The Prairie Village City Council on Tuesday approved a legislative platform that seeks significant changes to the trajectory of state policy.
For the past few years, the city’s legislative platform — a clear statement of the city’s desired preferences on state issues that affect municipalities — has largely synched up with the platform approved by the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. That strategy, seen as a way for Johnson County local governments to present a united front on high-priority legislative initiatives, continued this year — though members of the Prairie Village city council called for the addition of a handful of items as a way to express specific concerns with the state of affairs in Topeka.
Ward 3 Councilman Eric Mikkelson requested that the city strengthen the language on the legislative agenda as it pertained to school funding. The county language on school finance called for “constitutionally adequate funding for the public school system.” Mikkelson requested that language be altered to clearly call for increased funding.
“It doesn’t go far enough for me,” Mikkelson said. “I would like to strengthen that and request a significant increase in public school funding. Again, I believe that, at least in northeast Johnson County, this is a bi-partisan issue [where] all of our representatives, Democratic and Republican, agree that our public schools are significantly underfunded. And I know of no other issue that has as detrimental an impact on Prairie Village at the state level.”
Mikkelson’s council peers supported that change, though Ward 4 Councilwoman Brooke Morehead, who spent seven years as a middle school teacher, said she believed that simply throwing more money into the schools was not a solution in itself. She suggested there needed to be more accountability in how schools spend their funds, and that it may be beneficial to consolidate school districts in the western part of the state.
The council also got behind the addition of language that specifically called for the repeal of the LLC tax loophole, which allows more than 300,000 business owners in the state to avoid paying normal income taxes.
“[Our city leaders] are really, really good at managing our finances,” Mikkelson said. “The state is not. We’re looking at another $350 million budget deficit this year. I would like to give them some more specific guidance and advice on how to close that gap.”
The legislative platform also included:
- Expanding Medicaid
- Revising the way the state regulates city control over rights-of-way
- Prohibiting the carrying of guns into municipal buildings like city hall
The draft legislative agenda that was considered by the council before being amended Tuesday is embedded below:
Ward 6 Councilman Ted Odell inquired about adding a return to spring municipal elections to the agenda. The state legislature in 2015 mandated all city elections be moved to the fall. Proponents argued that the move would increase voter participation. Many city-level elected officials protested that the move would make it difficult for municipal issues to get the attention they deserve among the high-volume campaigns for statehouse and federal offices that are held in the fall as well. City Administrator Quinn Bennion suggested that it appeared unlikely a return to spring elections would be feasible.
“I don’t see that coming up,” Bennion said. “I don’t even hear it being talked about.”