Election night totals shocking to Rep. Frownfelter

Rep. Stan Frownfelter (File photo)

by Mary Rupert

Note: The election totals were updated on Thursday to Aaron Coleman, 800, Rep. Stan Frownfelter, 797, a three-vote margin.

State Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist., said he was shocked by Tuesday night’s election results. He was one vote behind challenger Aaron Coleman in the Democratic primary at the end of the night.

Coleman, 19, upset Rep. Frownfelter in the closest contest in Wyandotte County on Tuesday. The election is not over yet, though.

There still may be votes left to count in the mail, as ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until Friday to get to the Election Office. Also, there are hundreds of provisional ballots that the Board of Canvassers will decide on Aug. 17, Rep. Frownfelter said. After those results, he will determine if he will ask for a recount.

“Anytime you run for office, you know something might happen,” said Rep. Frownfelter, who has served 14 years in the Legislature. Still, he believes he represented his territory and did a good job for the residents there, he said.

While he doesn’t know exactly how many votes are still out within the 37th District, there may be 400 to 600 more votes that may be considered, when the mail ballots are added to provisional ballots, Rep. Frownfelter said.

Frownfelter’s opponent, Aaron Coleman, said he went door-to-door to at least 70 percent of the homes in the district, talking to voters. A Bernie Sanders supporter, Coleman also said on Wednesday that he thought the election results showed the strength of the progressive movement.

The 69-year-old legislator has been in office since 2007 and has been a strong supporter of the rights of workers. He said he also campaigned door-to-door in July.

“I did as much as I could with the heat and everything, walk an hour, sit a bit,” Rep. Frownfelter said.

Rep. Frownfelter said although there was a good turnout overall in Wyandotte County, around 28 percent, in his district in Turner there was less than 10 percent turnout. Only about 1,500 out of 22,000 voters in the district cast a ballot by Tuesday night.

“That doesn’t show a good representation for our area at all,” he said.

Inappropriate statements

In the last week before the election, Coleman was criticized for social media comments he made concerning Herman Cain and others, saying Republicans deserved to fall ill or die if they didn’t wear a mask. His statements blew up before the election. Coleman has been a member of the Young Democrats, but ran for governor previously as an independent.

The Kansas Young Democrats on July 31 issued an apology and stated that they “strongly condemn this type of rhetoric.” The state Young Democrats also urged people to vote for Rep. Frownfelter.

Rep. Frownfelter said he was shocked by Coleman’s social media posts. Rep. Frownfelter said he had never wished anyone ill will or death because they had a difference of opinion.

Coleman wrote on social media in response to the Kansas Young Democrats apology: “What is worse, joking about someone dying. Or actions that literally kill people. The answer: both are equally disturbing and should be condemned in every instance.”

Rep. Frownfelter said in order to get anything passed in the Legislature, they need 63 votes, and the Democrats have been around 20 votes short of that. So in order to get any measures through, they need to be flexible and need to work well with Republicans, he said.

Other legislators talked Rep. Frownfelter into running again

Rep. Frownfelter earlier had been discussing retiring from the Legislature this year, and mentioned it during a televised forum while running for a Board of Public Utilities seat in 2019.

“I’ve seen my time there, it’s time for me to leave,” he said at a community candidate forum for Board of Public Utilities candidates in 2019. (The forum is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBoLBOTUa24&list=PLMfeRPiOepX3QCrG-AjEhV6mCBb7y_43O&index=3&t=0s.)

What he meant by that, he said today, is that if he had won the BPU seat, it’s likely that he would not have run again for the state Legislature. After he lost the BPU contest, other legislators talked to him and asked him to run again, he said.

Had he announced that he would not run for certain, there would have been a lot more candidates who filed in the Democratic primary, he added.

Redistricting and importance of the 2020 election

This 2020 election is important, Rep. Frownfelter said, because redistricting will be coming up in the Legislature.

He’s been through that before, and remembers how redistricting once drastically reduced the numbers of Democrats in the Legislature, from 48 to 33, by redrawing lines that made it harder to elect Democrats in some districts.

Besides redistricting, there are other important issues that could come up in the next session, such as Medicaid expansion.

In Tuesday’s primary in the rest of the state, more than 10 moderate Republicans lost to Republican conservatives, Rep. Frownfelter said. That included Sen. John Skubal of Overland Park, as well as Rep. Jan Kessinger of Overland Park.

Republicans mounting a challenge in Wyandotte County this year; GOP to field write-in candidate in 37th District

Wyandotte County Republicans are mounting a challenge this year, according to State Sen. Kevin Braun, R-5th Dist., the county’s GOP chairman.

Sen. Braun said this year they recruited candidates for every Wyandotte County position in the state Legislature.

“People deserve to have a choice,” he said. He said it is easier for Republicans to get legislation passed in Topeka, and that would benefit Wyandotte County.

While the general election ballot will not have a Republican listed for the 37th District contest, Sen. Braun said on July 27, in the week before the election, that there is a write-in candidate for the position, Kristina Smith. Smith serves on the Wyandotte County GOP committee.

Also, Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-34th Dist., has no opposition on the general election ballot, but Sen. Braun said Kendon McClaine will run as a write-in candidate for that seat.

Coleman said on Wednesday that write-in campaigns don’t work. He said he knew because he had tried it himself in the past. People get to the polls and just choose one of the options listed on the ballot, according to Coleman.

Rep. Frownfelter said he wasn’t sure how a Republican write-in candidate would do in the 37th District, but he knows they’ll try hard. They didn’t run against him in the past because they didn’t think they could beat him, he said.

Election Commissioner Bruce Newby stated that voter registration in the 37th District was 4,928 Democratic and 2,155 Republican in 2020, with Libertarians at 99 and 4,036 unaffiliated. Both parties’ registration was up from 2019, when there were 4,815 Democrats, 2,041 Republicans, 98 Libertarians and 3,897 unaffiliated voters.

Countywide, there were 42,987 registered Democrats and 15,559 registered Republicans for the 2020 primary election, according to Newby.  Numbers for both parties increased since the 2019 general election, when there were 41,146 Democrats and 15,075 Republicans.

In addition numbers increased for Libertarian voters, 769 in 2020 compared to 723 in 2019, and unaffiliated voters, 27,841 for 2020 compared with 26,993 in 2019.

There were only a relatively few party affiliation changes this year, and most increases are due to new voter registration, according to the election commissioner.

Rep. Frownfelter said he always sat down and talked to everyone in the district who wanted to talk to him, and listened. He told them where he stood on issues and always said what he meant, he said. He always tried to do his best for the district. “I fought the whole way,” he said.

The only thing to do now, Rep. Frownfelter said, is to sit and wait until Aug. 17 and the canvass, “and that’s the hardest thing to do.”

To see an earlier story on the 37th District, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/19-year-old-turner-resident-leads-by-one-vote-over-veteran-lawmaker/

Legislative update from Rep. Stan Frownfelter

Rep. Stan Frownfelter

Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist.

In this issue:

• This week at the Statehouse

• Appropriations Committee hears legislative pay raise bill

• Full House amends and advances financial literacy bill

• “Gotcha” amendment proposed on the House floor

• House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of early childhood policy

• House debates Health Care Compact

• Keep in touch

This week at the Statehouse

It has been another very busy week at the Capitol as we get closer and closer to first adjournment.

We debated numerous bills on the House floor and continued to work bills in committee as we awaited movement on school finance.

A lot of the bills debated in the House and brought forth in committee are a true testament to this year’s session.

We have yet to vote on the main issues before us: funding our schools, passing the remainder of the budget for Fiscal Year 2015, and creating jobs for Kansans.

This week truly showed how much of a circus the legislature has been this year.

Friday was the last day for bill introductions in non-exempt committees. Next week we will be on the House floor all day, Monday through Thursday.

As always, complete daily calendars are available at www.kslegislature.org along with other useful information.  I am also working to keep constituents more informed via Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to follow me at www.facebook.com/username and www.twitter.com/username. I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at home or in Topeka.

Appropriations Committee hears legislative pay raise bill

On Thursday the Appropriations Committee heard testimony for House Bill 2740, which would increase legislators’ salaries. Legislators would see an increase in pay from the current $88.66 to $203.70 per day in session, totaling about $10,000 more a year.

Only one person spoke in favor of HB 2740, the introducer of the bill and Appropriations Committee member Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro. The bill has the pay increase going into effect starting with the 2017 Legislative Session. The pay scale would be shifted from being based on classified employee’s income to teacher’s income. The pay raise would be based on 80% of what the average teacher, grades 1st-11th, makes annually.

Rep. Peck testified that he hasn’t spoken to any legislator who is satisfied with their current level of pay and he feels they are too nervous about addressing compensation. He stated his job as a legislator, “… is a full time job with part time pay.” The most recent legislative salary raise came in 2009.

Full House amends and advances financial literacy bill

On Tuesday, the House debated HB 2475. This bill started as a requirement for all high school students to take a one semester class on financial literacy during the junior or senior year in order to graduate.

The bill had been amended in committee to infuse financial literacy standards throughout the curriculum in all grades and to test financial literacy standards on the state assessments.

The State Department would report on progress to the legislature. The curriculum would be taught in math classes or other appropriate courses such as family and consumer science or economics.

Proponents say students need to know more about managing money. Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

St. Francis) to require schools to teach handshaking. Cassidy argued that a good handshake is critical to success in business and life. The amendment was adopted.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf then proposed an amendment that would take the bill back to its original form requiring a financial literacy class for graduation.

Education Committee Chair Kasha Kelley supported the amendment even though her committee had amended the bill.

This amendment failed on a vote of 31 to 86.

The bill as it came out of committee plus the handshaking amendment was then advanced on a voice vote.

On Wednesday, the House passed the bill on final action 110-12 sending the measure to the Senate.

Proponents say students need to know more about managing money.

Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to give lawmakers a report on student scores on financial literacy tests before the start of the 2015 legislative session.

‘Gotcha’ amendment proposed on the House floor

On Wednesday, Rep. Scott Schwab offered an amendment on a bill creating an income tax deduction on the sale of certain livestock during floor debate that was characterized as “political gamesmanship.”

His amendment would have restored the income tax back to the rates used before the Brownback cuts were enacted in 2012.

Schwab announced that he would vote against his own amendment but merely wanted to show Kansans who complained about the tax cuts that there was not the “political will” to repeal them.

Representatives from both sides of the aisle came to the well to speak against the amendment which they said was an inappropriate tactic designed merely to embarrass those who think the cuts were reckless by making them vote for full repeal – a vote which would be characterized as a vote for a massive tax increase. No one took the bait and the amendment failed 0 to 120.

House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of early childhood policy

On Thursday, our caucus met for our weekly luncheon that we call “Thursday Summit” where we receive updates and invaluable information from various organizations and advocates from around the state. This week, we heard from April Holman with Kansas Action for Children. April gave us a presentation on the status of early childhood policy in the state and Kansas Action for Children’s top priorities.

One of the top priorities for KAC this year has been HB 2767, which would allow researchers and public health officials to access data from the State Child Death Review Board in order to identify risk factors which contribute to child death. This would be a huge step forward in child death prevention. The bill preserves confidentiality of child death cases through the use of de-identified data, and the data is released only when approved by the State Child Death Review Board.

April provided some staggering numbers which reinforce the need to release this data – Kansas’ infant mortality rate for 2011 was 6.23 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is more than the national average at 6.05 deaths per 1,000 births. Since its inception, the State Child Death Review Board has reviewed nearly 8,700 child deaths.  I support releasing this data, as it would shed light on the risk factors facing Kansas children, yet would cost taxpayers nothing.

We also received some background on the Children’s Initiative Fund (or CIF) which is funded by payments made to the state from the master tobacco settlement. The CIF is administered by the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and serves nearly 200,000, roughly one-third of Kansas children.

April explained that Kansas recently entered into a settlement with tobacco companies, providing the state with $46 million that the state did not receive during arbitration with tobacco companies.  In 2014, Kansas is to receive $17.2 million

House debates health care compact

On Friday, the House debated at length HB 2553, which would allow Kansas to join the Interstate Health Care Compact.

Under the compact, member states would be able to regulate health care within their boundaries, and to secure federal funding. More precisely, federal funding for all health care services and health plans would be placed under the control of the state legislature and governor.

This bill is potentially harmful to Kansas’ most vulnerable. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has pointed out that this legislation would include but is not limited to Medicare, Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program (HealthWave), rural hospitals, Hospice and federally qualified health centers. The funding would be received in a block grant to the state, and the state legislature would decide how to spend those health care dollars.

In response to the potential harm that would be caused by this bill to Kansas’ most vulnerable, several legislators proposed amendments. Rep. Wilson first proposed essentially transforming the bill into legislation which would carve out all managed care for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability from KanCare, as favored by the I/DD community.  The amendment was ruled not germane.

As we continued to debate the bill, Rep. Ward proposed an amendment which would exempt Medicare from the Health Care Compact. Under this bill, Medicare would essentially become privatized, yet again harming Kansas seniors.

The original Health Care Compact bill passed in its original form on a voice vote and will be voted on final action on Monday.

Keep in touch

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative.  I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.  My office address is Room 561-W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612.  You can reach me at 785-296-7648 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me.  Additionally, you can e-mail me at stan.frownfelter@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at  www.kslegislature.org.

Legislative update from Rep. Stan Frownfelter

Rep. Stan Frownfelter

Newsletter from Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist.

Week 8

In this issue:

• From the Statehouse

• Appropriations Committee hears various budget reports

• At-risk discussed in joint Education Committee meeting

• Transparency Act makes its way to Appropriations

• Supreme Court ruling drops in school funding case

• Keep in touch

From the Statehouse

This week was fairly quiet under the dome as we came back into session on Wednesday after a long weekend to refresh after Turnaround. We had no general orders on Wednesday, voted on two bills on Thursday, and had a “pro forma” Friday, meaning that there was no real session.

The event of the week, and perhaps the event of the session, came 9:30 Friday morning when the Kansas Supreme Court published its ruling in the case of Gannon vs. State, otherwise known as the school finance case.

The ruling by the Supreme Court is sure to set the stage for the rest of the session, and I will be sure to keep you updated as I learn more. This issue is a top priority for me, because I believe it is time that our schools were fairly and adequately funded.

Appropriations Committee hears budget reports

The Appropriations Committee met on Thursday, March 6, to hear budget reports on a variety of agencies. These agencies included the Revisor of Statutes, the Legislature, the Division of Post Audit, the Judicial Council, the Kansas Lottery and the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

The committee approved of the Revisor of Statutes budget and the Legislature budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The committee requested a more specific outline that explained the allocations of funding in future years for the Legislature budget.

During the budget hearing for the Division of Post Audit, the committee discussed increasing the budget in the Post Audit Committee to make it possible for them conduct more audits.

The committee is requesting additional funding for a new three-person auditor team that could conduct more audits as requested by representatives. The three person team would cost approximately $250,000 the first year and $240,000 each subsequent year. The committee praised the work the auditors do, and the committee approved the Post Audit budgets for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

The committee discussed the possibility of decreasing the budget for the Judicial Council, specifically by decreasing the amount of money spent on salaries within the department. The proposed cut would come out of the executive director’s salary, but the committee ultimately decided to get a report from the board that explained the reasoning for current salary levels before making any decisions.

The committee passed the Kansas Lottery budget as is for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and it approved a $22,000 increase in funding for the 2014 Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission budget.

At-risk discussed in joint Education Committee meeting

A joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees was held to get answers to a set of questions posed by committee members.

Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis provided the committee with reams of data regarding school spending, the history of school finance since 1992, legislative changes in that time period in the funding formula and much more.

He was followed by Craig Neuenswander of the Kansas Department of Education who filled the committee in on how at-risk money is generated and then how it is spent on moving kids to higher levels of achievement.

Neuenswander also provided data showing changes in the gap between low income students and others over time. While the gap had been shrinking slowly for years, it has widened a bit in the past year.

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute also spoke on school finance. Trabert claims that when it comes to education, money doesn’t matter, most kids are doing poorly, and schools are inefficient and have been hiring too many people. Trabert also called for a new cost study.

Transparency Act makes its way to Appropriations Committee

A Senate bill that aims to increase the transparency and accountability of representatives in the Capitol made its way to the House this week. SB 413, also known as the Transparency Act, was introduced to the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, March 6.

The Transparency Act would require audio and video streaming in the four largest committee rooms here at the Statehouse. Cameras would be set up in rooms that hold the committees on budget, education, judiciary and commerce, and federal and state affairs.

The bill aims to make it easier for constituents to see their representatives in action, and allow Kansans, especially those who can’t make it to Topeka, to get more involved in the democratic process.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley endorsed a two-year trial run, with the hopes of its success leading to a full-blown program.

Proponents of the bill find it to be worthy of its $188,000 a year price tag; saying that transparency for citizens costs a lot of money, but it is an important investment.

Opponents of the bill say that political theater is an inherent part of committee meetings and events that take place on the floor, and having cameras will only enhance the showboating by legislators. Opponents also worry that with all the videos available to citizens, some may take bits and pieces of the footage and negatively twist it and then post it on social media.

Kansas is one of only three states that permit audio-only streaming from the House or Senate floor.

Supreme Court ruling drops in school funding case

On Friday morning, the Kansas Supreme Court released its long awaited ruling in the Gannon vs. State case, which challenged the constitutionality of the level of public school funding by the state.

The ruling stated in part what we expected: the Kansas Legislature has failed to equitably finance K-12 public schools.

A deadline was established for July 1 for executive and legislative branches to agree on measures to fully fund capital outlay and supplemental aid provisions, also known as the local equalization fund, to the tune of $129.1 million.

This money is aimed in great part at offsetting the difference between property-rich and property-poor school districts. If we fail to meet this deadline, the district court will take action as “it deems appropriate” in order to correct the inequities.

The issue of adequacy, however, was sent back to the Shawnee County District Court. Whether we are “adequately” funding our schools or not will be determined by several criteria, including what is known as the Rose Standards.

This means that we will most likely be waiting several months more before  any ruling is dropped on the adequacy component.

The ruling is a whopping 110 pages, which I am currently studying closely so that I may better understand what is at stake. What the Kansas Supreme Court made clear is that we have not met our obligation to fund our schools in an equitable way. The task at hand is a daunting one, as we’ll have to find a way to equitably fund our schools after Gov. Brownback proposed and passed the largest cuts to education in state history. The complete ruling can be found online – http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/Opinions/SupCt/2014/20140307/109335.pdf

Keep in touch

It is a special honor to serve as your representative. I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government in order to better serve my district and this state. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 561W, 300 SW 10th St Topeka KS, 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7648 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can email me at stan.frownfelter@ks.house.gov. You can also follow the legislative session online and find many useful resources at www.kslegisture.org.