Opinions

kckcc logoFour incumbents seeking re-election to the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees have a proven record in leading the school, which is one of the community’s finest assets. Their accomplishments clearly prove that they all deserve re-election in the General Election Tuesday, April 7. One of the trustees’ finest accomplishments is the Technical Education Center, which is meeting the challenge of providing job-ready personnel for the well-being of the community.

Donald Ash retired as a veteran Kansas City, Kansas, police officer, after serving in various command positions. The voters, recognizing his excellent law enforcement abilities, elected him Wyandotte County Sheriff. He has been active in many youth and sport activities and has served in leadership positions with various community organizations. He is seeking his third consecutive term as a college trustee.

Dr. Ray Daniels, the retired superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, School District, has served as the Chairman of the Board of the College Trustees. He led the Kansas City, Kansas, School District through its major academic improvement project, “First Things First.” That program continues today as a model among urban districts.

Mary Ann Flunder has served continuously as a college trustee since 1991. She has served as the chairperson of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees; she is a member of the national Association of Community College Trustees. She has served in the Silver Haired Legislature. She is an active volunteer member of the NAACP and the Kansas Black Chamber of Commerce.

Clyde Townsend is seeking his third full term as a college trustee; he was first appointed in 2005. Townsend has served as a Wyandotte County Commissioner and a member of the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. He also worked as an employee in the Kansas City, Kansas, Street Department. He assures voters that he will continue to make decisions that will be in the best interests of the college and its students.

The Committee For Quality Candidates was successful in electing these candidates four years ago.

Your vote is necessary to re-elect

Don Ash, Dr. Ray Daniels, Mary Ann Flunder and Clyde Townsend

to the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees.

Committee For Quality Candidates

P.O. Box 12832 – Kansas City KS 66112-0832

www.qualitycandidatesforkckcc.com

  •  Compensated placement: a Paid Political advertisement by the Committee For Quality Candidates, P.O. Box 12832, Kansas City KS 66112, Murrel Bland, treasurer.  

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Contact: steve.fitzgerald@senate.ks.gov

Education costs stay down for illegal aliens

The government of Kansas should protect and serve the citizens of the state. Taxing those citizens to pay for reduced tuition for illegal aliens is morally wrong. It is using coercive powers of the state to take from those who have obeyed the law and give to those who have flouted the law. It encourages more disrespect for the law and more illegal aliens.

Illegal aliens impose an enormous burden on the taxpayers of Kansas because of the cost of welfare, education, and often their incarceration. Too many Kansans and too many illegal aliens have been victimized by those who are here in violation of our laws. The illegal aliens and their families are exploited, and, afraid of going to the police, they are easy prey. And yet, we continue to provide benefits that attract more and exacerbate the situation.

Law-abiding citizens of other countries apply for visas, go through background checks and health screenings before coming here. Illegal aliens do not. Yet, Kansas law provides incentives for those who violate our laws. This is an injustice to those in other countries who follow the rules and obey the law as well as to the Kansans who foot the bill.

This is a disservice to Kansans and it must be stopped. Unfortunately, a bill (HB 2139) to end the insanity of encouraging more illegal immigration (no background check, no health screen, often no actual identification) has been tabled in the House Committee on Education. Those members tabling this bill are responsible for the continuation of this misuse of tax dollars and the continuation of the serious problems associated with a rapidly growing illegal alien population that come here or stay here in violation of the law, something that cannot be done in their home countries.

The United States accepts more legal immigrants than any other country in the world. It also has the highest number of illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants are always welcomed and their desire to live here legally is appreciated. The gate crashing, however, needs to stop. Providing inducements for such illegal activity is a betrayal of the trust that Kansans place in their elected representatives.

During the debate in committee there were charges of “racism, sexism, and fear mongering.” No, this is not about race; it is about the law. It is about the right and ability of the American people to have a country with borders and laws against invasion by those who ignore our borders, disregard our laws, take our benefits, and demand more. The charge of racism is a clear sign that those in favor of this ruinous policy that is increasing our tax burden, overloading our education system, clogging our emergency rooms, filling our courts and prisons are simply bankrupt when it comes to defending it. They have no excuse and so they charge “racism” in an attempt to bully representatives – and it worked.

Most shameful of all is the support for this illegality comes from members of the business community who want cheap, compliant labor, labor that is unlikely to join a union or make a fuss because it is here illegally. Representatives fearful of losing the support of those businesses and sensitive to being called a racist simply abandoned their duty and turned their backs on the Kansas worker who must compete in this environment where his wages are held down by competition from those who have no right to be here and who are taking his tax dollars to support themselves.

Religious freedom for college students

SB 175 enacts law prohibiting post secondary educational institutions from taking any action that would deny a religious student association any benefit available to any other student association. The bill creates a cause of action for a student or religious student association wronged by a violation of this provision and in doing so the afflicted party could assert such violation as a defense or seek appropriate relief, including monetary damages.

I introduced the bill and carried it on the floor. Ridiculous charges were made to the effect that the bill would allow otherwise illegal racial discrimination, etc. The bill will simply allow student religious organizations to continue as they have done. No instances of any problems were cited by the opposition; but, they had imaginary scenarios of terrible things happening. The Senate approved the bill on a final action vote of 30-8.

Transparency bills

SB 86 is intended to increase government transparency among the public in the legislative process by establishing the Kansas Transparency Act. Currently the daily proceedings in the Senate and House chambers are broadcast in real time over internet audio but starting Jan. 1, 2016, the Act would require legislative committee meetings that are held in four designated rooms in the Statehouse be broadcast as well. Additionally, archives of all broadcasts in those designated rooms would be required to be publicly available on the internet to be accessed at a later date. The bill passed unanimously.

SB 193 is an innovative approach to the challenging decision for many students and their parents with regard to investing in higher education. The bill requires post secondary institutions in Kansas to publish a single-page degree “prospectus” for each degree offered. By making a more informed decision early in the process, students will be able to save more in the long-run, and have more to show for the degrees they ultimately earn. The bill passed on a vote of 27-11. I voted for this bill.

SB 98 updates the Kansas Open Records Act by requiring that minutes be taken at all meetings that fall under the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The presiding officer would determine the format but minutes of all meetings would be required. It also updates how much public agencies can charge for black and white copies of public records. Each copy could not exceed 25 cents a page. The measure has been the result of over two years of compromise and negotiations among a number of stakeholders on both sides of the issue. Proponents of the measure believe that the average citizen should have the ability to easily access public documents without facing an unreasonable financial cost. The bill passed unanimously.

SB 86 creates the Kansas Transparency Act which expands the Kansas Open Records Act. The bill requires legislative committees to have an audio feed streamed live over the internet. Four designated committee rooms will be equipped to allow for broadcasts by Jan. 1, 2016, with the rest of the statehouse’s committee rooms following by 2019. Those first four rooms would be designated by the Legislative Coordinating Council. Archives of the broadcasts would also be available to the public on the Kansas Legislative website. Proponents of SB 86 believe the measure would allow more people to become more informed about the legislative process. The measure was approved unanimously.

SB 42 requires that every registered lobbyist submit a report disclosing the amount of money they receive from public entities. The reports will be open to the public and must be filed by Jan. 10 for the previous year. All reports will be available on the Secretary of State’s website. There were two amendments added on the floor that would ask governmental agencies to disclose all public funds that are used to lobby and publish that information the same way they publish their annual budget either online or in newsprint. Taxpayers deserve to know the amount of public money being spent to lobby for more tax dollars. The bill passed unanimously.

Bills from the House

HB 2096. On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee passed HB 2096, which contains the contents of what were originally SB 179 and SB 212. The bill stops automatic paycheck deductions for union dues for state, municipal and school district employees.

This does not prevent any employee from making a contribution by other means. It also limits collective bargaining between state agencies and their workers to salary issues and moves dispute resolutions to the secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, instead of the board, which is abolished under this bill. The bill is expected to be on the Senate calendar this week.

Job growth and low unemployment in Kansas

According to figures from the Department of Labor, there is a steady increase in the number of private sector jobs in Kansas – which are now at a record high. However, we need even more private sector growth.

Unemployment continues to stay at a low 4.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor. This helps to keep our expenses under control and is an indicator that wages should be rising. We need to bring our taxes and expenses down so that there are more resources in the economy for private employment.

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Rep. Pam Curtis
Rep. Pam Curtis

The next two weeks will be extremely busy as we work bills prior to what is referred to as “Drop Dead Day” on April 3. No bills will be considered after this date except bills vetoed by the governor, Omnibus Appropriations Act and Omnibus Reconciliations spending limit bill. Last Wednesday was the last day to consider bills not in House of origin except by “exempt” committees.

I want to thank all of you that have called and emailed me to express your opinion about bills and matters before the Kansas Legislature. Your input is very important and helpful.

It remains an incredible honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives. If I can be of service to you or anyone you know call my office at 785-296-7371 or email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.


School finance lawsuit (again)

The three-judge panel that ruled in December the state was not adequately meeting their Constitutional obligation to fund public education may soon be ruling on the constitutionality of the governor’s educational block grant program. In a court order handed down just hours after the House passed the block grant bill, the three-judge panel reopened a portion of the case dealing with equity amongst districts. Funding education is one of the most important things our state government does, Kansas courts shouldn’t have to order the legislature to properly fund it; we should do it because it is the thing to do.

Budget
Fiscal responsibility means spending must match income and budgets must be balanced, and traditionally the legislature has always acted accordingly. This year, however, Gov. Brownback and his legislative allies are taking a different approach with the budget. This week the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that spends almost $600 million more than the state is expected to have in 2016 and 2017.

The governor suggests filling the revenue hole by raising taxes and reducing the state’s investment into public employee’s pensions. Kansans have already suffered greatly because of the governor’s failed experiment, which has forced the state to make deep cuts to services and programs. None of the governor’s revenue proposals offer stable long-term solutions to the Kansas revenue crisis that was brought on by his failed economic experiment.

We must have a budget policy that is fair, equitable, and sustainable, and puts the needs of Kansas’ middle class families first. It would be fiscally irresponsible to consider a budget that is unbalanced, or relies on funding from one-time revenue sources.

Block grants become law
The governor’s school finance plan has now been approved by both chambers. The bill replaces the per-pupil school finance formula with a lump sum to school districts. Last week I voted no on the block grant bill because it:
• Eliminates the school finance formula
• Widens inequalities among school districts across the state
• Cuts funding for USD 500
• Risks litigation in the courts.

The bill will now go to the governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law. I urge you to contact the Governor’s Office at 785-368-8500 and ask him to veto the bill.

Repeal of in-state tuition
The House Education Committee heard testimony this week on a bill that would revoke in-state tuition status to about 650 Kansans students because of where they were born. Since 2004 Kansas’ undocumented residents have paid in-state tuition at the state’s public higher education institutions if they:

1. Attended an accredited Kansas high school for three or more years,
2. Graduated or received their GED from a Kansas high school, and
3. File an affidavit stating they are pursing U.S. citizenship.

The bill would force children who graduated from Kansas high schools to pay out of state tuition, a move I fear could price students out of a college education. The House Education Committee did table HB 2139 which hopeful means the end of the legislation for at least this year.

Moving elections to the fall
This week the House Elections Committee voted to approve moving local elections to November to coincide with the general election. The bill, which originated in and was passed by the Senate, may now be heard before the entire House for final approval. Some feel that holding elections in November will politicize local elections.

Medicaid expansion
Hundreds of supporters gathered in the Statehouse this week to advocate for Medicaid expansion as hearings on the measure were held. Expanding Medicaid is essential to providing coverage to an additional 150,000 Kansans who are currently without insurance. Independent estimates conclude that the state has lost over $457 million in federal funds by refusing to expand Medicaid. Kansas healthcare providers are pleading with the legislature to expand Medicaid because it is critical to the future of rural hospitals across the state. Expanding Medicaid to cover uninsured Kansans makes financial sense and is the right thing to do.

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