Persons of all Christian traditions are invited to participate in Taizé prayer at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, in Annunciation Chapel in the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 4200 S. 4th St., Leavenworth, Kan.

Taizé prayer is a meditative, candlelit service that includes simple chants sung repeatedly, silence, and prayers of praise and intercession. These prayer services emerged from an ecumenical community of monks in Taizé, France.

For more information, visit www.marillaccenter.org or call 913-680-2342.
- from Therese Horvat

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Legislative newsletter from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Focus on the budget
Budget cuts have all the attention and probably will for the rest of the session. Funding adjustments have been made for the 2015 budget and more are coming up for the 2016 – 2017 budget.

Balancing has been a challenge with surprise expenses, such as an approximately $60 million unforeseen increase in the K-12 education budget and a suddenly discovered $20 million federal tax on KanCare (Obamacare includes a tax on health care – now we know).

Many of the “cuts” are actually reductions in increases. Year over year most, if not all, of the budget continues to increase. The screaming we hear is because the increases are not as high as expected. Not that there shouldn’t be increases – in some cases there should – but, lower taxes and smaller government means reductions in spending must be made.

KPERS is one area that has drawn a lot of attention. Recently, extra funding has been put into KPERS to fix a serious and long-standing hole. It had slipped to almost last place among the retirement systems of all the states for actuarial stability. It is now better funded than about half of the states and $500 million extra is being put into the fund to help continue its improvement.

The additional funds are being added to insure the long term health of the system. Retirement funding is essential to keeping the contract that the state has with its employees and the state must have the means to fulfill that contract. Now, $58 million of the $500 million extra money will be kept in the bank at least for the time being as the transfer of that money into KPERS has been delayed. To put this in perspective, KPERS has approximately $17 billion invested and the $58 million is three thousandths of a percent of the total we are trying to increase. The recently raised employer contribution rate has also been brought back from 11.27 percent to 8.65 percent. This means that improvement in KPERS continues but it is being slowed.

Education funding is also getting some cuts to the increases. Again, the year over year expenditures continue to increase even after the cuts. More is being spent this year than last and more yet is budgeted for the following years. However, the increases that were budgeted for this year went from $129 million in May when passed by the legislature to over $190 million in November – and it is hard to understand how that increase happened. I have had several explanations provided – none very satisfactory.

All of the school personnel I spoke with after last session were satisfied with the $129 million – then the number ballooned and there is much consternation that the balloon is being deflated and part of that unintended increase is being “clawed-back” and other reductions are being put in place as well. The reality is that even with the “cut,” fiscal year 2015 education spending remains $197 million higher than 2014.

Kansas Department of Transportation has indicated in committee hearings that no T-Works projects will be delayed due to the transfer of $158 from the state highway fund. However, some preservation projects would be delayed.

Reduced taxes have left $760 million in the taxpayers’ pockets and have also made it difficult to increase spending in the manner to which we had become accustomed. I voted against the budget last year because spending was too high and could not be sustained. This is a slowing of the long term trend of rising government expenses and taxes and it is long overdue. Shuffling funds around is necessary in the very short term but a more structured approach to spending cuts must be pursued.

Some bills of note
Only a few bills have already been passed by the Senate. Of note is the rescission bill that cuts the current budget and the change to joint rules. The main topic is the bundling of bills (bundling is the inclusion of related bills or parts of bills that have been heard but did not pass in both houses). The House amendment would allow a limit of two bills to be bundled but the Senate non-concurred and a compromise was reached to establish a limit of five bills except for allotment and tax bills.

Rep. Rubin is to be applauded for bringing this up. I expect bundling will be further reduced in the future. Also, the rules continue “Pay Go” which requires that increases in spending be matched with equal cuts. The net effect is more serious legislation concerning finances, a more efficient process, and significant savings for the taxpayer.

SB 45, Concealed Carry. This bill allows Kansans to carry weapons concealed without a permit if they otherwise may legally do so. Permits will continue as many people want to carry in other states and most of the other states recognize the Kansas permit. Check the laws of any jurisdiction in which you intend to carry.

SB 60, Home school children on sports teams. This would permit home schooled children to play on teams at public schools where they would normally attend. The bill was strongly contested in the education committee. Cost and the issue of equity were the main issues. Students are often subject to many restrictions and requirements in order to qualify for teams (attendance, grades, etc.) allowing home schoolers on the teams seemed unfair to some of the conferees. Opposing arguments were that home school families pay taxes that support school districts but get virtually no direct benefit and that home school parents are responsible or making sure their students are progressing academically – just as parents of public school students should be. The bill is still in committee.

SB 139, Mayor Ken Bernard memorial highway. A hearing on this bill was Feb. 10. Mayor Bernard served as mayor for Lansing for 29 years and this bill will put his name on that portion of Kansas Highway 7 that goes through Lansing.

SB 71, Amending supplemental general state aid calculation. This bill was heard on Feb. 3 in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill seeks to change the calculation underlying equalization payments to school districts. During the hearing it came out that under the current calculation this year affluent school districts in Johnson County received over $55 million to make up for their “poverty,” including over $7 million for Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission. This is part of the money that is being “clawed-back” in the rescission bill. It is obvious that a new formula is required to get needed resources to school districts.

SB 10, Filling vacancies on governing bodies. This bill is in the Ethics and Elections Committee and is designed to help prevent a recurrence of the situation Wyandotte County where a council position has been vacant for two years.

Help Kansas Vote Act. This act is expected to have a hearing this week. It will change elections for city commissions and school boards to November and make them partisan. Proponents say that it will increase voter turnout, which, for these elections, now held in April, has dropped to embarrassingly low numbers.

Please let me know your thoughts on these and other bills that are coming before the legislature.

I would love to have you visit and sit in on our committee meetings and Senate session. It is your legislature and your statehouse. Thank you for the honor of serving you.


by Kelly Rogge

Kansas City Kansas Community College –Leavenworth Center is offering a new course in World Terrorism this semester.

CRJS 0207 World Terrorism will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at KCKCC-Leavenworth Center.

The cost is $279 plus a textbook. The class can be taken for three hours of credit or can be audited for no credit. Qualified high school students can take this class under Senate Bill 155, which will cover the cost. Textbooks are the responsibility of the student.

In addition to CRJS 207 World Terrorism, CRJS 101 Introduction to Criminal Justice (Monday) and CRJS 204 Criminal Procedure (Thursday) are also being offered during the spring semester at KCKCC-Leavenworth Center. Enrollment Day at KCKCC-Leavenworth Center is from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8.

The instructor of CRJS 0207 World Terrorism, Ernest Evans, has published two books as well as 25 articles on the topic of terrorism. In addition, he has done extensive field research in areas of the world where there has been terrorism, including Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Central America. In the course of this field research he has personally interviewed an estimated 200 terrorists.

Although it has been 13 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the threat posed by terrorists to the United States has not gone away, according to a statement with the class announcement. The U.S. is currently engaged in a major campaign to defeat the radical Islamic group ISIS that operates in Iraq and Syria. Troops still remain in Afghanistan to fight against any resurgence of Al Qaeda and there are U.S. soldiers and other officials throughout the world whose primary responsibility is to protect the U.S. for terrorist attacks. The goal of CRJS 0207 is to present threat conditions and how the risk of terrorist attacks can be reduced, according to a spokesman. Preparedness measures are provided to assist agencies in the development and implementation of appropriate agency-specific preparedness measures, according to the class announcement.

Topics that will be covered include weapons of mass destruction; post Sept. 11 threat; nuclear, biological, chemical, explosive terrorism; agricultural threats; cyber security; deterring terrorism; methods and modes of attack; terrorism and the media and U.S. counter-terrorism options, among others.

For more information or to enroll, contact the KCKCC-Leavenworth Center at 913-651-2111.

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at KCKCC.