Back to Work and Down the Home Stretch……Hopefully!

Jerry's Capitol Journal

It was good to get back to work in Topeka last week after a 10-day recuperation period.  Unfortunately for Kansas, I didn’t miss much.  The 7 days of session that I missed produced no legislation of any consequence concerning school finance, tax policy, budget, “guns on campus” or Medicaid expansion.
Upon my return things immediately picked up.
School Finance HB 2410:
HB 2410 came up for debate last Wednesday.  This school finance bill only provides $280 million in new money for our public schools over a two-year period.  I don’t believe that amount will pass the adequacy test when it is reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court.  The Democratic caucus, led by Representative Trimmer, ran an amendment that would have provided $200 million of new money per year for the next three years.
Even Rep. Trimmer’s proposal of $600 million over three years would not have gotten our per pupil spending back to 2008-2009 levels, but it would have come a lot closer to the adequacy level the Supreme Court will be seeking.  The amendment failed, even though I voted YES along with Johnson County Representatives Clayton, Gallager, Holscher, Lusk, Neighbor, Ousley, Parker and Rooker.
Another portion of HB 2410 still contains legislation allowing for public tax dollars to fund private schools.  I am adamantly opposed to this, as I believe that public tax dollars should only be used to support public schools.  Representative Ousley introduced an amendment that would have phased out this “voucher” provision.  Of course, providing public tax dollars to support private schools is one of the bedrock issues for the Governor and the Republican conservatives in the Legislature and they were able to defeat the amendment.  I voted YES on the amendment along with Johnson County Representatives Clayton, Gallagher, Holscher, Kessinger, Lusk, Neighbor, Ousley, Parker and Rooker.
After 4 ½ hours of debate, HB 2410 did pass the House, underfunded and with vouchers intact.  It is now on its way to the Senate.  I voted NO on HB 241, as I believe there is not enough funding included to support the policy provisions.  I think this bill, as passed by the House, puts us at risk of having to come back in June or July for a “special session” to again address adequate school funding as outlined by the Supreme Court.  Having to call a special session also has the potential to hinder school openings in the fall along with other financial ramifications for our public schools.  We should be dealing with this subject NOW to make sure that any school finance formula passed by the Legislature will also pass muster with the Kansas Supreme Court.

 Tax Plan SB 30:
The latest attempt (SB 30) to pass a tax plan failed to pass the House last week.  There were some good things in the bill, as it repealed the LLC exemptions and reinstated some of the personal exemptions that were removed by the 2012 Brownback plan that has devastated the economy of our state.  Unfortunately, the bad parts outweighed the good.  The plan would not have provided adequate funding for our public schools, would have continued to put an unfair tax burden on middle class and low income Kansans, did not address our sky-high sales tax on food, continued to rob KDOT funds of over $300 million per year and, again, allowed the state to renege on its obligation to fully fund KPERS.  We cannot continue to “borrow and delay” our way back to financial solvency and fiscal responsibility.  I voted NO on this bill and it went down to defeat.  I expect a new attempt to address this issue this week.
Medicaid Expansion:
Sadly there was no good news on our efforts to expand Medicaid in Kansas.  The Republican conservatives are doing everything in their power to keep this issue from coming before the House again.  As you remember, a Medicaid expansion bill passed both the Kansas House and the Senate early in the session.  After promising he wouldn’t, the Governor promptly vetoed the bill and the Republican conservatives were able to come up with just enough votes to keep us from overriding the Governor’s veto.
Not expanding Medicaid will continue to cost Kansas lives, put our hospitals at risk and keep billions of our Federal tax dollars from coming back to Kansas.  The Governor and his loyalists in the Legislature are putting their allegiance to the Republican conservatives in Washington over the needs and wants of the vast majority of Kansans.  This is reprehensible!

Guns on Campus:
This is an issue that seems destined to go into effect July 1, despite the efforts of many of us in the Legislature.  On that date, it will be legal for people to carry concealed weapons on our college campuses, in our hospitals and in our mental health facilities.
This is another issue where the Republican conservatives and the Governor are doing everything they can to keep the issue from coming to a vote in the House and Senate.  The VAST majority of Kansans do not want guns on campus, in our hospitals or in our mental health facilities.  Unfortunately, the Governor and the Republican conservatives in the House and Senate are under the total control of the gun lobby – the same gun lobby that puts gun sales above the wishes and safety of the people of Kansas. 
This is an insane policy that will put lives at risk, will cost millions to oversee and will have a major negative impact on the Kansas economy.  This shows how out of touch the Governor and his Republican loyalists in the Legislature are with the people of Kansas and how they are more than willing to support the greed of the gun lobby and other special interest groups over the wants, needs and safety of the vast majority of Kansans.
Military Recognition:
I was very proud to come before the House last Thursday, along with several other members of the House, to be honored by colleagues for our military service.  As a former Naval Officer, it was a privilege to stand with those other members of the House who have worn the uniform of this country and represented all branches of the military.  It was a humbling experience and one that was uniting, sincere, emotional and totally non-partisan.  It was a moment I will not soon forget.
What Can You Do??
As usual, it is the Governor and the conservative Republican leadership in the House and Senate that are causing the roadblocks in addressing the issues listed above.  If you feel strongly about any of these issues, please get in touch with the Governor or the House and Senate leadership at the links listed below.  If you have any questions or suggestions for me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Republican House Leadership:
Republican Senate Leadership

Governor Brownback's Website:
I will be working hard on your behalf and to keep you informed on what is going on in Topeka and how you can help. As always I welcome your questions and suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Please see my contact info in the sidebar of this newsletter and here is a link to my legislative web page with all my contact information.
Thank you for your support,



Room: 452-S


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Prairie Village, KS
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Veterans and Military Affairs
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