State budget issues, partisan elections at top of legislative forum issues

Sen. Pat Pettey and Rep. Jarrod Ousley at Thursday's forum in Merriam.
Sen. Pat Pettey and Rep. Jarrod Ousley at Thursday’s forum in Merriam.

As might have been expected, financing education, the state budget problems, tax policy and moving local elections to the fall were all on the radar during a legislative forum Thursday in Merriam.

Sen. Pat Pettey and Rep. Jarrod Ousley appeared at the forum and took questions about the current legislative session. Much of the discussion had to do with money, but Pettey also commented on the changes she has seen in the attitudes in the legislature.

Pettey said the legislature is now more partisan without the collaboration that was seen in the 1990s. “Now we want to make everything partisan,” she said. “Now we want to talk about school boards being partisan as well.”

Pettey and Ousley noted that the effort to move municipal and school board elections to the fall does not have the support of any of the groups representing cities or school boards. Pettey said that showed “the unreasonableness of not being willing to listen to the people you represent.”

Pettey said she had introduced a bill that would make libraries exempt from the concealed carry law in the same manner that school buildings are exempt. Most municipal and government buildings are in a four-year window – if they filed for the temporary exemption – where they can prevent guns being carried into the building. At the end of the period, they must provide secure entrances to continue the ban.

Asked if the legislature would consider a tax-free weekend, Pettey said, “I can’t imagine that we are going to think of ways to reduce the intake.”

“Our tax policies are in a jumble,” Ousley added.

The legislators talked about the school funding formula which allocates more money for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Pettey said that now includes more than half of Kansas students and some legislators feel the weighting is too high. “It’s not that complicated,” Ousley said of the formula, saying it costs more money to educate students who have different issues.

The session was sponsored by the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.