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 governing.com, is Iowa at 90 percent. Kansas is currently at a relatively high 86 percent. (Sources: http://www.governing.com/gov-data/high-school-graduation-rates-by-state.html)

• 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: https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/report/adoption-foster-care-and-conscience-protection)

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, http://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-Truth-Report–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.

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

Opinion column

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Thumbs down on property taxes

Small businesses rank property taxes among the most despised taxes because they pay the tax whether they are producing income or not. NFIB’s most recent Small Business Problems and Priorities, a publication with extensive research on the problems facing small businesses, property taxes were the 8th most concerning issue, which was just ahead of state income tax rates at 9th. https://www.nfib.com/content/news/kansas/nfib-small-businesses-cant-afford-higher-property-taxes/

I was privileged to have supper with former Congressman Barry Goldwater again this year during his visit to the Kansas Capitol. He represented California in better times and now lives in Arizona.

The big item in the Senate this week was the Convention of States resolution that ultimately failed to gain the constitutionally necessary two-thirds vote. Opposition to the resolution included very liberal Democrats and Republicans and a few very conservative Republicans. Two conservative senators made excellent statements about the potential problems with the resolution And, I hope those problems are adequately addressed before this resolution comes back, as I think it will.

The states’ rising demand for a convention to amend the Constitution is a healthy expression of the frustration of the people concerning the national debt and other issues. That concern should cause the election of candidates that will address the issues and address the frustrations. Who we elect is the most important part of self-government.

Quick facts
• 34 percent decrease in the total juvenile out-of-home population between July 2016 and July 2017 in Kansas, including reductions in detention facilities, group homes, and secure state-run juvenile correctional facilities (Pew Trusts)

• Mediware Health Care growing and moving to a new location in Johnson County; it is expected to grow the local workforce by 368 jobs within the next 10 years (Kansas City Star)

• Corporate tax receipts down $9.66 million below expectations for this fiscal year, but are $14.92 million over this time last year (Department of Revenue)

• Jobs spiked 313,000 in February. The Trump economy continues to boom, adding 313,000 jobs in February, easily beating expectations. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent. (Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/09/nonfarm-payrolls-february.html)

• Midwest Business Conditions Index rose in February, pointing to continued improvement in regional economic conditions. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. (Source: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/midwest/2018/03/02/482258.html)

• The 2018 National Right to Life Convention will be in Overland Park, Kansas, from June 28 to 30. For more information, visit http://nrlconvention.com/.

Floor action

Microbrewery contracting (HB 2470): House Bill 2470 allows Kansas microbreweries to contract with other microbreweries to sell and package beer and hard cider. The legislation regulates the amount of beer and hard cider that can be transported between facilities. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Cereal malt beverage sale regulations (HB 2502): House Bill 2502 allows cereal malt beverage (no more than 6.0 percent alcohol volume) licenses to be subject to state and local taxes instead of the state liquor tax. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Convention of States (SCR 1611): Senate Concurrent Resolution 1611 makes the application to the Congress of the United States to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose limits on the federal government. This bill failed 22-16 (The resolution needed 27 votes or two-thirds in favor to pass). I voted for this bill.

Republican senator goes independent

Sen. John Doll (I- Garden City) changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent to join Greg Orman’s independent ticket for governor. In 2006, Doll ran as a Democrat for U.S. Congress against Jerry Moran in District 1. From 2010 to 2011 Doll served as the mayor of Garden City and then in the Kansas House of Representatives as a Republican from 2013 to 2016. Doll has been in the Kansas Senate since 2016.

In accordance to Senate Rule 22, the following senators have replaced Sen. Doll in his committees:
• Education Committee: Sen. Larry Alley – Vice Chair
Sen. Bruce Givens
• Ethics, Elections, and Local Government Committee: Sen. Susan Wagle
• Transportation Committee: Sen. Dan Goddard – Vice Chair
Sen. Ty Masterson
• Ways and Means Committee: Sen. Susan Wagle

Qualifications for certain statewide offices

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government held a hearing on HB 2539 concerning qualifications for candidates seeking certain statewide offices. The bill provides for a minimum age to run for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, and insurance commissioner. Currently, there is no age requirement.

Listen in and look it up

Below are links to make it easy to follow the Kansas Legislature:

Website – www.kslegislature.org.
Great for looking up bills, calendars, journals, as well as the Roster in each Chamber. And – you can check rosters, bills, etc. in previous years as well.
YouTube of Legislature – http://bit.ly/2CZj9O0 The YouTube page has an archive of the sessions thus far – including the State of the State and the State of the Judiciary.
Committee Streaming – http://sg001harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/
The Kansas Legislature is also streaming committees, with every committee room equipped with audio streaming technology.

This week

• Hearing on: SCR 1612, urging the state corporation commission to lower retail electric rates to regionally competitive levels – [Senate Commerce Committee, March 12 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2441, audits of state agencies; financial-compliance audits; Kansas lottery security audit; selection of auditors, contracts with – [Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing and staff briefing on (written testimony only): HB 2579, providing compensation for a person who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing and staff briefing on (written testimony only): HB 2571, regulating access to certain law enforcement audio and video recordings – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Discussion on: Higher education budget – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 423, amending the Kansas school equity and enhancement act by eliminating the 10% at-risk floor and expanded uses of capital outlay – [Senate Select Committee on Education Finance, March 12 at 3:30 p.m.]

Tuesday –
• Hearing on: HB 2691, modifying notification requirements for the division of water resources regarding multi-year flex accounts and water right applications – [Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2040, increasing the penalties for subsequent violations of traffic regulations prohibiting improper passing of school buses – [Senate Transportation Committee, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Pending referral, hearing on: SB 437, concerning sales and compensating use tax; relating to exemptions, sales of currency, certain coins or bullion -[Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: (proponents) HB 2506, rehabilitation of abandoned property by cities – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 13 at 9:30am]
• Hearing on: HB 2639, allowing KDHE to collect a fee for fingerprinting individuals maintain or residing, working or regularly volunteering at a child care facility – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 436, providing Medicaid coverage for cessation treatments – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2581, increasing criminal penalties for the crime of giving a false alarm in certain circumstance – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 13 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2359, enacting the Kansas cybersecurity act for executive branch agencies – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 13 at 10:30 a.m.]

Wednesday –
• Hearing on: SB 362, exempting labor from depreciation in certain property and casualty insurance claims – [Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, March 14 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2465, designating Kansas commission on veteran’s affairs office employees as safety sensate positions subject to drug screening – [Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2459, amending the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act and establishing the Kansas asset seizure and forfeiture repository – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2419, state finances; transfers to and expenditures from the budget stabilization fund; transfers to the Kansas public employees retirement fund – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2602, creating the legislative task force on dyslexia – [Senate Education Committee, March 14 at 1:30 p.m.]

Thursday –
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2147, providing an income tax refund for certain Native American veterans – [Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2505, cities; when mayor is considered part of the governing body for voting purposes – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2597, Sedgwick county designated an urban area – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2481, updating the Kansas adoption and relinquishment act – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 15 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 424, establishing the office of education inspector general – [Senate Education Committee, March 15 at 1:30 p.m.]

Friday –
• Hearing on: SB 435, permitting real estate brokers and salespersons to give clients or customers rebates if disclosed in the purchase contract or listing agreement – [Senate Commerce Committee, March 16 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2524, allowing petitions for a protection from abuse order to include a request for transfer of rights to a wireless telephone number –[Senate Utilities Committee, March 16 at 1:30 p.m.]
• Presentation on: Joint Senate Select Committee on Education Finance & House K-12 Education Budget Committee – [Senate Select Committee on Education and Finance, March 16 at 1 p.m.]

Session dates and deadlines

Friday, March 23 Last day for non-exempt committee consideration
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

The other house

On Tuesday, March 6, the House Taxation Committee held a hearing on HB 2740, a bill which increases the statewide property tax levy for K-12 education. Under the bill, the statewide mill levy, currently at 20.00 mills, increases in stages – to 26.76 mills in school year 2018-19, to 32.82 mills in school year 2019-20, and eventually increase to 38.43 mills in school year 2020-21.

Last year, Kansans were forced to accept a massive $1.2 billion retroactive tax increase, even affecting those with low incomes. On top of that, many Kansans are facing higher property taxes because of a controversial valuation process. To further burden hard-working taxpayers of Kansas by sharply hiking the statewide mill levy is unacceptable. If the House passes this bill I will speak and vote against it in the Senate. We are taxed enough already!

On Thursday, March 8, the Kansas House adopted HB 2757, repealing common sense reforms enacted in 2014 that enhanced local control by providing local school boards the authority to negotiate due process for teachers. HB 2757 reverses that, usurping local control and creating a statewide mandate on an issue best left up to school districts.

In the interest of transparency the House passed Sub for HB 2572, requiring the Department of Commerce to establish a database with information on economic development incentive programs, including certain income tax credits and locally-granted property tax exemptions in addition to various programs administered directly by the Department. The bill passed 114-7.

The House also passed HB 2416, which provides tax credits for companies that hire blind and disabled workers, or both. To qualify under the bill’s provisions, businesses must primarily do business in Kansas and have a workforce where 30 percent possess a disability. This would be certified by the Department of Commerce. The bill passed unanimously.

House leadership releases Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act
HB 2773, the Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act, was introduced in the House last week. It creates the school safety and security grant fund, requires the State Board of Education to develop statewide requirements for public school buildings and requires public school districts to adopt a comprehensive school safety plan, based on the SBOE requirements.

The act also allows school districts to provide firearm safety programs and adds an additional 2 FTE to the Department of Education for the management of the Safe and Secure Schools Act.
Details of HB 2773
• Creates the School Safety and Security Grand Fund, which the State Board of Education will administer.
• Allows for $5.0 million to be used for infrastructure improvements and training.
• State Board of Education will develop statewide requirements for public school buildings, which shall include, but are not limited to; building infrastructure, technology and communication systems.
• School district will be required to adopt a comprehensive school safety plan based on the SBOE requirements, which should include:
o Staff training
o Emergency drills
o Communication procedures
o Lockdown procedures
o Evacuation procedures
o Evaluation of building infrastructure
o Review of existing emergency procedures
o Recovery procedures and distribution of safety plan

• HB 2773 authorizes school districts to provide firearm safety education programs, such as the Eddie Eagle program or any other evidence-based program.
• HB 2773 also adds 2 FTE to the Department of Education to manage the School Safety and Security Act, with a cost of $300,000 annually.

School safety and the protection of our children are of the utmost importance to us all. HB 2773 is a good first step in looking at ways to harden and protect our schools from those intent on doing evil.
Crime research statistics show us the 96.2 percent of school shootings from 1998 to 2015 have occurred in “gun-free zones.” “Gun-free zones” are soft targets, which allow those intent on doing harm the guarantee that they will not be met with armed resistance.
Nine states, including Kansas, already allow teachers the ability to carry a firearm to protect students. 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.
Florida, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama are currently looking at joining Kansas as states that will allow teachers and school employees the ability to provide a last-line of defense to protect students.

Adoption protection bills await committee action

HB 2687 and SB 401 ensure that faith-based adoption providers are allowed to continue to operate in accordance to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Seven states have passed similar laws to protect faith-based adoption providers. The legislation is modeled after the Virginia law passed in 2012.
Neither HB 2687 nor SB 401 have been heard yet in committee.
From Kansas Catholic Conference: Protect Adoption Choice
Thousands of children in the U.S foster system are in desperate need of a safe place to call home, particularly minority children, older children, and those with disabilities. Faith-based adoption agencies in Kansas have been giving these children forever homes for over 60 years.

Sadly, other states have implemented policy changes that prevent faith-based providers from serving in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Catholic Charities’ adoption ministry was forced to shut down after 100 years of serving in Boston. Agencies in San Francisco, Illinois, and DC have also been forced to close because of their policy of only placing children in homes where they will have the lifetime benefit of a married mom and a dad.

Legislation being considered by the Kansas Legislature will ensure that faith-based agencies are free to serve the common good as they have for decades This bill does not change existing policy related to foster care or adoption, rather it protects against any future policies that might target faith-based providers for their religious beliefs.

* Groups like the ACLU want to use the full force of the U.S. Government to shut down agencies they disagree with.

* Faith-based adoption services are particularly effective in placing special needs and hard to place children.

* More providers means more children placed in forever homes.

* When a birth mother’s desire for her child is a faith-filled home with a forever mom and dad, hostile political activists should not be allowed to stand in her way.

* Shutting faith-based agencies down only limits birth mother choices and does not increase access for anyone.

* LGBT couples have the legal right to adopt in all 50 states. Nothing in this bill changes that.

* This bill simply allows faith-based providers to continue serving the common good by recruiting, training, and retaining families for children.

Find more information at http://www.protectadoptionchoice.org/

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