Archive for Leavenworth

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

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Guest column

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Quote of the week

“By passing this bill, it is an opportunity for additional CPAs (child placing agencies) that have had concerns of working in Kansas in the past, to come alongside DCF to locate and maintain homes in which to place Kansas’ children.”
– Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel Secretary, Department of Children and Families

Keep up with what’s going on in Topeka.

YouTube Streaming:
Committee Hearings:

School safety

Crime research statistics show us that 98.4 percent of the mass public shootings that have occurred from 1950 to 2116 have occurred in “gun free zones.”

Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Oregon, Utah, New Hampshire, Arizona, Alaska and Rhode Island have laws in place that allow teachers and other school district employees to carry concealed firearms.

In Texas alone, over 170 school districts have implemented policies that allow for the increased protection of their students by teachers and district employees. Kansas school districts could allow their employees to carry firearms.

Pro-life amendment added to budget in Senate

On last Tuesday, during debate on the proposed budget I offered a very simple pro-life amendment, which would prohibit state funds being used on embryonic stem cell research or on research on aborted fetal tissue.

The subsequent debate, which can be viewed in the Senate archive from that day, was revealing in the mindset of those who support taxpayer funding for this type of research. Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, an expert on stem cell research, delivered a powerful speech in which she outlined both the science and the ethics behind why research of that kind should not be allowed and certainly not funded by taxpayers.

The amendment was adopted on a vote of 20-15.

Note: To read more follow this link:

More on the Senate budget

The budget, which passed the Senate 34-6, includes expenditures of $16.3 billion in FY 2018, including $6.7 billion from the State General Fund and $1.68 billion in FY 2019, including $6.8 billion from the State General Fund. Both are reductions from the recommendations by the governor.

Quick facts

• In Kansas, there are 46,137,295 acres of farmland, which accounts for 88 percent of all Kansas land. More than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops and over 16 million acres is pasture for grazing animals (Kansas Department of Agriculture).

• From 2000 to 2015, Kansas soybean farmers have increased no-till acres planted by 41 percent (Kansas Soybean Association).

• According to unemployment insurance weekly review, weekly claims for the week for March 23rdare 24.9 percent less than last year (Kansas Department of Labor).

• Service Master DSI will move its headquarters to Shawnee. It is estimated this will generate 100 new jobs in the area with an average salary of $67,000 (Kansas Department of Commerce).

• Kansas is one of seven states with decreasing unemployment rates as of February 2018 (U.S. Department of Labor).

• In testimony provided to the Federal and State Affairs Committees on the Adoption Protection Act, there are 7,000 children currently in the custody of the secretary. This makes it imperative that policies and statutes encourage more Child Placing Agencies, not less. (Sources: Meier-Hummel Testimony)

• Of the roughly 400,000 children nationwide in the foster care system today, 18 percent have been in foster care for more than three years, and 9 percent have been in the system for more than five years. (Source:

Floor action

Unfair trade and consumer protection (HB 2580): eliminates consumer reporting agencies’ authority to charge certain fees related to consumer report security freezes. HB 2580 amends current law to allow a consumer to place a security freeze on the consumer’s consumer report by written request, sent by certified mail or regular mail, through a secure website if made available by a consumer reporting agency, or by telephone, if the consumer reporting agency does not have an available secure website. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Repealing restrictions for KPERS investments with companies in Sudan (HB 2444): repeals requirements of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) Board regarding new investments and divestment of current investments in companies with business operations in Sudan. The bill would also repeal the associated indemnification for the KPERS Board and its employees, research firms, and investment management. This bill passed the Senate 38-2. I voted for this bill.

Rainy day fund (HB 2419): concerns transfers to and expenditures from the budget stabilization fund. HB 2419 outlines that the rainy-day fund would earmark any excess revenue or over-projected estimates to be split in half, with 50 percent to pay off debt to the PMIB loan and the other 50 percent to be stored in a rainy-day fund for when projected revenues are short of projections. Historically, the legislature spends available money rather than set aside money to meet the statutory requirement of a seven percent remaining balance. This bill failed the Senate 21-19. I voted against this bill.

Amending the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (HB 2472): amends the uniform anatomical gift act to give drivers license applicants’ authorization to be listed as an organ, eye, and tissue donor in the Kansas donor registry. HB 2472 would require the word “Donor” be placed on the front of the driver’s license or identification card of an individual who provides authorization on an application for a driver’s license or an identification card to be listed in the Registry. The gift would become effective upon the death of the donor. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Health Occupations Credentialing Fee Fund (HB 2501): would create the Health Occupations Credentialing Fee Fund to be administered by the Secretary for Aging and Disability Services. Fees collected under provisions of the Adult Care Home Licensure Act, Dieticians Licensing Act, Operator Registration Act, and the act regulating speech-language pathologists and audiologists would be deposited into the fee fund instead of the State General Fund. This bill passed the Senate 39-1.

Ombudsman Long-Term Care Program (HB 2590): amends the state long-term care ombudsman program, activities, and access to certain records. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Nuclear Energy Development and Radiation Control Act (S Sub HB 2600): provides for the assessment of fees by the Department of Health and Environment for non-contiguous sites where radioactive material is stored or used. S Sub HB 2600 It also directs the Secretary of Health and Environment to study and investigate maternal deaths in Kansas. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Workers Compensation Death Benefits (S Sub HB 2184): amends workers compensation death benefits. The act allows for an initial payment to be shared between the surviving spouse and the dependent children. This bill passed the Senate 35-5. I voted for this bill.

Increased penalties for fake police calls (HB 2581): increases the criminal penalties for the crime of giving a false alarm in certain circumstances. The practice which is known as “swatting,” is when a person makes a call to the police with a false story of an ongoing crime in attempt to draw police officers to a particular address. Any false call for emergency help would be at least a misdemeanor, becoming a felony if the person uses a fake identity or electronically masks their identity. It also makes fake calls that result in death a felony comparable to second-degree murder. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Hunting guides and outfitter registration (SB 301): requires hunting guides and outfitters to register with the Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. This bill passed the Senate 31-9. I voted against this bill.

Exempting Division of Legislative Post Audit from paying monumental building surcharges (S Sub HB 2129): exempts the Division of Legislative Post Audit from paying any monumental building surcharge charged and collected by the Department of Administration or any other state agency that is levied against all state agency-leased square footage in Shawnee County. It permits the Secretary of Administration to approve a new lease or renew or extend an existing lease without an energy audit being performed if the Secretary determines an energy audit is not economically feasible. This bill passed the Senate 33-7. I voted for this bill.

Interoperability Advisory Committee (Sub HB 2556): establishes the state interoperability advisory committee. In 2007, the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee was created by Executive Order to provide governance and guidance pertaining to the interoperability of public safety communications systems. The committee’s focus has been on radio frequency communications and data interoperability. HB 2556 would take the current statewide council and put it in statute. The bill would direct the committee to make recommendations to the Adjutant General’s Department (TAG). This bill passed the Senate 37-3. I voted against this bill.

Special Olympics, Choose Life, Wichita license plate (HB 2599):provides for the distinctive plates for Special Olympics, Choose Life, the Wichita city flag. The bill also authorizes special license plates for veterans of the Korean War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. This bill passed the Senate 36-2. I voted for this bill.

Commercial Driver’s License Renewal (HB 2511): makes commercial driver’s licenses renewable every five years. It extends the period of time before expiration from four years to five years. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Renewal of driver’s licenses; vision requirement (HB 2606): specifies vision test requirements for qualifying applicants for electronic online driver’s license renewal. An applicant for an online renewal must be at least 21 years old but less than 50 years old and confirm under penalty of law that their vision meets requirements currently in law of 20/40 or better in at least one eye as tested by the driver’s license examiner, or 20/60 or better in at least one eye submitted in a vision report from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The applicant must certify they have undergone an examination by a licensed ophthalmologist or a licensed optometrist within the previous year and must authorize the exchange of vision and medical information between the Division of Vehicles and the applicant’s ophthalmologist or optometrist. This bill passed the Senate 35-5. I voted for this bill.

Designating Sedgwick County as urban area (HB 2597):designates Sedgwick County as an urban area, concerning nonprofit cemetery corporations in certain urban area counties. The designation would allow the Kansas Legislature to pass laws specific to those areas. Currently, Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee and Greeley counties already have this designation. This bill passed the Senate 39-1. I voted for this bill.

Qualifications for licensing of professional occupations (S Sub HB 2386): implements restrictions on requirements for licensing of professional occupations. S Sub HB 2386 would require any person, board, commission, or similar body that determines the qualifications of individuals for licensure, certification, or registration to revise their existing requirements to list the specific civil and criminal records that could disqualify an applicant from receiving a license, certification, or registration. The revision would occur within 180 days after the effective date of the bill. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Nurse Licensure Compact (HB 2496): creates the Nurse Licensure Compact and amend the Kansas Nurse Practice Act to enable the Board of Nursing to carry out the provisions of the Compact and establish the duties of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) under the Compact. The Compact allows RNs and LPNs to have one multi-state license, with the privilege to practice in the home state of Kansas and in other Compact states physically, electronically, and/or telephonically. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

The Child Care Criminal Background and Fingerprinting Fund (HB 2639): requires local and state law enforcement officers and agencies to assist the Secretary of Health and Environment in taking and processing fingerprints of persons residing, working, or regularly volunteering in a child care facility and to release all records of adult convictions and non-convictions and adult convictions or adjudications of another state or country to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The bill creates the Child Care Criminal Background and Fingerprinting Fund in the State Treasury to be administered by the Secretary. This bill passed the Senate 36-4. I voted for this bill.

Appropriation revisions (Sub SB 269): creates appropriation revisions for FY 2018 and FY 2019 for various state agencies.

In FY 2018, Sub. SB 269 recommends expenditures of $16.3 billion, including $6.7 billion from the State General Fund. The recommendation is an all funds reduction of $3.0 million and a State General Fund increase of $1.6 million from the Governor’s Recommendation for FY 2018.

Some key components for the FY 2018 appropriation revisions:

• Add $1.5 million, all from the State General Fund to fully fund the Technical Education Incentive for the Department of Education.
For FY 2019, Sub. SB 269 recommends expenditures of $16.8 billion, including $6.8 billion from the State General Fund. The recommendation is a reduction of $79.2 million, including $80.7 million from the State General Fund, from the Governor’s Recommendation for FY 2019. The bill also reduces State General Fund revenue by $11.7 million for FY 2019.

Some key components of the FY 2019 appropriation revisions:

• Add $22.1 million, including $10.0 million from the State General Fund, for an increase in nursing facility reimbursements rates.
• Add $4.7 million, including $2.1 million, from the State General Fund, to provide a salary adjustment to all employees who did not receive a salary adjustment as part of the 2017 Legislative Pay Plan.
• Add $5.5 million, including $3.3 million from the State General Fund, to increase payments for foster care kinship placements from an average of $3 per day to an average of $10 per day for the Department of Children and Families.

This bill passed the Senate 34-6. I voted against this bill,

Defendant’s compentency and commitment for treatment (HB 2549): creates judicial determinations of defendant’s competency and commitment for treatment. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Legislative task force on dyslexia (Sub HB 2602): establishes the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia and Other Reading Comprehension Impairments (Task Force), which would advise and make recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, and the Kansas State Board of Education regarding dyslexia and other reading comprehension impairments. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Rescuing vulnerable person or animal from a vehicle (HB 2516): provides immunity from civil liability for damage to a motor vehicle for a person who enters the vehicle, by force or otherwise, to remove a vulnerable person or domestic animal if they are in imminent danger. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act (SB 429): Senate Bill 429 delays certain provisions of the Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act until January 1, 2020. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Qualifications for the office of sheriff (HB 2523): amends the statute concerning the qualifications required of sheriffs. It narrows language disqualifying a person from holding the office if they have been convicted of a violation of any federal or state laws or city ordinances relating to gambling, liquor, or narcotics. The bill would disqualify only for a misdemeanor related to gambling, liquor, or narcotics within five years immediately preceding election or appointment.. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

School transportation funding (SB 352): requires transportation funding for school districts from the state general fund, not the state highway fund; making and concerning appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Local option budget (SB 422): requires a minimum local option budget and requires school boards to notify the state board of education of their intent to increase local option budget authority. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

References related to KDADS and DCF (S Sub HB 2028): updates statutory references related to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department for Children and Families This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force (S Sub HB 2701): creates a broadband expansion planning task force. The purpose of this task force is to develop a group to evaluate and expand broadband throughout Kansas. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Allowing criminal cases to be stayed during state appeal of writ of habeas corpus (HB 2479): allows criminal cases to be stayed during state of appeal of writ of habeas corpus relief, creates procedures and limitations concerning contact with jurors following a criminal jury trial, and clarifies grand jury proceedings. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Counterfeit currency, mistreatment laws, and defining law enforcement officer, (HB 2458): defines counterfeiting currency as anything intended to defraud through forging currency. Another element of this bill combines the two laws into one that deal with mistreatment of a dependent adult and elder person. HB 2458 also amends the definition of law enforcement officer to include uniformed or properly identified while on duty. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Golf carts on certain streets at night (HB 2486): allows golf carts to be driven on public streets where otherwise authorized between sunset and sunrise if the golf cart has lights as required by law for motorcycles and has a properly mounted slow moving vehicle emblem. This bill passed the Senate 36-4. I voted for this bill.

Amend certain sales taxation for motor vehicles (SB 367): amends current sales tax law that includes the value of a rebate from a manufacturer of a new vehicle to the potential buyer. Current law includes this amount to calculate sales tax liability. SB 367 requires the rebate to be paid directly to the retailer. This bill passed the Senate 38-0.

Kansas Right-to-Know Fee Fund (HB 2577): creates a maximum annual fee for the Right-To-Know Program that would only be used for the administration of the program. Current law allows the fees to go into a general fund. The program deals with hazardous substances. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Control and eradication of noxious weeds (HB 2583): clarifies definitions for terms related to noxious weeds. This legislation allows the Secretary of Agriculture to declare an emergency for noxious weeds that can be potentially harmful because of a natural disaster. This bill passed the Senate 36-4. I voted for this bill.

High-performance incentive program tax credit (SB 430): extends 50 percent of the unused High-Performance Incentive Program tax credits beyond the current carryforward limit, from 16 years to 25 years, for those taxpayers who initially claimed a HPIP credit prior to January 1, 2018. In any tax year after the 16th year, the amount of tax credits used by a taxpayer would be limited to 10 percent of the reduced amount. Taxpayers would be required annually to certify under oath to the Secretary of Commerce that they continue to meet HPIP requirements. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Qualifications for candidates seeking certain statewide offices (HB 2539): House Bill 2539 would amend qualifications for certain state offices. This legislation would clarify require these positions to be a “qualified elector.” A qualified elector must be at least 30 years old when becoming a candidate for the office of the governor or lieutenant governor. Another provision is a candidate must be licensed to practice law in Kansas for the office of the attorney general. This bill passed the Senate 29-9. I voted for this bill.

Corrupt political advertising (HB 2642): amends the “corrupt political advertising” statute. Currently, social media communication is exempt from the requirement to include “paid for” or “sponsored by” information if the limit of characters is 200. The amended bill increases that limit to 280 characters. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act (HB 2481): provides several provisions to the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) placed an amendment on the bill which protects faith-based adoption agencies. This bill passed the Senate 28-12. I voted for this bill.

Kansas Pet Animal Act (HB 2477): changes the Kansas Pet Animal Act pertaining to licensure for temporary care of dogs or cats, maximum license fees, notice of inspections, requested inspections, no-contact inspections, failed inspections, and license renewal dates. This bill passed the Senate 34-6. I voted for this bill.

Income tax refund for certain Native American veterans (Sub HB 2147): would create a process by which certain Native American military veterans would be able to apply for a refund of state personal income taxes improperly withheld from such veteran’s federal military income in the amount of income taxes paid plus interest. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Removing alcohol as a special fuel (HB 2488): removes the word “alcohol” from the definition of “special fuels” under the motor-fuel tax law. The bill clarifies how fuels are taxed. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Sales tax authority for Thomas County (HB 2492): increases the maximum local sales tax rate that can be imposed by Thomas Country from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, provided all taxes levied in excess of 1.00 percent remain earmarked for financing a courthouse, jail, law enforcement center, or other county administrative facility. An election would be required for an increase in the current Thomas County sales tax, which is 1.5 percent. This bill passed the Senate 38-2. I voted for this bill.

State fair capital improvements fund (SB 415): creates a diversion of state sales tax receipts so that collections by the Kansas State Fair and retailers on the fairgrounds would be deposited into the State Fair Capital Improvements Fund, effective July 1, 2018. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

This week
• 10 a.m. Session

• 10 a.m. Session

• 10 a.m. Session

• 10 a.m. Session

2018 session dates and deadlines
Friday, April 6 Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26
Veto Session begins

Thursday, May 4
Day 90

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., represents parts of Leavenworth County and western Wyandotte County.


Legislative update by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Quote of the week:
“The goal for reformers today should be to build on what’s been working, work on fixing what hasn’t, and replace bureaucratic excess with a spirit of decentralized problem-solving. The Left, with its taste for federal control and grand policy solutions, is ill positioned to do that. Conservative reformers therefore have an enormous opportunity.”
– Frederick Hess of National Review on Education Reform

Remember, you can always learn more about what is going on in the legislature.


YouTube Streaming:

Committee Hearings:

Maximizing effect of federal tax cuts

As a result of the federal “Trump tax cuts” passed late last year, the state of Kansas is expected to receive a significant windfall of funds. While some would like to spend that money on programs, it is most appropriate to return this money where it was intended – the taxpayers.

To that end, I am working with other conservative legislators on different ideas, from raising the standard deduction in Kansas to match the federal deduction, and allowing itemization of deductions in Kansas despite not itemizing on their federal return. Other ideas include ensuring utility companies use their tax savings and pass it directly on to customers in the form of rate reductions and a reduction in the sales tax on food. These ideas deserve a discussion and consideration.

We must look for every chance to reduce the tax burden on Kansans.

Quick facts
• The agriculture industry employs nearly 247,000 Kansans, accounting for 13 percent of the state’s workforce (Kansas Department of Agriculture)

• For each dollar earned as a result of vocational rehabilitation placement, there is about $1.66 in total earnings generated through the economy (Kansas Department for Children and Families)

• In 2017, Kansas had 88,000 veterans in the civilian labor force. The Kansas veteran unemployment rate was 2.5 percent (Kansas Department of Labor)

• School district size varies widely in Kansas. One of the more notable challenges facing legislators in developing school finance reform lies in the fact there is such a disparity in school districts size. Among the 286 school districts in Kansas, on the high end is the Wichita School District, with over 50,000 students. On the low end? Several districts with fewer than 100 students. (Source: Kansas Department of Education)

• No state in America has a 95 percent graduation rate. A focus in the recent school finance study was the aspiration to achieve a 95 percent high school graduation rate in Kansas, and the level of funding that would require. The fact is that no state in America is at 95 percent – most are in the 70s and 80s. The highest, according to, is Iowa at 90 percent. Kansas is currently at a relatively high 86 percent. (Sources:

• Thousands of children languish in foster care. Of the roughly 400,000 children nationwide in the foster care system today, 18 percent have been in foster care for more than three years, and 9 percent have been in the system for more than five years. (Source:

Floor action
Designating the state rock, mineral, gemstone and fish.
(HB 2650): House Bill 2650 designates the state rock as greenhorn limestone; the state mineral as galena; the state gemstone as jelinite amber; and the state fish as the channel catfish. This bill passed the Senate 38-0.

Airport authority dissolution procedures. (HB 2628): House Bill 2628 allows the city of Pratt to dissolve, via adoption of an appropriate ordinance, any airport authority created and established by the city. If such an airport authority is dissolved, the city would acquire the property of the authority subject to any leases or agreements made by the authority. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Modifying certain fees in the Kansas postsecondary educational institution act. (HB 2542): House Bill 2542 removes the June 30, 2018, sunset on a statute authorizing the Kansas Board of Regents to fix, charge, and collect fees for state institutions domiciled or having their principal place of business outside the state of Kansas. The bill would also remove fees concerning program modification; om-site branch campus reviews; renewal of registration of a representative; and changes in institution profiles. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Self service of beer from automated devices (SB 433): Senate Bill 433 allows licensed public venues, clubs, and drinking establishments to provide self-service beer to customers from automated devices in the same manner as is permitted for wine under current law. The licensee must monitor the dispensing of beer and must be able to control such dispensing. This bill passed the Senate 37-3. I voted for this bill.

Providing compensation for the wrongfully convited (HB 2579): House Bill 2579 creates a civil cause of action allowing claimants to seek damages from the state for wrongful conviction. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Regulating access to law enforcement recordings (HB 2571): House Bill 2571 modifies the statute governing disclosure of video or audio recordings made and retained by law enforcement using a body camera or a vehicle camera. HB 2571 would add a provision requiring the agency to allow the listening or viewing of the recording within 20 days after the request is made by the person who is subject to the recording or any parent or legal guardian if the subject is under 18 years old. This bill passed the Senate 40-0.

Urging the KCC to lower retail electric rates (SCR 1612): Senate Concurrent Resolution 1612 urges the State Corporation Commission (KCC) to have regionally competitive retail electric service rates and urges the KCC to take any and all lawful action to reduce Kansas electric rates to such levels and maintain the rates and such levels. This concurrent resolution passed the Senate 30-9. I voted for this resolution.

The asbestos trust claims transparency act (HB 2457): House Bill 2457 requires the plaintiff to provide certain statements and materials no later than 30 days prior to the date the court establishes for the completion of all fact discovery. Specifically, the plaintiff would be required to investigate, file all asbestos trust claims that can be made by the plaintiff, and provide a sworn statement indicating the investigation has been conducted and all possible claims filed. The plaintiff would be required to provide all parties with all trust claim materials, accompanied by a custodial affidavit from the asbestos trust. The bill also requires the plaintiff to supplement the information and materials within 30 days after the plaintiff, or person on the plaintiff’s behalf, supplements an existing asbestos trust claim, receives additional information, or materials related to such a claim, or files an asbestos trust claim. This bill passed the Senate 23-16. I voted for this bill.

Amending the Kansas standard asset and forfeiture act. (HB 2459): House Bill 2459 amends the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act and establishes the Kansas asset seizure and forfeiture repository. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

School finance cost study
Last Friday, the legislature received the highly anticipated 156-page report by Dr. Lori Taylor on K-12 education funding in Kansas. On Monday, Dr. Taylor presented her report to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance. Dr. Taylor’s study provided three recommendations of either $451 million, $1.7 billion, or $2 billion.

The $451 million scenario would be enough to maintain current student achievement targets in reading and math while improving graduation rates to 95 percent. The $1.7 billion scenario would increase achievement further and the most expensive scenario, $2 billion, calls for even higher achievement standards. The study’s recommendation would raise annual K-12 funding from $4.652 billion to $6.438 billion or $6.719 billion by 2022.

The study explained that the additional money is needed to reach a 95 percent graduation rate. Currently, no state in the country has a graduation rate that high; Iowa ranks at number one with a graduation rate of 91 percent. The national average is 84.1 percent. Kansas has a graduation rate of 86.1 percent placing it 22nd in the nation.

Dr. Taylor was hired after the Supreme Court ruled in October that last year’s increase of $300 million in state aid, paid for with a tax increase, was not enough. The court gave the legislature an April 30th deadline to respond to the ruling.

The report’s outrageous price tags have led to a mainstream media drumbeat that legislators will have to respond with massive new spending on education, potentially requiring another massive new tax increase to pay for it. In most of these stories, the focus is almost exclusively on dollars – perpetuating the argument that by simply throwing billions more at schools, we’ll achieve results like a 95 percent graduation rate.

Setting aside the fact Kansans could not afford the astronomic taxes the “scenarios” in the study would seem to require, there was no attempt to focus on truly innovative ideas such as building-based budgeting, school choice, real accountability measures, or even the basic fact that there are 286 school districts in Kansas, and that the size disparity between 65 on the low end (Triplains) to over 50,000 on the high end (Wichita) might be something worth reforming. Unfortunately, these real reforms are essentially impossible due to the entrenched interests resisting them – including teachers’ unions, the Kansas Association of School Boards, and of course, our very own Kansas Supreme Court.

Next Thursday, Dr. Jesse Levin of the American Institute for Research will present a peer review of the study.

We need real solutions, such as the ideas laid out in a 2016 school-reform article in the National Review by Frederick Hess. School choice. Dollars following students. Real accountability measures. Etc. It all must be part of the school reform and school finance discussion. You can’t talk about money without talking about results and what’s really best for Kansas kids.

Six senators on Senate Education Committee kill Education Inspector General bill

The Senate Education Committee, on a 6-5 vote, narrowly defeated the Education Inspector General bill.

In favor were Senators Baumgardner, Alley, Estes, Fitzgerald and Pyle for voting to advance the bill. Unfortunately, Senators Bollier, Givens, Hensley, Sykes, Pettey, and Taylor voted to kill the bill.

“Over half the state budget goes to K-12 education. Taxpayers have a right to expect those funds are being allocated according to law. We learned earlier this year they were being allocated in a manner inconsistent with that law, and this measure would ensure they are allocated properly in the future. The Legislature has already proven to be careless with the citizens’ tax dollars. Now, by voting against the measure, six senators have expressed willful disregard about their constitutional duty to Kansas citizens.”
– Sen. Pilcher Cook

Testimony in favor of the legislation can be read here,–Week-Ten.html?soid=1127219026203&aid=P3-Z-qZWiq8

Kansas master teachers

On Thursday, the Senate recognized the 2018 Kansas Master Teachers. Senators Jeff Longbine (R-Emporia), Rick Billinger (R-Goodland), Bruce Givens (R-El Dorado), Tom Hawk (D-Manhattan), Ty Masterson (R-Andover), Mike Petersen (R-Wichita), and John Skubal (R-Overland Park) introduced Senate Resolution 1781, congratulating and commending this year’s Master Teachers.
Emporia State University established the Master Teacher awards in 1954. The awards are presented annually to teachers who have served the profession for at least five years and exemplify outstanding qualities. Candidates are usually nominated by their school district and the selection committee decides on seven recipients. Only one person from a USD can be selected.

Adoption protection act

This week the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held hearings on SB 401, the Adoption Protection Act. The bill works to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to place children in homes that violate their religious beliefs. The bill would ensure that faith-based organizations cannot be denied permits, licenses, or authorizations due to their refusal of placing children in certain homes.
There are currently no laws that restrict organizations that do not receive state funding from their placement criteria, but SB 401 is meant to act as a proactive measure. Proponents of the bill want to ensure that faith-based organizations are free to serve and protected from any future policies that might target them.

Opponents of the bill say it is discriminatory against same-sex couples since faith-based adoption agencies would be allowed to deny child placement to those couples.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families supports SB 401, saying that it allows for more adoption agencies to help place the 7,000 children that are currently in DCF custody.
Key excerpt:
Ironically, their offensive rhetoric demonstrates the pressing need for even more states to pass these measures to protect their faith-based social service organizations. “If the ACLU gets their way,” warned Eric Teetsel, President of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, “any agency that declines to embrace their sexual politics would be prohibited from partnering with the government to provide social services to those in need, like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, counseling prisoners, and finding homes for kids in need. To see such disdain for the viewpoints of others is disappointing; that it results in fewer services for those in need is unacceptable.”

Why this matters so much: The Adoption Protection Act is a critical step towards ensuring that a full 1/3 of Kansas adoption agencies can continue operating and placing children, while still holding true to their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Over 20 organizations and individuals provided compelling proponent testimony on Tuesday.

Armed Forces Appreciation Day

March 22 was Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Capitol. Outside the statehouse, members of the Kansas National Guard showcased military equipment including specific equipment used to help fight wildfires.

I sponsored a resolution that was passed by the Kansas Senate expressing appreciation for the Armed Forces. Kansas is home for many active and retired service members and their families.

This week
Monday –
On floor all day.
On floor all day.
• On floor all day.
• On floor all day
• Presentation on: Dr. Jesse Levin Overview of Peer Review of Dr. Taylor’s Study – [Senate Select Committee on Education Finance, March 29 at 1 p.m.]
• No session

2018 session dates and deadlines

March 26-28
On floor all day

Thursday, March 29
On floor all day; Last day to consider non-exempt bills not in originating chamber
Friday, March 30 No session
Friday, April 6 Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26 Veto session begins
Thursday, May 4 Day 90

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., represents parts of Leavenworth County and western Wyandotte County.


Injuries reported in K-7 crash

Two injuries were reported in a crash March 12 at K-7 and 130th Street, according to a Kansas Turnpike Authority trooper’s report.

The crash, at 8:39 p.m. Monday, happened when a Toyota car failed to stop for a red light and struck a Buick sport utility vehicle in the intersection, according to the trooper’s report.

The driver of the Toyota, a 75-year-old Leavenworth, Kansas, man, was injured and taken to a hospital, according to the trooper’s report.

The driver of the Buick SUV, a 51-year-old Edwardsville, Kansas, woman, also was injured and was taken to a hospital, the trooper’s report stated.