The legislature began working at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13. Committees began to meet, bills were introduced and Gov. Brownback presented his State of the State address Wednesday evening. Some highlights of the first week and a brief legislative overview follow:
The Governor’s proposed budget for FY2015 proposes to increase funding by $429.8 million and calls for an ending balance of $247.6 million (or 4 percent). Some highlights are:
- 1) $362.9 million for corrections (the Governor vetoed the entire budget for the DOC last year because it included $8 million less than his initial budget.
- 2) $20 million for school finance consensus (more students than estimated)
- 3) $16.3 million for all – day Kindergarten (a five-year program to fully implement)
- 4) $15.3 million for technical education (this program allows students to apply for $1000 grants to use toward career tech education)
- 5) $5.2 million for classified employee salary increase of $1.5%
School finance is expected to dominate this year’s session as the legislature awaits the Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon case. There is no crystal ball regarding any court decision. Some potential outcomes could be the court orders a specific amount to be funded; they order a new legislative study; they order a dollar amount to be funded by how and when the legislature will determine or they rule in favor of the state. When and what is the big question. Likely, if the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs an even greater effort will be made to allow gubernatorial appointment of Supreme Court judges or lower their retirement age. Historically, decisions are rendered on a Friday.
The Governor’s proposal to fund all day kindergarten has been met with mixed reviews. Legislative leaders were not aware of this initiative. The House has established a nine-member study group to evaluate the cost and benefits. Passage of this legislation is by no means guaranteed.
Potential legislation or discussion topics (to name a few):
- 1st degree murder – life in prison without parole until 50 years has been served (heard last week)
- Death Penalty (heard last week)
- Fair Tax
- Common Core
- Medicaid Expansion
- Renewable portfolio standards (possible scaling back of current mandates)
- Tort Reform (from present $250,000 cap to $300,000 for personal injury & pain and suffering)
- Moving of local spring elections to the fall
- Fetal Heartbeat legislation
- State imposed limitations on cities & counties taxing authority
- Economic Incentives, i.e. the border war
- E-cigarettes (how to classify, regulate and tax)
- Restriction on use of public funds to lobby (public schools, counties, cities)
- Elimination of the mortgage registration-filing fee (currently generates $16 million for provision of county services)
We as legislators value your opinion. Please do not hesitate to contact any of your representatives. I do provide legislative e-newsletters throughout the session. To receive, please email [email protected] or contact my office at 785-296-7390. I welcome your thoughts and ideas. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you.