Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Some school funding facts:

-Schools are allowed to levy up to eight mills of property tax to fund their capital outlay needs. They include purchases like: buses, building repair, furniture, certain equipment.

-Local Option Budgets can raise money locally for schools through property taxes. -Schools collecting at 81.2 percent or more for LOBs receive no equalization; schools collecting less than 81.2 percent receive equalization money from the state general fund or SGF.

-Equalization is a process that sets out to equalize the difference in money collected between school districts.

– Richer school districts collect more taxes from a 1 mill levy than poorer school districts. Equalization difference is made up by the state giving districts collecting less tax revenue money out of the state general fund or SGF to make up the difference.

A sales tax holiday for Kansas?

A House committee narrowly approved a bill last week to allow Kansas to hold a sales tax holiday similar to the one currently held in Missouri prior to the start of the school year in August.

HB 2607 would allow sales tax exemptions on school supplies, including clothing, computers and peripheral devices and computer software.

The first holiday would occur in 2015.

The measure was being considered by the House Taxation Committee and now moves to the full House for action.

The holiday would occur on the first Thursday in August at 12:01 a.m. and end at midnight on the following Sunday.

The bill would exempt all sales of any article of clothing having a taxable value of $300 or less; all back-to-school supplies not to exceed $100 per purchase; all computer software with a taxable value of $300 or less; and all personal computers or computer peripheral devices not to exceed $2,000.

While this would save consumers money, the state and local government would lose revenue.

The Department of Revenue estimates the holiday would decrease state revenues by $5.47 million in FY 2015.

This bill also is estimated to decrease local revenues by $1.37 million in FY 2015.

Student financial knowledge

How much do students know about balancing a checkbook or making a household budget or even getting a car loan?

It’s called financial literacy and the Kansas House wants to make sure students have a lot better knowledge of the subject.

HB 2475 was approved by the House Wednesday March 19 and would require school districts to add more personal financial literacy to the curriculum at all grade levels within the existing mathematics curriculum or other appropriate subjects.

It also would require training in a firm professional handshake, an amendment added to the bill on the floor of the House.

The bill passed 110 to 12.

House approves compromise autism bill

A compromise bill that would provide health insurance coverage to Kansas children with autism was approved Friday, March 21 by the Kansas House.

Coverage would be subject to the following limitations: 1,300 hours per calendar year beginning with ASD diagnosis and no later than age five for any covered individual for the first four years following diagnosis. And then, 520 hours per calendar year for covered individuals less than 12 years of age. T

he bill, HB 2744, was the product of lengthy negotiations with the state’s health insurance industry. The vote was 114 to 3. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Drug testing for teachers, school employees

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday March 19 requiring school districts to conduct drug screening, drug and alcohol treatment, fingerprinting, and background checks for various school district employees.

Senate Bill 335 would require the board of education of each public school district to adopt policies and procedures for a drug screening program.

The screening program would be based on reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use by any employee.

An amendment added to the bill on the floor of the Senate would require drug screening for member of the Legislature as well.

Any school employee who tested positive for the illegal use of drugs would be permitted to request that the specimen be tested in an additional facility, in which case the employee would be required to pay the cost of the additional screening.

It would prohibit any action taken against an employee as a result of a positive drug test unless the employee has tested positive during two consecutive screenings of the same specimen.

However, a school district would be permitted to take disciplinary action against an employee if the employee initially tests positive and does not request a second screening.

Senate would end mortgage fee

The Kansas Senate approved Senate Bill 298 last week designed to eliminate the Kansas mortgage registration fee over a five-year period.

The measure passed on a 26 to 12 vote.

The fee currently costs real estate buyers seeking financing through local institutions $47 million each year.

The fee puts home and business buyers who have to finance their purchases at an unfair disadvantage to cash buyers who don’t use traditional mortgages, as well as those using Farm Credit services.

The measure will now be considered by the Kansas House of Representatives.

Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Fifth Dist.

Senate passes bill affecting party switches   

The Kansas Senate approved a bill Wednesday March 12 that would prohibit voters from changing parties on or after the candidate filing deadline, which this year is June 1.

That prohibition would be in effect until the results of a primary election were certified.

It wouldn’t apply to new voter registrations, those who reregister after a move, or those choosing a party when previously unaffiliated.

Current law allows voters to change parties up to 20 days prior to the August primary.

The House approved the bill, HB 2210, last year. Senate approval sends the bill to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

Political parties in Kansas worried for many years that a lot of voters of an opposite party have switched their registration prior to an August primary election in an effort to influence the outcome.

To counter the tactic, the Kansas House approved a bill last year prohibiting voters from changing parties on or after the candidate filing deadline, which is June 1 of this year.

Rep. Keith Esau, an Olathe Republican, said he has three basic reasons for authoring the bill.

“The primary reason is to protect all political parties from undue influence from outside their party,” he stated in prepared remarks for the Senate committee. “It appears that the motivation for people who temporarily change party registration is to affect the outcome of the opposition party in order that the candidate selected has less chance to win in the general election. In other words, they want the worst candidate of the other party to win the primary.”

He added that the workload of election offices would be reduced during the busiest time of the election cycle since primary election ballots are the most complex that an election office must deal with.

Esau said a change in the law would also allow more efficient election analysis.

Under the current system, he said it was to find out which party ballot someone voted in the primary election.

“The election office records every person that votes in a primary, but that information is not recorded until the weeks after the primary happens and usually as part of the certification procedure,” he said. “In the meantime, people can currently change their party registration, thus making it look as if they voted a different ballot than they actually voted.”

Bill would add cellphones to No-Call list  

In 2002, the Legislature enacted the Kansas No-Call Act but it only pertained to land-line phones and not cellphones.

Senate Bill 308, however, would add cellphones to the act and allow the Office of the Attorney General to enforce the Kansas law against telemarketers who call a consumer’s listed cellphone number in violation of the law.

The Senate approved the bill on Feb. 20 on a 38-0 vote.

Constitutional measure would allow raffles   

The Kansas Senate has approved a constitutional amendment allowing many churches and charities to legally hold raffles.

While these groups routinely do so under current law, the practice is actually illegal.

The constitutional measure would simply install a legal process and allow the legislature to authorize licensing, conduct and regulation of any charitable raffles by a nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, education and veteran’s organizations.

The constitutional amendment would include a number of limitations that would assist in any loopholes of organizations not wanting to raise money for a charitable cause.

The restrictions for organizations include: A ban on electronic gaming or vending machines to sell raffle tickets; hiring a professional raffle or other lottery vender to manage the raffle; and, licensing and regulation by the Office of Charitable Gaming within the Kansas Department of Revenue.

Raffles would be defined as a game of chance in which each participant buys a ticket from a nonprofit organization, and each ticket would provide an equal chance to win a prize.

Currently, the Constitution requires all forms of gambling to be regulated by the Kansas Lottery.  Sub for SCR 1618 passed with a vote of 35-0.

Since the measure is a constitutional amendment, and passed the Senate by the required two-thirds majority, it will now head to the House where it will need the same majority.

If successful, the constitutional amendment would be put on the November election ballot.

Lawmakers respond to education ruling  

In the week since the release of the Gannon decision, the House, Senate, and governor have continued to meet and discuss the best way to fulfill both the letter and the spirit of the ruling.

The decision is truly an opportunity to address school finance and continue to provide the best possible educational opportunities for Kansas children.

In the House, the Appropriations Committee will take up the issue this week, and have a plan to address the equity portion of the ruling within the last two weeks before first adjournment on April 5.

After that, the legislature has more time to focus on student outcomes, one of the most important pieces of the ruling. Education is a top priority for House Republicans.

School funding dissected    

In the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling on public school funding, the court specified that all funding sources be considered when looking at whether schools were being funded adequately.

Some education advocates only point to one source — basic state aid per pupil or BSAPP.

Other major funding sources: The cost of teacher’s retirement plan known as KPERS, capital outlay spending, local option budget (local property taxes), and even federal funding. To demonstrate the significance of this ruling, see the graph below.