Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

April 4, 2014

In this issue:

• Senate adjourns this week

• School finance

• Community forum

• Kansas Health Institute

• Health information

Senate adjourns this week  

Legislators worked long days this week finishing legislative business before the session break.

The session is scheduled to end April 4.

After this date, bills that haven’t passed both chambers can no longer be debated although certain bills are exempt from this deadline.

Following a short break, legislators will return for the veto session in late April. At that time, exempt bills, conference reports, and any vetoes by the governor will be considered.

If you have any questions about any of the legislation being considered, 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.

School finance  

The Senate will likely not finish today, but will convene again on Saturday, April 5, to work school funding legislation in response to the Gannon decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

I have voted “no” on this legislation, and join with Sen. Anthony Hensley in his explanation of that “no” vote, offered on the Senate floor:

“Madam President:

“I vote no on HB 2506.

“Less than one month ago the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that the legislature has created an unconstitutional school finance system and then was the time to fix it. They told us to resolve inequities by fully funding capital outlay and local option budget equalization.

“Unfortunately, we have waited until the final two days of the legislative session to address this issue. When the equity issue should have been this legislature’s first and foremost priority.

“It is absurd that we are discussing more cuts to important areas of education – at-risk, virtual schools, transportation – to fix this. More cuts are not the solution.

“This bill makes unnecessary and unvetted new education policy such as blocking the implementation of the Common Core standards, creating a corporate tax scholarship credit, eliminating due process for teachers, and establishing a property tax credit without a fiscal note for families using private schools.

“The school finance formula is not broken and should not be changed. The formula is underfunded. And, if we really want to put money into the classroom, we should be restoring the cuts and raising the base state aid per pupil.”

– Anthony Hensley

This session on the Senate floor continued until 1:45 a.m. Friday morning. We debated the education funding bill for 6 hours.

Update from the House (from the Topeka Capital-Journal):

Both Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, urged the House to pass a compromise school finance bill Friday, in a bipartisan effort.

“While I was hoping to vote for a little bit better product, this does address the most important issue court set before us, which is that we need to fund the equalization pats of the (K-12 funding) formula,” Davis said about Senate Bill 218. To read this story, visit http://m.cjonline.com/news/2014-04-04/house-oks-bipartisan-school-finance-bill.

Community forum  

Members of the Wyandotte County legislative delegation will participate in a Town Hall Forum sponsored by the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce. The forum will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. April 12, at the West Wyandotte Public Library, 1737 N 82nd St., Kansas City, Kan. All are welcome to attend, and I hope to see you there. I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you and answer any questions you may have about this legislative session.

Kansas Health Institute  

According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with the most healthy, are Johnson, followed by Riley, Pottawatomie, Waubaunsee and Stevens. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with the least healthy, are Woodson, Elk, Wyandotte, Chautaqua, and Decatur.

The Rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. In Kansas, this year’s Rankings show that within communities that rank lowest, babies are 50 percent more likely to have low birth weight and children are more than four times more likely to live in poverty than in communities that rank at the top.

Health information

From the American Heart Association:

“Children consume 45 percent more snack food when exposed to food advertising. 34 percent of food products in ads targeting children and teens are candy and snacks.”

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

March 26, 2014

In this issue:

• Senate nearing first adjournment

• House releases school finance plan

• Governor signs bills

• Renewable portfolio standards

• Net metering

• Sedgwick County vote blocked

• Suspended license amendment

• Over at the House

• Pat’s thoughts

• Health information

• Education information

Senate nearing first adjournment

Legislators worked all day on the floor Monday through Wednesday, reserving Thursday and Friday for possible committee work.

The extended days are in preparation for the upcoming first adjournment, scheduled for April 4.

After this date, bills that haven’t passed both chambers can no longer be debated although certain bills are exempt from this deadline.

Following a short break, legislators will return for the veto session in late April. At that time, exempt bills, conference reports, and any vetoes by the governor will be considered.

If you have any questions about any of the legislation being considered, 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.

House releases school finance plan

Late last week, House Republicans introduced a 59-page bill (HB2773) to address school finance that also addressed other topics related to education including expanding charter schools and establishing tax credits for vouchers.

Shortly after the introduction of the bill, House leadership rejected the bill and said a new bill would be introduced.

This week, House Republicans introduced House Bill 2774. In addition to funding capital outlay and local option budget equalization to comply with the court ruling, the bill seeks to expand innovative districts to not exceed 56 districts, alter the transportation weighting portion of the formula to cut funding, and create alternative teacher licensures that bypass the State Board of Education and do not require any teaching-related coursework.

The House Committee on Appropriations discussed the bill Wednesday and has scheduled a hearing on it for Monday, March 31.

The chair indicated that nothing is off the table and everything will be considered.

This means there could be amendments added to include the expansion of charter schools or establishing tax credits, as we saw in the previous bill.

In other words, just because HB2774 has been introduced does not mean HB2773 or any of its elements are dead.

t set in stone, either.  Right now, the proposed amount is $129 million. This figure was provided by the deputy commissioner of the Kansas Department of Education.

The bills introduced by Democrats in the House (House Bill 2768) and Senate (Senate Bill 443) that solely fund equalization have yet to be brought up for discussion in committees.

I am concerned that many of the policy changes proposed in both HB 2773 and HB 2774 have not received hearings or been worked by either House or Senate Committee on Education.

It is for this reason that I do not believe now is the time to include these policy changes. I firmly believe in solely funding equalization, and discussions for policy changes should be reserved for the 2015 session when there is time to thoroughly vet them.

Governor signs bills  

• Party swapping The bill that prohibits voters from changing party affiliations between the candidate filing deadline and the date the primary election results are certified has been signed into law by Gov. Brownback. It will go into effect July 1, 2014. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 27-12 and the House on a vote of 72-49. This bill is just part of the effort to silence the opposition. I voted against it.

• Victim’s notification The governor has also signed into law the bill introduced by my Senate colleague, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita) that strongly urges the Department of Corrections to notify a victim’s family within 14 days prior to the release of a criminal defendant. The law is known as Adrian Olajuwon Crosby and Dominique Nathaniel Tyree Green’s Law.

Renewable portfolio standards

On a vote of 25-15, the Senate passed a bill that would repeal the Renewable Energy Standards Act. Senate Sub for House Bill 2014 would put an end to the standards that will require Kansas investor-owned utility companies to have at least 20-percent of their peak demand come from renewable sources, such as wind energy, by 2020.

Proponents of the bill argue that with the RPS in place, the cost of utilities has gone up by 22-percent and it impedes a free market in Kansas.

However, the reality is that most of the increase in costs is from the construction of a new coal plant and from renovations made to existing plants to meet new emission standards.

According to a study by the Kansas Corporations Commission, the compliance with the standards only accounts for an increase in rates of 0 to 1.7-percent, or just a fraction of a cent.

Wind energy is inexpensive, and the renewable portfolio standards provide incentives to bring job growth to the state, especially in rural areas.

Repealing the standards also jeopardized agreements made with companies that came to Kansas specifically for the opportunity to utilize renewable energy, including the Mars factory that was recently built in Topeka.   I voted against the bill. I am pleased that the House voted against concurring with the Senate thereby killing it for this session.

Net metering  

The full Senate debated and passed 39-0, House Bill 2101, the bill on net-metering.

The Senate Utilities Committee reworked the bill; in addition to protecting current customer-generators, the committee work restored some allowance for generation capacity and proposed options such as time-of-use rates and minimum bills for a rate proceeding.

I think a good compromise was reached and I voted for the bill.

Sedgwick County vote blocked  

On a vote of 28-12 the Senate approved House Bill 2125, which prohibits Sedgwick County from holding a second public vote on whether to allow slot machines at the race track. I voted against this bill. I believe it is simply political retribution against the owner of the race track who contributed to the campaigns of moderate Republicans and, as a result, silences the will of the people.  This bill is repugnant and entirely unnecessary.

Over at the House  

• Autism coverage On a vote of 114-3, the House passed the House Bill 2744, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autistic children up to the age of 12 starting in 2016.

Autism Speaks was very active in suggesting modifications to the bill.  The bill is on General Orders in the Senate. I hope the Senate will concur with the work of the House on HB2744 so that we can start providing necessary insurance coverage to more Kansas children with autism.

We have learned that by including treatment for autistic children in the SHEP (State Health Employee Plan) that the cost is low and affordable at 31cents PMPM.  Early intervention with children can make a big difference in cutting lifetime costs and can enable many autistic children to start school and succeed in regular classrooms.

• Health compact A bill that seeks to exempt the state of Kansas from federal health care laws passed the House on a vote of 74-48. House Bill 2553 permits Kansas to join a multi-state compact where member states would retain full authority over health care rules, regulations, and orders within their respective jurisdiction while still receiving federal dollars up to the amount appropriated for the state under the current federal health care law.

This bill would give the state of Kansas the ability to accept federal dollars for Medicare, but privatize it like it has done for Medicaid under KanCare. The bill currently awaits a hearing in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. I do not support this bill.

• Raffle amendment On a vote of 102-19, the House approved a constitutional amendment that would legalize charity raffles. 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. Sub for SCR 1618 passed the Senate unanimously a few weeks ago. It now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed by the governor, it will be included on the ballot for public vote during the 2014 general election.

Thoughts  

In the last two days we have worked over 70 bills on the Senate floor. A lot of them do not reflect less government, but just the opposite.

One bill designated Tylosaurus as the official state marine fossil.

HB 2223 allows home brewers the opportunity to taste and judge their brews in events as well as increasing the annual beer production for microbreweries.

HB 2673 added required training for pharmacy technicians and had regulations touching  nearly all who work in the health field.

We passed a bill to add the Bonnie Sharp memorial interchange at I-635 and Metropolitan.

HB 2272 gives the Southeast part of Kansas, close to Oklahoma , to go after a casino but lowers the financial threshold.

I voted favorable for each of these bills and that would be true of most of the work we did. However, with 10 to 15 percent of the bills they were unnecessary . I felt they were retaliation to the federal government , local government or an organization. Politics is not always pretty.

Health information

From the American Heart Association: “People in some communities in Kansas have limited opportunities to make healthy food choices. These communities are referred to as food deserts. There are three times as many supermarkets in wealthy neighborhoods as in poor neighborhoods.”

Education information  

The roots of the Kansas State Board of Education are founded in the State Constitution.

• 1861—The first State Constitution Article VI noted the responsibility of the state to provide for the education of its people.

• 1873—The first State Board of Education was created by the Legislature.

• 1915—Legislation created a State Department of Education.

• 1966—Citizens amended the State Constitution, Article VI to provide for a State Board of Education which “shall have general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state, except educational functions delegated by law to the state board of regents.”

A sample of the duties and responsibilities of the Kansas State Board of Education include:

• Determine statewide curricular standards • Establish high school graduation requirements

• License K-12 educators

• Establish state accountability systems

• Implement and administer federal and state programs

• Accredit schools

• Serve as the Board for the State School for the Deaf and the State School for the Blind

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

Sen. Pat Pettey

March 21, 2014

In this issue:

• Floor schedule changes

• School finance update

• Mortgage fee elimination

• Drug testing

• Food and farm task force

• Storm shelters

• Local elections

• Over at the House

• Lupus awareness

• Insurance information

• Health information

Floor schedule changes

The legislative session is inching closer to adjournment.  The Senate debated and voted on more than 20 bills this week. This Friday was the last day for non-exempt committees to meet.  Starting Monday, senators will work all day on the floor to consider remaining legislation.

Senators will continue meeting with conference committees through April 4. If a bill that passed the House is amended in the Senate then it goes back to the House for a vote to concur, or to accept the amendments. If the originating chamber votes to not concur, the bill goes to a conference committee. These committees include three members from both chambers who are appointed to iron out any differences between House and Senate versions of bills.

Their compromises, known as Conference Committee reports, are then sent to both chambers for a vote.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m Monday-Wednesday of next week with no session scheduled for Thursday or Friday.

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.

School finance update

Shortly after the school finance decision came down from the Supreme Court, Gov. Sam Brownback said his administration wouldn’t give legislators advice on how to resolve the equity issue except to fix it, despite just a few weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Yet, on Wednesday afternoon, he issued a release stating his “highest priority is that dollars need to go to the classroom and our students” and provided “eight guiding principles” for achieving this goal, but neglected to outline an actual plan.

This attempt at leadership is too little, too late.

If education funding were truly a priority, Brownback wouldn’t have made the single largest cut to K-12 schools in the history of the state just four months after taking office. And, he certainly wouldn’t have declared it to be a “victory for Kansas.”

Democrats have been urging Brownback and his allies in the Legislature to fully fund equalization since the day the ruling came out.

Bills were introduced a week later in the House and the Senate that would appropriate the $129 million to fund capital outlay and local option budget equalization.

I support funding equalization, and I believe it’s time that we also begin discussions on how to increase base state aid per pupil to ensure schools are being funded adequately and equally.

Early Thursday evening, House Republicans introduced a 59-page bill (HB2773) to address school finance and many other areas related to education, including: expanding charter schools, expanding innovative school districts, creating alternative teacher licensures, establishing tax credits for private school scholarship contributions made by private corporations.

The most important sections – and the only sections needed – are the very last sections of the bill.  They appropriate full funding for capital outlay and local option budget equalization to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court.

However, since being introduced, it has been reported that a new version will be drafted without the charter school component. Supposedly, Gov. Brownback, House leadership, and Senate leadership were unaware of it being included.

Mortgage registration fee

On a vote of 26-12, the Senate passed Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 298, which phases out the mortgage registration tax over five years, but phases in a certain per-page fee increase over four years.

By repealing the mortgage registration fee and simultaneously increasing the document fees collected by local units of government well beyond the cost of recording those documents, it is clear that these increases are intended to generate revenue for those local units in place of the mortgage registration fee.

This is not a fee increase; it’s a tax increase that leaves a hole in local budgets that will undoubtedly result in more property tax increases.

This will create a loss in Wyandotte County revenues starting at $105,000 in 2015 and progressing to $752,000 in 2019. Johnson County will lose $1.7 million in 2015 progressing to $10 million in 2019.

These losses will force our counties to either look at a property tax increase or service reductions. This repeal shifts the county cost of doing work for the lender on a home or land purchase to all taxpayers. I voted against it.

Drug testing

SB 335 requires any teacher who has not already submitted fingerprints when applying for a new or renewed teaching license and requires school districts to adopt policies and procedures for a drug screening program for all employees as well as an impairment program to help rehabilitate teachers who test positive passed the Senate on a vote of 30-4.

The fingerprinting requirement would also apply to nonlicensed teachers in the public innovative districts. The drug testing program would only test employees under reasonable suspicion.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley offered an amendment to the bill that establishes penalties and procedures for legislators who are subject to drug testing under reasonable suspicion and test positive. This is a follow-up to the amendment passed last year that would require drug testing of legislators.

Hensley’s amendment is the same as the bill he introduced, but never received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary. The amendment passed on a voice vote.   I passed on this bill.

Food and farm task force

The Senate passed a bill this week that establishes the Local Food and Farm Task Force, which would be responsible for preparing a local food and farm plan containing policy and funding recommendations to increase locally grown food production. The bill could help farmers understand the opportunities presented by the new federal farm bill.

It also can help educate citizens as to how to set up farmers markets in their communities.

Senate Bill 380 was sponsored by Democratic Sen.  Tom Hawk, Manhattan, and passed on a vote of 28-12. I voted for it.

Storm shelters  

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 264, which requires a storm shelter to be built at all student attendance centers if constructing a new building or modifying an existing building that does not already have a storm shelter. This does not impact any bonds that have already been passed for school district construction.

Local elections  

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections voted out of committee the bill that changes local elections to the fall of even-numbered years at the same time as state and federal elections, if there are state and federal elections in those years.

Otherwise, local elections can be held in their current odd-numbered years.

Proponents of Senate Substitute for House Bill 2141 argue moving the elections would lead to greater voter turnout.

Opponents argue it would strip away local control; they would no longer be allowed to determine when they’ll hold elections.

No unit of government or school district supports this legislation, in fact all are totally opposed to the proposed changes.

The bill has been sent to the Senate floor for full consideration. I plan to oppose this bill.

Over at the House

• Financial literacy and handshake curriculum On a vote of 110-12, the House passed a bill that initially included mandates for financial literacy curriculum in schools, but was also amended to also include curriculum on a proper handshake. The problem with the Kansas Legislature making curriculum mandates, such as in HB2475, is that it steps on the toes of the Kansas Board of Education and local districts.

• Tanning bed The House Committee on Health and Human Services has passed out of committee the bill (HB2435) that prohibits minors from using tanning beds unless they’ve received written authorization from a person licensed to practice medicine or surgery. Any tanning salon found in violation of the law would be fined $250. The Board of Cosmetology oversees the licenses of tanning salons. It will now go to the House floor for full consideration.

Lupus awareness  

Wednesday was Lupus Advocacy Day at the Capitol, and advocates shared important information about the disease:

“Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in various parts of the body. The disease can range from mild to life-threatening. Ninety percent of those diagnosed with lupus are females between ages 15 and 44, but lupus also occurs in males, children, and younger teens. Lupus can be very hard to diagnose because symptoms vary from person to person, can come and go, and can mimic symptoms of other illnesses.

“The causes of lupus are not known, but scientists believe that genetics (heredity), hormones, and environmental factors all play a role. Environmental factors that can trigger lupus include: ultraviolet rays from the sun or from artificial light, certain drugs (sulfas, tetracyclines, penicillin and other antibiotics); and anything that causes stress to the body (infection, surgery, an accident, a cold or a viral illness, being pregnant, or giving birth).   If you think you have lupus, see your doctor. There is no one test for lupus, so your doctor will need to take blood for a variety of tests.”

Insurance information

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City provided information about people in Kansas who are without health insurance. It included statistics about insurance and employment:

• In 16 percent of uninsured families no adults are working

• In 19 percent at least one adult is working part-time

• And in 65 percent of uninsured families, one adult is working full-time.

Health information  

From the American Heart Association: “Obese children as young as age 3 show indicators for developing heart disease later in life. Active play for 60 minutes a day and eating a healthy diet is recommended for children to improve their health.”