Capitol Update: How the education funding bill came to pass

In an effort to keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we will again be featuring regular update columns during the 2014 session from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Emily Perry, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Rep. Clayton submits this week’s update:

Rep. Stephanie Clayton
Rep. Stephanie Clayton

Last night at about 10:30 p.m., the Kansas Legislature finished its Regular Session. We are now adjourned until April 30, when we will reconvene for what is hopefully a short veto session.

The most work by far we did this week was on education. As many of you may be aware, in order to comply with a court ruling, the legislature needed to appropriate funds for equalization and capital outlay. The deadline to be in compliance with this is July 1.

This minor crisis was seen as an opportunity by many members of the state legislature to enact policy changes.

Each chamber passed out their own initial education bill, knowing that the two bills would be negotiated in what is called a Conference Committee — three Senators and three Representatives who negotiate and work out the differences between the two bills and come up with one bill, called a conference committee report (CCR).

The original Senate bill was a combination of appropriation and policy changes. The original House bill had almost no policy changes, and passed with broad bipartisan support.

The original House bill was by far the best bill for Johnson County.

After negotiations, a conference committee report was sent to the House for a vote. The bill was defeated in the House due to the fact that it was heavily laden with policy changes.

A second bill, another appropriation bill laden with policy change, was sent through the Senate on Sunday afternoon, where it passed by only two votes. That same bill was then sent to the House late Sunday evening, where it passed by only one vote.

Had the second bill failed, the bill that followed would have had few, if any, policy changes. It is worth noting that some of these changes were added to the bill at the eleventh hour, instead of going through the proper vetting in the committee process.

The northeast Johnson county delegation voted against these bills. I made my votes knowing that with every bad bill that was defeated, the next bill sent to the House would improve.

The ultimate goal was to get the very best education bill that we could get. In this case, there just were not the votes to get that bill through the legislature.