations of diversity, action on the budget adjustment bill, and the announcement of allotments by the governor as well as a number of hearings on bills in committees.

The first Wednesday of February is Native American Day at the Capitol, and members of Kansas tribes visit the Legislature. February is also Black History Month. Special displays are on exhibition, including one on Buffalo Soldiers, in the Visitor’s Center of the Capitol. A ceremony was held Thursday to officially open the exhibits.

Action on the Senate floor included confirming a host of appointments, including three appointees to the Kansas Board of Regents and the Secretary of Aging and Disability Services. The appointees received unanimous approval. The Senate also took action Thursday on the budget adjustment bill. It passed 24-13.

To track bills, go to www.kslegislature.org and click on the “Bills and Laws” link. You are also welcome to testify before a committee on any issue important to you. A written copy of your testimony is required at least 24 hours prior to the committee hearing.

If you have any questions about testifying or about bills in general, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse.

Daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live.”

Brownback cuts education

If anyone was still holding out hope that the governor would not support reducing the state budget on the backs of our Kansas children, last Thursday proved our children’s future is not a priority. Our Wyandotte County schools are losing nearly $2 million out of their 2015 budget.

The governor announced $44.5 million in allotments effective this fiscal year. Gov. Brownback claims a drop in sales tax receipts in January forced him to make the 2 percent across-the-board cut to higher education and the 1.5 percent across-the-board cut to K-12 education. The reality is, of the $47 million shortfall reported in January, $35 million was from lower than expected income tax receipts.

Initial figures released by the Kansas Department of Education indicate all districts will be impacted. You can see how this affects your district at
http://patpettey.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=e70d9e4f69b9b3ee26fd11378&id=bddca20e5a&e=c792e726cf
An explanation of the columns for the report can be found at http://patpettey.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=e70d9e4f69b9b3ee26fd11378&id=d53d2fc6cd&e=c792e726cf

In short, Gov. Brownback is balancing his budget on the backs of K-12 students and college students for the sake of his failed economic experiment.

House passes budget adjustment, Senate concurs

As you may recall, last week the Senate passed a simple measure related to the budget (Senate Bill 4). This week, the House stripped out the contents of the bill and inserted the language budget adjustments to make up for the $280 million shortfall. The House passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 4 Wednesday on a vote of 88-34.

Since the bill was placed inside a bill that the Senate had already passed, we were unable to have much of a debate on it or offer amendments. Keep in mind that the Senate Committee on Ways and Means also never heard testimony on the bill. This is not how the process is intended to work and leads to poor policy making.

The Senate did concur with the bill on a vote of 24-13. I did not vote for it. Here’s why:
• The plan raids the highway fund by nearly half a billion dollars in the current fiscal year alone. The current budget proposal for FY16 and FY17 includes raiding $725 million. So, over the next three years, the Legislature will sweep more than $1 billion from the highway fund, which jeopardizes a proven job-creating program and safe roads.
• The bill also sweeps $12 million from the KEY Fund, which funds early childhood education programs. This is less than what the governor initially proposed. He suggested taking the full, anticipated amount of $14.5 million despite vetoing a $5 million transfer back in May saying the money needed to stay in the fund for its intended purposes.
• Another adjustment includes a reduction to the employer contribution rate from 11.27 percent to 8.65 percent. This reneges on a bipartisan compromise passed in 2012 – and was touted on the campaign trail – that reformed the public employee pension system. Employees will continue to pay their fair share to ensure the program is fully funded, while the state will not.
• Even with this bill, the state still faces $800,000 below zero with five months to go in the fiscal year.

Equalization debate

There is no good reason why this bill did not go to Senate Education.
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 71, which would change the method of computing supplemental general state aid and cut $39 million from our state’s poorest schools.

The governor made reference to this bill in his release Thursday when he announced the allotments, saying that the Legislature could restore his cuts of $28.3 million to public education. The governor is proposing significant cuts to public schools — something he promised that he would not do in his reelection campaign.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley testified in opposition to the bill along with many school superintendents and concerned parents. The bill only had one proponent testify. This legislation is another attempt to neglect our constitutional obligation to provide for suitable financing of public schools. I am wholly opposed to this bill.

Bundling bills

As you may recall from last week, the House approved a change in the Joint Rules that limits the number of bills that can be bundled together for a final vote to just two. This week the Senate agreed that there needs to be a restriction on the number of bills that can be bundled together, but argued that two was too few. In the past, it has been a strategy to bundle as many as a dozen bills in one report in order to pass bills that may otherwise not if they stood alone.

The rule change has now been sent to conference where members of each chamber’s Rule Committee will negotiate an appropriate number of bills.

Filling municipal office vacancies

The Unified Government has a charter ordinance that directs how they fill vacant positions. As a former commissioner with Unified Government, I support local control to make these decisions. I do not support this legislation.

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections held a hearing Wednesday on a bill introduced by Sen. David Haley (D-4th Dist.). The purpose of Senate Bill 10 is to ensure proper representation of constituents by avoiding local governing bodies from having vacant seats.

The bill would require an appointment of a replacement member by a majority vote of the remaining members of a municipal governing body within 30 days of a vacancy. Or, the passage of a resolution by the governing body for a special election to be held within 45 days of the passage of the resolution.

Voting college students

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections held a hearing Thursday on a bill introduced by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita). Senate Bill 41 allows Kansas students attending colleges or universities outside of the state to be eligible to apply for voter registration and vote using an absentee ballot by fax, e-mail, or other electronic method.

Newsworthy notes
• Capitol visitors
I enjoyed a visit from former teaching colleagues, Jane Bock and Gail Linthicum. They joined 200 other retirees from across the state for the KPERS rally held at the Capitol last Wednesday.
• Wearing red
I joined other women at the Capitol in bringing awareness to women’s heart disease by wearing the color red last Thursday. Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
• Kansas college and career ready
Today’s Kansas classrooms focus on the needs of the whole child. Academic achievement, while important, is not the sole predictor of student success. In Kansas, we believe being college and career ready means an individual has the academic preparation, the cognitive preparation, technical skills and employability skills to be successful in post-secondary education, in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.

Rep. Nancy Lusk and Sen. Pat Pettey at the KPERS rally Feb. 4 at the Capitol.
Rep. Nancy Lusk and Sen. Pat Pettey at the KPERS rally Feb. 4 at the Capitol.

KCKCC scholars to be honored

by Kelly Rogge

Two Kansas City Kansas Community College students are among 55 Kansas community college scholars that will be honored for their academic accomplishments Feb. 12 in Topeka during the 19th annual Phi Theta Kappa Honors Luncheon.

The luncheon will be held at the Ramada Inn Hotel in Topeka in conjunction with February’s Kansas Board of Regents meeting. Those in attendance will hear from Rod Risley, executive director, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The KCKCC students selected were Joseph Lutz and Wendy Monarres.

Representing the state’s 19 community colleges and a private two-year college, these scholars have been named to the 2014-2015 All-Kansas Academic Team. The team is sponsored by the international headquarters of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees and the Kansas Council of Community College Presidents.

“We consider this a very worthwhile endeavor for all of the Kansas community colleges to come together and celebrate the achievements of the state’s outstanding students,” said Tammy Fuentez, vice president for Student Affairs at Labette Community College, who serves as the Kansas region coordinator for the Honor Society. “These students are our finest not only in the academic sphere, but also in terms of service and citizenship.”

Each scholar was selected by his or her own community college for the annual statewide academic team, and each scholar is also a nominee for the 2014-2015 All-USA Academic Team, sponsored by “USA Today,” Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges. First team members each receive a $2,500 stipend and will be featured along with second and third team members in the newspaper. Team members are also presented with medallions. Names of the students will be placed on the society’s website, www.ptk.org.

Lutz is a Phi Theta Kappa chapter officer at KCKCC as well as a veterinary assistant. He plans to transfer to the University of Kansas to major in engineering. Monarres is also a Phi Theta Kappa chapter officer as well as an International Distinguished Member Award recipient. She is Student Senate president at KCKCC and is an Academic Challenge Team member. Her major is pre-medicine.

Phi Theta Kappa is the honor society for students attending community and two-year colleges. Membership is based on high grade point averages and other criteria, with members focusing on scholastic achievement as well as community service.

Each student will receive a certificate signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, a $300 scholarship and an academic medallion. The Kansas Board of Regents universities, Washburn University and the Kansas Independent Colleges will provide a minimum scholarship of $1,000 for those named to the All-Kansas Team who transfer to their institutions.

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at KCKCC.

T-Bones sign pitchers

The T-Bones have signed veteran pitcher Fernando Hernandez and re-signed pitcher Derek Loera to contracts for the 2015 season, according to an announcement today.

Hernandez is a 5-foot-11 and 215-pound right hander from Miami, Fla. A 49th-round selection by the Chicago White Sox in 2002, Hernandez has played for four organizations: Chicago, Oakland, New York Yankees and Toronto.

In 2008 he pitched in three games for the A’s, and had a 1-0 record with an 18.00 ERA. Hernandez spent 2014 with Long Island of the Atlantic League, where he went 2-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 10 appearances. He struck out 24 and walked 15 for the Ducks.

In 12 professional seasons, Hernandez is 54-51 with a 3.68 ERA in 552 appearances. He has 791 career strikeouts and 352 walks.

“We have been looking for a veteran presence at the top of the rotation, and we think Fernando will provide that for us in 2015,” T-Bones manager John Massarelli said. “We think he’ll make our rotation deeper and stronger this summer.”

Loera, a 5-foot-11 and 180-pound left hander from Odessa, Texas, appeared in 24 games for the T-Bones in 2014. He went 0-2 with a 3.05 ERA, 25 strikeouts and 13 walks, mainly coming out of the bullpen. In two professional seasons, Loera, who spent a season in the Tampa Bay farm system, is 3-3 with a 2.74 ERA.

“Derek proved to be very reliable in the pen last season and we look for him to continue that very important role this year,” Massarelli said.

The T-Bones open the 2015 regular season at home on May 22 against Lincoln.

– Story from T-Bones