State Finance Council Passes Lansing Prison Contract
During the first procedural vote to confirm Brownback’s nomination on Wednesday
, another vote was taking place in Kansas – whether or not to approve a contract with CoreCivic to build a new corrections facility in Lansing.
The deal was approved 6-3 by the State Finance Council. Kansas now enters into a lease-to-purchase contract with a for-profit prison company. The three no votes were made by House Democratic Leader Rep. Jim Ward, Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Anthony Hensley, and Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn.
While Democratic Leadership and caucuses understand that Lansing desperately needs a new corrections facility – and advocate that the facility must remain in Lansing – CoreCivic is an unreliable partner with a substandard history nationwide. A project of this magnitude would be better vetted by the full legislature, rather than a small group of nine members.
Republican Leadership Attacks Deputy Education Commissioner
Conservative Republican Senate President Susan Wagle and conservative House Speaker Ron Ryckman sent a letter on Wednesday
to the Chairman of the Kansas State Department of Education. The letter attacked the Deputy Education Commissioner of School Finance, Dale Dennis, a decades-long public servant who has dedicated that service to the children of Kansas.
Their letter sparked a bipartisan backlash from me and a great many of my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, in the Kansas legislature, in state agencies, from school administrators, teachers and from the public from across the state. They were outraged that Dale Dennis who is the utmost authority on school finance in the state was being attacked for purely political purposes by the ultra-conservatives in the House and Senate who did not want him available for the upcoming debate on school finance.
His removal, which was recommended in the original letter from the Senate President and House Speaker, would have been detrimental to Kansas schoolchildren, teachers and parents. It would have also been detrimental to the Legislature as we head into a session where crafting a new, adequate, and equitable school finance formula is not only a major priority, but a requirement by the Kansas Supreme Court. Dale Dennis is the most reliable and trusted source for school finance information in the state of Kansas and, it seems, the conservative Republicans would have liked to have authored their own statistics and facts rather than rely on the statistics and facts available through the universally recognized expert in this area.
Fortunately, the Kansas State Board of Education on Friday
saw through this blatant political maneuvering by the conservatives and voted overwhelmingly (9-1) to reject the demands of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, retain Mr. Dennis and his entire staff making them available as trusted resources for the upcoming debate and action on school finance. Congratulations to Dale and his staff and hats off to the Kansas State Board of Education!
First Floor Votes of the 2018 Session
On Friday, the House held the first vote of the 2018 session. Two bills came above the line, and passed through easily. I voted yes on each bill.
HB 2439: An act concerning crimes, punishment and criminal procedure; relating to involuntary manslaughter; aggravated battery; involving certain violations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
HB 2482: An act concerning alcoholic beverages; relating to the hours of sale of alcoholic liquor by the drink.
Kansas Teacher of the Year Award