The sedate pace of the 2018 Kansas Legislative session continued this week as the rate of work never overly accelerated. There were a number of contentious issues debated but with little of the drama usually seen by this point in the session. The shadow of K12 School Finance continues to hang over the statehouse and everyone seems to be holding their breath waiting to see what solutions will present themselves.
Earlier today Republican Mark Hutton suspended his campaign for Governor of Kansas. He has yet to endorse another candidate but his exit likely helps Governor Jeff Colyer as conventional thinking has Secretary of State Kris Kobach preferring a fractured field.
On Wednesday Senator Doll of Garden City announced he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an Independent to become the running mate of Independent Candidate for Governor Greg Orman. As a result of this decision Senator Doll was removed from all committee assignments and will now only have a voice on the floor of the Senate.
The House and Senate budget committees spent time this week on various budgets. Both committees hear and discuss agency budgets at different times and base much of their work off of the agency budget requests and what the Governor approved in his budget proposal.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee discussed the budget from the Board of Regents and the Regent’s schools this week. The Regents are prioritizing the restoration of the 4% cut they got in the last budget. Also, technical education is being discussed at length. Legislators have been supportive tech ed across the state, and they continue to hear from businesses about the importance of a well trained workforce, and how important entities like NIAR and NCAT are.
Ways and Means also worked their version of the budget for the Judicial Branch. This continues to be a point of contention between the House and Senate, and both chambers are setting the stage for a vigorous budget debate on this particular issue.
The House Appropriations Committee deliberated their version of the budgets for the State Hospitals. There is concern now with new information that estimates on possible federal money coming in was incorrect. Committee members had counted an more money coming in to work with for the hospitals. Now they are unsure of what they can use.
Appropriations almost became the Utilities committee as an amendment to the Kansas Corporation Commission budget that would have required a comprehensive electric rate study was discussed. The enthusiastic debate focused on the whether this committee was the place for the issue. There was support for the idea of a study, but not in that committee. The amendment was voted down.
Next week will see more agency budgets reviewed. There’s hope that most of these budgets will be put into a big budget bill the following week.
Internet Sales Tax
HB 2756 creating the Kansas Main Street Parity Act was passed out of the House Tax Committee. It requires various out-of-state retailers to begin collecting Kansas sales tax and use tax on sales in Kansas. Businesses with at least $50,000 in Kansas internet sales in the current year or last year must comply.
The Senate Commerce Committee held 3 days of hearing on two STAR Bond bills. Both bills attempt to correct “flaws and/or misuses” in current law. The Committee is planning on working the bills next week.
SB 348 (electronic delivery of insurance material) will have a hearing on 3/15. SB 351 (pharmacy practices) was passed out of committee and now is on the House floor. SB 296 (seat belt) had a hearing in House Judiciary on 3/8/18. HB 2469 (Claims office set up) was passed out by the Senate FI&I Committee and placed on the Consent Calendar.
Teacher Due Process
On Thursday the House passed 73-48 a bill that will restore what has been referred to as due process for teachers who have worked in the same school district for three years and whose contracts are not renewed. The previous provision was ended a few years ago and restoration of the provision has been a driving goal of the education lobby. Under this provision a hearing would be held to determine if the “firing” was justified with the goal of preventing the teacher from suing the school district. It now moves on to the Senate.
The House Tax Committee heard a proposal to raise property taxes from the current 20 mills in incremental steps over the next three years to ultimately land at 38.43 mills. This increase is estimated to raise $659 million for schools, the number arrived at to reach the additional $600 million plaintiffs in the Gannon case claim is needed to adequately fund schools. It should come as no surprise that this proposal was met with a blistering opposition from Kansas business groups including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Kansas Farm Bureau, and the Kansas Chamber. At this point the increase is not expected to move forward unless something dramatic happens this session but even putting the proposal out there raised the temperature in the statehouse.
Late next week the Legislature should receive the report they commissioned to evaluate school funding and to find a path forward that meets the requirements of the Supreme Court decision while also being palatable in an election year. With everything going on in the 2018 session this remains the largest obstacle that must be addressed and which has dominated all discussion this year. It should be a very interesting end of the week.
Significant Dates and Events
Last Day Non-Exempt
On Floor/2nd Chamber