Capitol Update: April 30 deadline for response to K-12 funding ruling will come quickly, says Sen. Bollier

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Each legislative session for the past few years, we’ve provided northeast Johnson County’s elected officials with a chance to update constituents on the issues they’re most interested in at the capitol.

With the expansion of our coverage area last year to include the entire Shawnee Mission School District footprint, we’ve also expanded the list of state representatives and senators we’ve asked to participate in these “Capitol Update” columns. For 2018, we’ll be featuring three legislators’ columns each Monday. We’ve broken the Shawnee Mission area delegation into the following three rotations:

Senate districts:

  • Barbara Bollier
  • John Skubal
  • Jim Denning
  • Dinah Sykes
  • Mary Pilcher Cook

House districts (western):

  • Jarrod Ousley
  • Tom Cox
  • Linda Gallagher
  • Cindy Neighbor
  • Randy Powell
  • Cindy Holscher

House districts (eastern):

  • Stephanie Clayton
  • Melissa Rooker
  • Jerry Stogsdill
  • Brett Parker
  • Nancy Lusk
  • Jan Kessinger

We’ll start today, the first day of the session, with update columns from Reps. Ousley and Clayton and Sen. Bollier. Below is Sen. Bollier’s first dispatch:

The 2018 Legislative Session officially begins today. I am excited to begin work and feel positive about the direction we can move this session. Up until very recently there was some confusion about who would be Governor, but for now, Sam Brownback remains in place and will deliver the State of the State address tomorrow evening. He will also submit a Governor’s budget that will be debated and amended by the legislature over the course of the session.

The primary issue shaping this session will be finalizing a resolution to the Gannon school funding case that meets the criteria established by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Court has asked the state to provide both a new study and review of the old studies concerning appropriate levels of funding. Dr. Lori Taylor from Texas A&M has already begun this massive undertaking, with her work due on March 15. Dr. Jesse Levin will review our previous legislative post-audit study, the Augenblick and Myers study done over 10 years ago, and when available, the study by Dr. Taylor. While the legislature will be able to move forward on the equity pieces of the formula that need to be fixed, the adequacy portion must wait until after these reviews are available. That puts the April 30 deadline established by the Supreme Court as a significantly challenging goal. I serve on both the Education committee and the Education Special Funding committee, so will be able to keep you updated regularly on our progress.

With an unknown dollar amount needed to meet our legal obligations for school funding, it will be late in session when we are clear about tweaks needed to our 2019 budget that was set last year (we budget on a two-year cycle now). Many governmental services have been starved for monetary resources these past few years, so shoring up those budgets will be a slow but hopefully steady process as we move forward. I have served this past fall on the Child Welfare Task Force, an interim committee, and our work to date has shown that we MUST put more money into the Department of Children and Families if we are going to appropriately serve the needs of our most vulnerable children. With new Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel at the helm, I am confident that we can work with our administration and improve the failings seen in the recent past.

As vice-chairman of the Health and Human Service committee in the Senate, I have kept busy over the interim studying various issues, including our KanCare (Medicaid) system that is privatized, the needs of our health providers who are pleading for us to expand Medicaid in Kansas, issues of substance abuse and the extreme need for available treatment, and the list goes on. Mental Health treatment (or should I say lack of) is also a staggering problem in Kansas and must be addressed. The committee has a full agenda for this session and will begin hearings this week.

It is a privilege to serve you and I look forward to a challenging year. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed about your state government and feel free to contact me or the rest of the JoCo delegation at any time.