Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Rep. Linda Gallagher and Sen. Jim Denning were scheduled to send updates this week. (Sen. Denning has not replied to any of our invitations to participate in Capitol Update). Here’s Rep. Stogsdill’s filing:
Still waiting! With over half the days scheduled for the Legislature to meet now behind us, we are STILL waiting for the Republican leadership to present a plan to address school finance. This is the most important and expensive item we will address in Topeka this year and we are STILL waiting for the “report” commissioned by the Republican leadership, at a cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made available to the House and Senate.
On Friday, February 23, Lori Taylor, the out-of-state expert witness from Texas A&M, hired by the Republican leadership presented her methodology to members of the Legislature and House and Senate Education Budget Committees. Taylor is conducting a study that ideally will advise the legislature how much money it will take to fund schools – and to fund them in a way that would satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court’s order.
Taylor’s full report and findings are due to the legislature March 15. The Kansas Supreme Court gave the legislature a deadline of April 30 this year to present a suitable school funding bill. This timeline is going to be cutting it close for the Legislature to find a satisfactory answer for the equity and adequacy issues that are in question by the Court.
Gun control legislation
This has been a very interesting and active few weeks in Topeka concerning gun legislation. During this session of the House, the conservatives, working on behalf of the NRA, have managed to introduce and pass a bill (HB 2042) lowering the legal concealed carry age (with permit) from 21 to 18. This has been an NRA priority and, if passed into law, will put guns in the hands of our college and university undergraduates. This bill also has a “reciprocity” clause which will allow people from other states, who we know nothing about, to conceal carry as long as they have a concealed carry permit from their home state. The conservatives were also able to defeat an amendment to this bill outlawing “bump stocks” which was submitted by Rep. Vic Miller (D) from Topeka. The conservatives consistently oppose any legislation that applies any kind of common sense to our gun laws in Kansas.
The conservatives in the House, who seem to be squarely in the pocket of the NRA recently introduced a bill (HB 2460) to encourage a “gun safety and training curriculum” in all of our public schools in Kansas K-12. The introduction of such a curriculum would be at the option of the local school districts, but, if they did choose to include such a curriculum it would MANDATE that it be the NRA’s “Eddie the Eagle” gun safety program.
Implementation of this curriculum would also take time away from other curriculum areas such as reading or math. This is not an idea to promote gun safety. It is a marketing ploy by the NRA to desensitize and indoctrinate a whole new generation of students, starting in KINDERGARTEN, to the need and desire to own a gun. This is a terrible idea. There are plenty of resources, outside of a mandated school curriculum, to teach gun safety to interested parents and students.
This bill was put on hold at the last minute from a debate on the floor of the House due to the school shooting tragedy in Florida which happened two days before debate was scheduled in the House on this bill in the House. The NRA and their loyal supporters in the House realized this would not be an optimum time to bring this issue before the House. I hope this issue does not raise its ugly head again this year but I suspect that if the anger and activism initiated by this tragedy starts to diminish we will see the NRA trying again to get this legislation passed.
MAYBE the school shooting in Florida was the last straw that had to be broken before we can start implementing some common sense gun laws in Kansas and throughout this country. As a former Naval weapons officer and current gun owner I know there are plenty of common sense ways to address the issues of gun violence, guns on our campuses and the proliferation of military style weapons while still allowing and supporting hunters, target shooters and the hunting industry in Kansas.
As always, it is a pleasure and a privilege to represent the 21st District in Topeka and I will continue to work to keep our public schools strong and properly financed, to pass Medicaid expansion, to establish equitable tax policy spread fairly across all sectors of the Kansas economy, to support laws protecting our seniors and at risk children and to implement laws and programs that will support true economic development across the state. Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.