March 14, 2014
In this issue:
• Three weeks left of regular session
• Fund equalization
• Mortgage fee elimination
• Health care exchange navigators
• Party swapping
• Raffle amendment
• Student data privacy act
• Innovative districts
• Over at the House
• Healthcare information
Three weeks left of regular session
We had a slow week last week, but that wasn’t the case this week. Committees held hearings on bills, worked them, and passed many out of committee for consideration on the Senate floor. We also had several days of floor votes. This will be the pace for the next three weeks until April 4, which the last day of regular session. The Senate convenes Monday-Thursday at 2:30p.m and Friday at 8:00a.m. To listen to legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live” on the homepage of www.kslegislature.org. You can also find daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills on that website. If you have any questions about any bills, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.
Since the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday, there has been much discussion about what the school finance decision actually means for the state of Kansas. The court’s opinion has split school finance into equity and adequacy.
To address the funding inequalities, the court has mandated that the Legislature fund capital outlay and local option budget equalization by July 1, 2014. Capital outlay provides money for operations, such as food service, building maintenance, heating, air conditioning, and technology.
A local option budget utilizes a portion of revenue from property taxes to fund local school districts and makes up about 25 percent of a school district’s budget. The local option budget equalization provides supplemental funding from the state to provide balance for districts that may be in smaller or poorer communities that have less property tax revenue for their local option budgets. Currently, funds appropriated have only covered a percentage of what would be needed to create a balance.
To equalize these two elements of the school finance formula, the Legislature will need to allocate approximately $129 million. If no action is taken to address the local option budget equalization, the court will stop local school districts from using their local option budget authority.
This underfunding of the LOB looks different depending on the property wealth of the district. For example: Turner has been underfunded to the tune of $1,410,486. Kansas City, Kan., to the tune of $7,063,356. Shawnee Mission $0.
In terms of adequacy, the Supreme Court ruled that the District Court must further review and determine if lawmakers have also failed to fund schools adequately. This is what will impact the base state aid per pupil amount, which is currently $3,838 and is statutorily required to be at least $4,492. The three-judge panel’s initial ruling in January 2013 indicated the funding was not adequate, but the Supreme Court remanded this decision stating it did not apply the correct test to determine adequacy. We predict that it will not take long for the District Court to review this and provide their opinion.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis , D-Lawrence, announced late Thursday afternoon that a bill is being introduced in the House and the Senate to fully fund the equalization to the statutory amount. I agree with Rep. Davis and will be supporting this bill. It will ensure that all Kansas children are receiving an equitable education.
Mortgage registration fee
At the beginning of the session the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee held hearings on a bill that sought to repeal the mortgage registration fee by July 1, 2014. The committee later amended the bill (Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 298) to phase-out the mortgage registration tax over five years, but phase-in a certain per-page fee increase over four years. The bill had been on the calendar for debate this week, but went back to committee to further amend the phase-out/phase-in portion.
The mortgage registration fee currently generates nearly $45 million statewide. This bill would replace that with new fees that will only generate about $26.5 million. In other words, counties would face an overall loss of $18.7 million by FY2019. There is no doubt this will result in property tax increases.
The bill has once again passed out of committee and is expected to be on the floor for debate next week. The realtors association of Wyandotte and Johnson counties. does not support this bill. They say that home buyers are more interested in property taxes and good schools and see this fee as part of purchasing a home or property. Both Johnson and Wyandotte counties lose revenues with this bill. The amendment lessens that hit but I still see no reason for a change that could raise property taxes.
Health care exchange navigators
On a vote of 30-10, the Senate passed a bill this week that mandates onerous requirements on individuals who work as navigators for the health care exchange. I voted against Senate Bill 362 because it requires background and credit checks for individuals who provide assistance in obtaining insurance through the health care exchange, but are not required for those who provide assistance for programs such as Medicare Part D and KanCare.
The bill received supporting testimony only from Americans for Prosperity and a legislator, while opposing testimony came from a host of independent experts in the health care field along with credible health care and small business entities. I chose to not ignore the experts. I voted against this misguided and misinformed bill.
A bill that prohibits voters from changing party affiliations between the candidate filing deadline and the date the primary election results are certified is headed to the desk of the governor after it passed the Senate on a vote of 27-12 this week and the House on a vote 72-49 last week.
Proponents of House Bill 2210 argue that it is necessary to protect the integrity of Republican primaries because it will prevent individuals from switching parties to vote in primaries and then switch back the day after the primary. Opponents argue it is yet another bill seeking to silence the opposition. I voted against it. It also adds another layer of confusion to registering to vote.
An amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would legalize charity raffles received unanimous support from the Senate this week. The proposed amendment would alter Section 3 of Article 15 – which prohibits lotteries with the exception of bingo, betting on dog and horse races, and state-owned and operated lottery – to authorize the Legislature to establish licensing, conduct, and regulation of charitable raffles by nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, educational, and veterans organizations.
The amendment will now go to the House for debate. If it passes the House, it will have to be approved by a majority vote in the general election before it actually amends the Kansas Constitution. I voted for this measure.
Student data privacy act
The Senate voted unanimously in support of a bill that creates the Student Data Privacy Act.
Senate Bill 367 outlines what data contained in a student’s record can and cannot be disclosed and to whom.
It would permit student data to be disclosed at any time to the student or the student’s parent or legal guardian so long as the data solely pertains to the student. Additionally, this bill does not prohibit the disclosure of student data for urgent health or safety reasons, but with confidentiality requirements. I supported this bill.
The Kansas State Board of Education met this week and decided it will make another attempt to receive clarification from Attorney General Derek Schmidt to determine the constitutionality of a law passed last year establishing innovative school districts. Their first attempt went
The question of constitutionality comes up because these districts would not be subject to oversight by the Kansas State Board of Education, as required by the Kansas Constitution. Instead, they would be approved and monitored by a special coalition called the Coalition of Innovative Districts comprised of representatives of each innovative district.
As you may recall, the Legislature passed the law (SB176) last year that would allow school districts to apply to receive “innovative” status thereby exempting them from most state laws and rules and regulations in order to improve student achievement. For example, the districts who receive this status would not be required to hire licensed teachers. I voted against it.
Over at the House
Property tax relief
On a vote of 116-4, the House passed a property tax relief bill (House Bill 2542) late this week that was amended to include $45 million in funding for the Local Ad Valorem Tax Relief Fund a fund established as a trade-off with local units of government. The fund has not received a single dollar since the 2008 recession set in. This was the same amendment offered in the Senate last week that failed on a vote of 14-23.
The House Committee on Insurance held a hearing this week on House Bill 2744, which would require all insurance companies to require coverage for 10 hours per week of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for autistic children up to the age of 18 starting January 1, 2016. Many in the autism community argued that 10 hours of coverage each week is not enough; the minimum recommendation is 20 hours.
Fitness club tax exemption
The bill that passed the Senate last March on a vote of 25-14 that would provide a multi-million dollar property tax exemption to for-profit fitness clubs has been tabled for the session by the House Committee on Taxation. The main proponent, who is the owner of a chain of fitness clubs, has contributed more than $100,000 to campaigns of current legislators in an attempt to sway their votes. He contends the bill would “level the playing field” for them and nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA. I have opposed this bill the entire time because I believe it is an unfair carve out for a special interest group.
From the Kansas State Board of Education:
Kansas’ school nutrition program ensures healthy, hunger-free children.
• 1,560 participating schools
• 354,433 lunches served daily
• 116,191 breakfasts served daily
• More than 1 million summer meals served in FY2013
• $177,841,512 in state and federal reimbursement
From the American Heart Association: Overweight kids have a 70-80 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. Parents’ health attitudes and behaviors can play a critical role in childhood development.
Here are three simple steps to begin building a healthier diet:
• Always look for (and choose) fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu or at the grocery store.
• Try foods that are baked, steamed, or grilled instead of fried.
• Check out the nutrition information on food packages when at the grocery store, or ask restaurants if their nutrition information is available. Farmers Markets are increasing in popularity and are popping up all over the state. These venues are a great way to buy food when it is in-season and in its freshest state. To locate a farmers market near you, visit www.KSfarmersmarkets.org.
When you think of the food you ate growing up, how does it compare to the foods you eat now? For some, it may look quite similar but for others it may look like a completely different diet. In fact, the average portion size of most foods has dramatically increased. Compared to 20 years ago, a serving of soda has tripled in size, a serving of spaghetti has doubled in size and the average chocolate chip cookie now has 5 times the calories. These changes didn’t happen all at once, and it could take even longer to get them to shift back to something healthier. With so many changes in portion sizes, it is no wonder we have so many overweight kids.