Senate passes budget with higher ed cut

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Dec 11, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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From the Topeka Capital Journal

Senate passes budget with higher ed cut

Conference committee will reconcile with House budget's bigger cut

Posted:

March

21,

2013

-

3:38pm

By

Andy

Marso

THE
CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Senate voted 24
-
16 for its budget Thursday, which will now have to be reconciled with the House's
budget.

Both chambers cut some from Gov. Sam Brownback's budget proposal, but the Senate hewed closer to it than
the House, which had to m
ake deeper cuts because its members refused to extend a sales tax increase.

For example, the House offered a 4 percent cut to higher education as opposed to the Senate's 2 percent cut.
The House also offered a salary freeze on all state agencies, locking t
hem in at current salary payments
regardless of vacant positions.

The Senate's lower cut for higher education was still enough to turn off Sen. Oletha Faust
-
Goudeau, D
-
Wichita, who joined the other seven Senate Democrats in voting against the budget.

“I pr
oudly represent a district that is home to Wichita State University," Faust
-
Goudeau said. "This budget
cuts more than $3 million from this college, including an aviation training program."

Eight Republicans also voted against the budget, including Sen. Gar
rett Love, R
-
Montezuma, and Sen. Jacob
LaTurner, R
-
Pittsburg.

Love had objected to an amendment that swapped $5 million out of an oil and gas depletion trust fund that
benefits rural counties and used the money to fund University of Kansas cancer research
and an animal health
laboratory at Kansas State University.

LaTurner made several attempts to shift funds to low property value school districts, only to see each
amendment fail.

The most vocal opponents of the budget contained in Senate Substitute for Hou
se Bill 2143 were the
Democrats.

Sen. David Haley, D
-
Kansas City, pointed out that for the fourth straight year it provides no cost
-
of
-
living
increase to public employee pension recipients, despite a 40 percent increase in such costs during that time.

Sen.

Tom Hawk, D
-
Manhattan, lamented the cuts to Kansas Board of Regents universities and also said it
was unfair to low and middle
-
income Kansans to extend the sales tax increase a year after passing large
income tax cuts.

“Once again average Kansas taxpayers

carry the burden of the income tax cuts,” Hawk said.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D
-
Topeka, said he had "more than a dozen" reasons to vote against the budget, but he
focused on three: the failure to include the fifth of five promised raises to underpaid state e
mployees, the
failure to pay into a fund that provides local property tax relief, and the usage of gaming funds to pay the
state's contribution to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Hensley said the law only allows
lottery money to go to paying

down KPERS' projected deficit, above and beyond the state's regular
contribution.

But at least one conservative legislator said the budget represented a breath of fresh air.

“This is one of the first budgets I have had the pleasure of voting 'aye' on for
as long as I’ve been up here,"
said Sen. Julia Lynn, R
-
Olathe. "This budget represents a fundamental shift in the ability of our state to grow
jobs and to find efficiencies and to provide innovation.”

One of the Senate's new members, Sen. Steve Fitzgerald,

R
-
Leavenworth, said he looked forward to seeing
what the conference committee


made up of three senators and three House members


will come up with.

"I place great faith in the leadership in crafting a very difficult bill," Fitzgerald said. "I look forw
ard to the
improvements they’ll be able to make in conference committee.”

The Senate also passed 29
-
11 a bill to update state statutes related to quarantining those with infectious
diseases. Opponents of HB 2183 expressed concerns that it removes a specifi
c exclusion for Kansans with
HIV/AIDS, but state officials have said that in the virus' current form there is no reason that population
would ever be quarantined.

The Senate also passed 28
-
12 a bill to create 28 "innovative districts" exempt from most of t
he state
regulations that govern public school districts. Opponents of HB 2319 said the bill is far too broad in that it
even allows such innovative districts to hire unlicensed teachers.


House rejects $45M in local property tax relief

Bill requires vote,

printing of result on property tax hike by city,
county, school board

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

12:18pm

By

Tim

Carpenter

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Republican
-
led House rejected an amendment Wednesday that
would have provided $45 million in state
funding for distribution to cities and counties to reduce property taxes.

Rep. Jim Ward, D
-
Wichita, proposed an amendment to House Bill 2231 that funneled $22.5 million in each
of the next two years based on a formu
la tied to county population and property valuations.

"They have to use it for property taxes," he said. "This amendment cuts property taxes."

Rep. Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican carrying

the main bill,

urged his colleagues to reject

Ward's
proposal bec
ause it would

mandate local units of government to reduce property taxes. In addition, he
questioned the wisdom of redistributing general

state tax revenue across Kansas to curtail property taxes.

"This is a redistribution of existing wealth," Brunk said.
"There is no tax relief here. This is a shifting of
money."

Brunk's bill was

advanced to final action Thursday

on a vote of 63
-
58. The bill would require local units of
government


cities, counties, school boards or taxing entities

with more than $1,000 i
n annual

revenue



to conduct a public vote, rather than adopt an ordinance or resolution, when raising property

taxes.

It wouldn't set a cap on local property tax rates, but compels local elected officials to go on the record by
publishing results of the
vote in the official county newspaper.

This bill was amended to exempt local units of
government from the law if the increase was less than the rise in a consumer price index.

The inflation provision will shrink criticism

local government officials might h
ave of House members
supporting the bill, said Rep. Steve Huebert, R
-
Valley Center.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D
-
Lawrence, said the state hadn't placed funding in the local ad valorem
tax reduction fund since 2003. Objections by Republicans

based on

the theory that redistribution of tax
burden was inherently wrong can't hold water because the GOP has endorsed millions of dollars in tax credits
and exemptions, he said.

"Enough with the credits and exemptions," Davis said. "Let's give everybody some pr
operty tax relief."

In terms

of

Ward's amendment

on $45 million of property tax relief, defeated 48
-
73,

the

Topeka delegation
was divided.

Voting for

the amendment were

Reps. John Alcala, Annie Kuether, Harold Lane, Annie Tietze and Virgil
Weigel, all Demo
crats,

and Rep. Ken Corbet, a Republican. Opposing the amendment were Reps. Shanti
Gandhi and Josh Powell, both Republicans.

The House also defeated an amendment from Rep. Julie Menghini, D
-
Pittsburg, to restrict the vote and
publication requirement in the

bill

to school boards, cities and counties. For example, her proposal would
have exempted community colleges.


Kansas House slogs through sweeping tax
reform debate

Adjustment to Kansas' 6.3% sales tax key issue

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

4:55pm

By

Tim

Carpenter

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The House launched into a much
-
anticipated debate Wednesday on legislation adjusting state income and
sales taxes that put to a test Gov. Sam Brownback's influence in the
Republican
-
led chamber.

Rep. Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican and the tax committee chairman, said the reform bill easily
given first
-
round approval was designed to make sustainable reductions in the overall tax burden on Kansans,
restrict revenue t
o control government spending and promote job expansion.

"Kansas has begun the process of growing the Kansas economy," Carlson said. "Jobs for Kansas families
create the self respect and the dignity of work providing for our families. More jobs, not more w
elfare and
food stamps, is the answer."

The House bill would deliver income tax rate reductions whenever annual state revenue grew beyond

2
percent. State itemized deductions, including those for mortgage interest and property tax payments, would
be trimme
d 24 percent in tax year 2013. Future deductions would be proportional to shrinkage in the state's
top

individual income tax rate.

House Minority

Leader Paul Davis,

D
-
Lawrence, said the

pending tax package and the new House budget
was primarily structured
to


pay for income tax cuts passed in the 2012 session of the Legislature that crater
the budget.

"After 61 days, we are no closer to a solution that is fair, responsible or fiscally sound," Davis said. "No
proposal offered solves the projected long
-
term d
eficit that Governor Brownback's tax plan created."

A final vote on the House substitute for Senate Bill 84 is likely to occur Thursday in the House.

Carlson opened more than two hours of floor action with an amendment

contrary to the position staked out b
y
Brownback, who recommended indefinite continuation of a 6.3 percent statewide sales tax

scheduled to fall
to 5.7 percent in June.

Of the 1
-
cent increase passed in 2010 by a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans over the
objection of conservativ
e GOP legislators, 0.4 percent was to

become a dedicated source of funding for

state
highway projects.

The Senate recently adopted a bill complying with Brownback's strategy to rely on sales tax revenue to buy
down income tax rates, but House Democrats and

Republicans made clear any proposal for retention of the
entire 6.3 percent sales tax was dead on arrival.

Carlson responded to political reality by endorsing expiration of 0.6 percent in sales tax, but suggesting
Kansas Department of Transportation recei
ve half of the remaining

0.4 percent in sales tax. He said
slicing

0.2 percent from the KDOT

pot would help stabilize the state budget following adoption in 2012 of
business and individual

income tax cuts sought by Brownback and other Republicans.

His ame
ndment was adopted 59
-
58, but served as introduction to a dizzying series of proposals for adjusting
the tax code.

In a bizarre reversal, Carlson surfaced with a follow
-
up amendment dedicating the 0.4 percent sales tax to
KDOT for support of the 10
-
year, m
ultibillion
-
dollar

highway program called T
-
Works. That amendment
passed easily on a voice vote.

"This is jobs folks," said Rep. Richard Proehl, R
-
Parsons. "That's what we've been striving for."

Criticism emerged from Rep. Virgil Peck, a Republican from Ty
ro, who questioned whether earmarking this
portion of Kansas sales tax

for transportation projects would break the Legislature's habit of dipping into
KDOT's reserves.

In the past dozen years, Peck said, lawmakers raided the KDOT bank for about $2 billion.

A separate budget
bill given final approval Wednesday by the House stakes a claim to $150 million from KDOT

in each of the
next two years to bolster the bottom line of the state government's budget.

"We've all been guilty of using the bank of KDOT,"

Peck
said. "This has been going on for many, many
years."

Peck, chairman of a House transportation budget committee, proposed an amendment folding all sales tax
revenue for KDOT into the general fund. The maneuver would give House and Senate committees greater
control of transportation finances and cease usage of KDOT accounts as a slush fund, he said.

His colleagues disagreed with the idea, crushing the amendment on

a

29
-
93 vote.

The

House also rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Don Schroeder, R
-
Hesston, tha
t would have reset the
state sales tax at 5.9 percent in July. He would forward 0.4 percent to KDOT and move 0.2 percent to the
general fund. To make it revenue neutral, Schroeder

said, the

proposal would raise

the highest individual
income tax rate from 4
.9 percent to 5.2 percent.

His

amendment, criticized as both an increase in the income and sales taxes, was lost on

a voice vote.

A similar fate met Lawrence Democratic Rep. John Wilson's

amendment

to

restore a $1.4 million

adoption
tax credit deleted in
2012.

"This is pro
-
family," Wilson said of the amendment denounced 53
-
60. "A strong family is one of the best
ways a child can grow up to be a happy, thriving adult."

Rep. Nile Dillmore, D
-
Wichita, proposed an amendment
--

defeated 38
-
79
--

that would drop

from the bill
the provision gradually reducing the value of tax deductions. He said the House bill would result in tax
increases of $490 million over the next five years.

Final House budget rejects highway funds
diversion

Budget cuts higher education
funding, but reduces sales tax

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

11:13am

By

The

Associated

Press

The Kansas House gave final approval Wednesday to the chamber’s version of a $14 billion budget for the
upcoming
fiscal year, which includes a 4 percent cut to higher education.

The 68
-
55 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which is scheduled to debate its version of the budget later in the
day.

The House budget spends about $6 billion in general state revenues in the

fiscal year beginning July 1, but
makes a $30 million cut in higher education budgets for state universities, community colleges and technical
schools. The Senate version proposes a smaller reduction, taking 2 percent from operating budgets for a
savings
to the state of $15 million.

Balancing the House budget will depend heavily upon passage of a tax bill, also scheduled for debate on
Wednesday along with other property tax legislation. GOP leaders were confident the two plans would come
together.

“It’s so
mething that we’ve been working for,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican. “At
last we’re cutting budgets and trying to save the taxpayers some money.”

Both chambers’ proposals closely follow a budget for spending on K
-
12 education, socia
l services and public
safety presented by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The Senate would increase state aid by $14 per pupil in 2014, raising it to $3,852. That increase is made
possible by another part of the bill that calls to move the cost of providing

school transportation services


$96.6 million


to the Department of Transportation. The House plan keeps base aid at $3,838 per student.

The House on Wednesday rejected a tax package provision that would have diverted $382 million from the
state transpo
rtation program to fund general government operations. The idea inspired strong protests. The
House first voted 59
-
58 to reduce the diversion to $181 million, then voted to eliminate it altogether.

The House budget did allow a decrease in the state sales t
ax scheduled for July. The Senate has approved a
tax plan that would leave the sales tax rate at 6.3 percent, as it has been since 2010.

Differences in both the tax and budget bills will be worked out by three House members and three senators in
a conferen
ce committee in the coming weeks.

“The Senate is taking an opposite approach of raising taxes and therefore they are able to cushion the blow of
budget cuts,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat. “I don’t think the House is
intereste
d in taking a similar approach.”

Under the House two
-
year budget proposal, the state would annually spend about $6 billion of the state
general fund primarily from taxes and fees from July 1 of this year through June 30, 2014. The remaining $8
billion is r
aised through a combination of other state fees and federal funds, such as payments for Medicaid
health care services for the poor and disabled.

The $14 billion per year Senate plan is structured similarly.


Senate snubs state workers in budget bill

Hensle
y laments lack of funds for undermarket pay raises

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

8:55pm

By

Andy

Marso

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Senate gave initial approval Wednesday night to a $14.6 billion budget that
doesn’t fund promised raises
for underpaid state employees. The budget represents a cut of about $35 million from Gov. Sam Brownback's
proposal.

The Senate worked well into the night, adjourning about 9 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D
-
Topeka
, said he was disappointed the budget bill didn’t include
a payment to the State Undermarket Pay Program. The program is intended to bring state workers’ salaries
more in line with those of their peers in the private sector and other states. The raises are

to come in five
installments, the fourth of which was paid out last year.

Hensley said Kansas state employees still rank 49th in the nation in total compensation and are "being asked
to do more with less" as state government has been cut back. He illustra
ted his point with an anecdote about
an exhausted employee at Larned State Hospital being sent home after she began work on her fourth straight
days of 16
-
hour shifts.

“She didn’t even know what day it was when they asked her,” Hensley said.

This is the fi
rst year the Senate's budget has been governed by the "pay
-
go" rule that caps the total amount of
money at the level approved by the Ways and Means Committee and forces senators who want to add money
in floor amendments to propose offsetting cuts.

Hensley
said he would have offered an amendment to pay for the final undermarket pay installment, but
another senator already swapped out the funds from Hensley's offset target, the oil and gas depletion fund.

“He beat me to the punch," Hensley said of Sen. Jim De
nning, R
-
Overland Park.

Denning's amendment took $5 million from the oil and gas fund, which helps mineral
-
rich counties hedge
against the loss of property tax revenue when natural resources drying up. It split the $5 million between a
University of Kansas

Medical Center cancer research institute and a Kansas State University animal health
lab.

Denning's amendment pitted rural legislators against the rest of their colleagues, but it passed 30
-
10. Hensley
and Topeka's other two senators voted for it. Sen. La
ura Kelly, D
-
Topeka, said she is against raiding the oil
and gas fund on principle, but the pay
-
go rule and last year's income tax cuts tied her hands.

"Every year prior to this I have voted no


let’s keep that trust fund there to do exactly what it’s int
ended to
do," Kelly said. "But things are different now.”

The pay
-
go rule pervaded Wednesday's debate on amendments, most of which failed.

Kelly successfully pushed for one of the evening's most modest changes, shifting $25,000 from the Kansas
attorney gen
eral's $480,000 tobacco litigation fund and sliding it into a separate attorney general fund that
reimburses counties for expensive prosecutions of violent sexual predators.

Kelly said the sexual predator fund has never been funded, and counties are filing

claims against the state to
try and recoup money they are owed from cases that occurred as long ago as 2001.

The Senate also tacked on an amendment requiring that the Legislature vote on Medicaid expansion under the
federal health care reform law spearhea
ded by President Barack Obama before the state could participate in
such an expansion.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R
-
Andover, in his first year as Ways and Means chairman, noted that forming a balanced
budget was complicated by the Senate's continued debate over ta
x reform


including revenue
-
producing
measures proposed by Brownback.

“We don’t have any confirmed tax policy yet," Masterson said. "We really don’t know exactly what we’re
dealing with.”

The Senate budget included a 2 percent cut for higher education fun
ding.

The House also passed its budget Wednesday and unless one of the chamber's adopts the other's budget
outright, a panel of three from each body will have to reach a compromise.

Hensley said he hoped the state employee compensation issue might be
addressed in that process.


House moves closer to budget with sales tax
cut

Proposal would raid highway funds, cut higher education

Posted:

March

19,

2013

-

4:41pm

By

Tim

Carpenter

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The House delivered first
-
round approval Tuesday of a budget for state government that balances by
siphoning $300 million from highway projects over two years while imposing in July a 4 percent cut on
higher education and targeting dozens of agencies for r
eductions of about $200 million.

The bill assembled by the House Appropriations Committee and set for final action Wednesday would allow
a three
-
year, 1
-
cent increase in the Kansas sales tax to expire as scheduled in June despite lobbying by Gov.
Sam Brown
back to reinstate the tax in July to secure about $260 million annually to help pay for state income
tax reductions.

“The House budget identifies savings in areas of state spending that do not affect core services,” said Rep.
Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republi
can and chairman of the House budget panel.

The Senate’s version of the budget will be anchored by retention of the elevated state sales tax of 6.3 percent,
which the 2010 Legislature voted to drop to 5.7 percent in 2013 with 0.4 of a percent dedicated to
highway
programs.

For the first time, the House

prepared a two
-
year budget plan that applied to the fiscal year starting July 1 and
the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. The House's

strategy chews through the anticipated $563.6 million in
the state treas
ury at the close of the current fiscal year. It would

leave a positive balance of $214 million in
the $6.1 billion state general fund after one year and a deficit of $156 million after the second year.

A House

tax bill, likely to be debated Wednesday, coul
d alter those bottom lines.

While Republican representatives

praised the budget bill as a responsible balance of revenues and
expenditures, Democrats declared it fatally flawed.

"We have $564 million in the bank," said Rep. Jim Ward, D
-
Wichita. "Disabled
people fight for scraps. This
is morally and fundamentally wrong."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said he opposed the GOP plan for diverting
transportation and higher education funds to shore up a state budget distorted by unnecessa
rily deep
reductions in income taxes.

“We passed a tax cut that was simply too large,” Davis said. “We can't afford it. It's a tax cut that benefits the
rich. We can't properly fund our schools. We can't tell our state employees that they are valued.”

Unde
r the House’s budget, appropriations for the salaries of state employees would be frozen at existing
levels. An amendment was passed by the House to exempt from the cap all six primary universities in the
Kansas Board of Regents system, but that relief

did
n't apply to Washburn University in Topeka.

Washburn would be required to take a share of the $56 million hit tied to the 4 percent rollback for higher
education.

Some legislators suggested this adjustment would trigger another round of student tuition hik
es.

"Folks, on higher education, it's out of control," said Rhoades, the GOP budget chairman. "They raise tuition
because they want to."

While debate on the House budget consumed nearly three hours, the chamber's members were reluctant to
adopt amendments.

Representatives approved the university exemption offered by Rep. Ward Cassidy,

R
-
St.
Francis, as well as an amendment tied to the merger this year of the Juvenile Justice Authority into the
Kansas Department of Corrections. The JJA measure stipulated no
juvenile program

funding could be
converted to services for adult inmates in the state prison system.

The House rejected amendments to delete $600,000 in the budget for public broadcasting


a 50 percent
reduction from current funding.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R
-
Mulvane, suggested the cash go to the judicial branch, while Rep. Allan Rothlisberg,
R
-
Grandview Plaza, recommended the money be diverted to the Meals on Wheels program for senior
citizens. Neither viewed

subsidizing public radio and television programs f
or children a core government
function.

"You're putting them in front of an idiot box and expecting people to teach your children," Rothlisberg said.
"To me, the choice is very clear."

KDOT chief: Highway funds need sales tax

Sec. King urges House not to d
ivert sales tax extension

Posted:

March

18,

2013

-

3:01pm

By

The

Capital
-
Journal

Transportation Sec. Mike King urged House members not to divert funds from 2010 sales tax meant for
highway projects that
are expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state.

King, in a statement released Monday, said House Substitute for Senate Bill 84 would rob the T
-
Works
program of the funding it needs to be viable before it gets off the ground.

“Loss of

the sales tax revenue will reduce the agency’s anticipated revenues by nearly $382 million over the
next two years," King said. "This is in addition to proposed transfers from the State Highway Fund of nearly
$300 million. So, clearly, the loss of sales t
ax revenue will have serious consequences for the T
-
WORKS
program as early as this summer. Highway projects will be cut or delayed. At this time, we haven’t analyzed
which projects may be affected, but we will consider all categories of projects


preserva
tion, modernization
and expansion that are scheduled to be let in fiscal year 2014 and after.”

Gov. Mark Parkinson signed a 1 percent sales tax increase in 2010 to solidify the state budget following the
recent recession. Six
-
tenths of that tax will sunset

July 1 under current law, with the remainder going to fund
the highway projects.

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed keeping the full sales tax in place to help pay for last year's income tax
cuts and maintain the highway funding.

House members have expressed

reluctance to keeping the elevated sales tax, which the Kansas Chamber of
Commerce opposes.


Wagle warming to Medicaid expansion

Senate president says federal flexibility is key

Posted:

March

22,

2013

-

11:44am

By

Andy

Marso

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

With a six
-
hour budget debate reaching an end, Sen. Dennis Pyle, R
-
Hiawatha, offered an amendment
Wednesday to require legislative approval for any effort to expand Kansas
Medicaid under the federal Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare."

Pyle, a staunch opponent of the health care reform signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, said that
although Gov. Sam Brownback has given no indication h
e will participate in the expansion, Pyle still wanted
to make sure the Legislature has a say if he does.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R
-
Wichita, stood up and said she was supporting the amendment, but not for
the same reasons as Pyle. Wagle pointed to a
part of the amendment that she said would allow the Legislature
to decide how the money would be spent if Medicaid is expanded.

"We need to remain flexible here in this state and find our own Kansas
-
based solutions," Wagle said in
explaining her comments T
hursday. "If that means drawing down some of those federal funds, we need to be
flexible in how we draw them down."

With that, Wagle became the first of the Legislature's conservative leadership members to express some
openness to the possibility of expand
ing Medicaid under Obamacare.

Wagle said she still has serious reservations about the law, expressing frustration with former Gov. Kathleen
Sebelius


now head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


"sending down a new set of
regulations eve
ry week."

But Wagle said she is intrigued by the negotiations Sebelius' department is having with states like Arkansas
about taking the federal money for expanding Medicaid and using it to help low
-
income residents pay
premiums for private insurance instea
d.

Wagle said her openness to Medicaid expansion hinges on the feds allowing that kind of flexibility.

"Obamacare is changing our world," Wagle said. "It's changing our health care system. One thing we need to
do is keep doors open, keep talking and keep t
rying to find Kansas solutions."

Brownback said Thursday that he hasn’t shut the door to expansion yet.

"We're open on it," Brownback said. "We're very concerned about the long
-
term costs. I want to listen to the
Legislature."

Insurance Commissioner Sandy
Praeger, a moderate Republican, has advocated for the expansion, noting that
federal tax dollars from Kansans will be used for the program whether Kansas participates or not. Praeger
also said Kansas currently has some of the country's most restrictive inc
ome thresholds for Medicaid and the
expansion


which extends eligibility to citizens who make 138 percent of the federal poverty level


would offer health coverage to tens of thousands of Kansans currently without it.

Kansas hospitals also have come out
for the reform. Praeger said they stand to lose federal subsidies for
treating uninsured patients, because the federal law assumes that fewer people will be without coverage.
Without the Medicaid expansion, that change is projected to hit rural hospitals e
specially hard.

But many Senate conservatives were elected last year on a platform that included unflinching resistance to
Obamacare. They have expressed concerns about the costs of Medicaid expansion.

Under the current law, the federal government provides

100 percent of the funding in the expansion's early
years and 90 percent thereafter. But there are doubts that the feds will be able to live up to their end of that
bargain.

"There's no guarantee the federal funding is going to continue," said Sen. Tom Ar
pke, R
-
Salina. "Just look at
what's happening now, with the sequester. I just don't see how they're going to continue passing out these
federal funds they don't have available."

That sentiment also has some traction in the House. A committee from that cham
ber passed a resolution
stating that Kansas shouldn’t participate in the Medicaid expansion. That bill remains in limbo, with no vote
yet in the full House.

A wildcard in the expansion debate may be Brownback's "KanCare" Medicaid reform, which delegated
ad
ministration of the state's Medicaid dollars to three private managed care companies this year.

The Brownback administration projects KanCare will save as much as $1 billion over five years while
improving health outcomes. Wagle and Arpke said to their kno
wledge, the change is working well thus far.
Participating in the expansion could bolster the program.

Pyle said Brownback has the authority to "take the first step" on expansion, but his position on whether
Brownback should take that step remains unchange
d.

"We should say 'no' to Obamacare," Pyle said.

Wagle's position seems more nuanced, and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D
-
Topeka, said that is
a good sign for Medicaid expansion in Kansas.

"I think she sees the trend in other states where Republi
can governors are basically agreeing to the whole
Medicaid issue," Hensley said. "I would hope the governor of Kansas would follow suit.”


Fed report: 'Obamacare' already helping many
Kansans

Despite opposition, insurance coverage available to more
residents

Posted:

March

19,

2013

-

3:50pm

By

Megan

Hart

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

Though many Kansans dislike Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says they are
already benefiting from

it.

The department released fact sheets on how many people in the 50 states have received new or expanded
health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The law passed in
March 2010, and some of its features, such as

exchanges or marketplaces where people who don’t receive
coverage through their jobs can buy insurance, won’t come online until 2014.

An email from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the fact sheet was compiled using
data from Kaiser Fa
mily Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well
as Medicare and Medicaid.

The fact sheet estimated as of December 2011 about 25,000 young people in Kansas had taken advantage of a
provision of the law that lets them st
ay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26, if they don’t get
jobs that provide coverage.

Anna Lambertson, executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition, said the nonprofit had heard
expressions of relief from college students an
d young professionals because they wouldn’t have to either find
a way to pay for insurance or forgo it. The coalition has been following the implementation of the Affordable
Care Act closely and has held educational programs for people about how the law wi
ll affect them, she said.

Another popular measure has been a provision that bars insurers from denying coverage to children because
of pre
-
existing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and cancer, Lambertson said. Insurers also will have to
cover adults wi
th pre
-
existing conditions and can’t charge them extra or refuse to cover treatment for their
conditions next year, and the state has set up a kind of bridge program for those people in the meantime, she
said.

“They had a lot of trouble getting coverage,”
she said. “They could not afford insurance in the private
market.”

In 2012, 36,383 people who receive their prescription drug coverage through Medicare saved $24 million
because of discounts on prescriptions in the “donut hole,” according to the fact sheet
. The donut hole refers to
what seniors have to pay for their prescriptions once they hit a coverage limit, but before their out
-
of
-
pocket
expenses trigger another layer of coverage.

It estimated older Kansans have saved a total of about $59.3 million sinc
e the law was enacted, because it
mandates a 50 percent discount on covered brand
-
name drugs and a 14 percent discount for generics for
people who have Medicare and have reached the coverage limit.

It also requires insurers to cover preventative care like
colonoscopies, mammograms, well
-
child visits and flu
shots without deductibles or co
-
pays. A more controversial provision of the law places contraception under
preventative care, sparking as
-
yet unresolved legal challenges from people who say paying for in
surance that
includes birth control would infringe on their religious freedom. It isn’t clear how many people with private
insurance took advantage of the various preventative services, though about 284,396 people in Kansas who
get their insurance through
Medicare used at least one free preventative service in 2012, according to the fact
sheet.

Kansas’ 16 community health centers, which operate 48 sites, have received about $40.9 million for
operations and to build new sites, expand services or make
upgrades, the fact sheet said. It also said the
number of doctors and other health practitioners working in underserved communities in Kansas through the
National Health Service Corps has more than tripled in recent years, from 44 in 2008 to 138 as of Sept
. 30,
2012.

Other expenditures in Kansas under the Affordable Care Act included $6.2 million for home visitations with
at
-
risk mothers and their young children, $4.4 million for school health centers and $287,000 for centers
where families who have a child

with special health needs can share information.

The biggest question for the future of the Affordable Care Act in Kansas is whether the state will opt to
expand Medicaid, Lambertson said. The federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost of expan
sion
for the next three years, with that percentage eventually falling to 90 percent, but some legislators are wary of
taking on extra expenses and don’t trust the federal government to fulfill its obligations.

The fact sheet estimated about 326,885 Kansan
s, or about 14 percent of the population, lack health insurance.
If Kansas decided to expand Medicaid to people earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about
$31,000 for a family of four, about 95 percent of those without insurance would be el
igible for either
Medicaid or subsidies to purchase coverage. Now, only families making less than 32 percent of the poverty
level, or about $6,000 for four people, are eligible for Medicaid in Kansas.

“It’s very difficult, unless you have a qualifying disa
bility, to get on Kansas Medicaid no matter how poor
you are,” Lambertson said.

Lambertson said she is concerned that low
-
income people will put off getting care if they are not covered by
Medicaid, shortening their lives and leading to higher health costs

when they seek help for health problems
that could have been prevented.

“You would find people still falling through the cracks,” she said. Expanding Medicaid “will also help local
providers, especially in rural communities, who are providing care for peo
ple who are currently uninsured.”

The law also says that 80 percent of premiums must be spent on health care and quality improvements. If
insurance companies spend too much on other expenses, such as overhead and marketing, they have to issue
consumers a r
ebate or lower premiums. The fact sheet estimated more than 67,000 Kansans could be eligible
for more than $4.1 million in rebates this year, but it wasn’t clear how they arrived at that number.

Speaker: Education reform proposals will be
back

Merrick pred
icts renewed attempts next session to pass bills stalled in
committee

Posted:

March

24,

2013

-

1:40pm

By

Andy

Marso

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R
-
Stilwell, acknowledged this past
week that he didn’t get as far on public
education reform this session as he would have liked to. But he isn’t giving up.

"We’ve worked very hard at it, and we haven’t made a lot of progress this year, but we’re not going away,"
Merrick said. "It’s still
going to be on the agenda next year.”

The House and Senate did pass a bill limiting automatic paycheck deductions for public employee union
political activities


a measure that directly affects the state's teachers' union. And a bill to exempt a select
nu
mber of "innovative districts" from most of the state regulations that govern K
-
12 public schools appears
headed to Gov. Sam Brownback in some form.

But other major reforms, including expanding charter schools, holding back third
-
graders who don't score
we
ll enough on reading tests, rejecting the 2010 "Common Core" curriculum reforms and curtailing teachers'
collective bargaining rights stalled in the House and Senate education committees, not making it to the floor
for votes in their respective chambers.

R
ep. Kasha Kelley, R
-
Arkansas City, and Sen. Steve Abrams, R
-
Arkansas City, served as chairpersons of
those committees for the first time this year, taking over for more moderate Republicans in former Rep. Clay
Aurand and former Sen. Jean Schodorf.

Abrams a
nd Kelley voiced a preference early in the session for major changes to the state's philosophies on
public education. Abrams spoke of switching the focus from funding "inputs" to student achievement
"outputs" and Kelley said she wanted a "child
-
centric" re
volution that would encourage students to explore
their "natural proclivities," whether those lead to college or not.

Both said the reform path should include more options for parents and less regulations for school districts.

But structural changes have p
roven a tough sell, as the state's public education advocates have argued that
Kansas' current system has produced good results at low costs and is not in need of an overhaul so much as a
vote of confidence in the form of increased funding to make up for r
ecent cuts.

“I think we’ve gotten the attention of the school groups," Merrick said. "They can get mobilized, and they
have.”

And it isn’t just the usual groups like the Kansas National Education Association teachers union. Heather
Ousley, a mother from Me
rriam, mobilized herself last week, walking 60 miles in three days to voice her
displeasure with the current legislative direction in person.

While none of the education reform bills can be declared officially dead until after the session, most appear to
b
e on their last legs.

Kelley's House Education Committee had its final meeting Friday and rejected the Common Core bill 7
-
11.
The committee heard hours of testimony over several days in considering that measure, and Kelley thanked
members for their work on

the House floor, while adding "I would have changed some of your votes."

Kelley's committee rejected the charter schools bill 9
-
10. The measure also was defeated in Abrams'
committee by a single vote.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D
-
Topeka, said

Republican committee colleagues from rural
areas, like Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R
-
Grinnell, had reservations about the possible cost to the state of allowing
widespread expansion of public charters. Hensley said Ostmeyer surmised that the base state aid to tr
aditional
public school pupils might be reduced to fund the charters.

“I agree with him," Hensley said. "I think that would have been the practical effect.”

Hensley said Sen. Dan Kerschen, R
-
Garden Plain, made a good point in stating that for a Legislature

that has
repeatedly encouraged school districts to find efficiencies


possibly by consolidating administrative
functions


starting new, publicly
-
funded schools seemed counterintuitive.

Ostmeyer and Kerschen also voted "no" on the mandatory retention of
third
-
graders. The 5
-
6 committee vote
on that measure was perhaps more surprising because holding back third
-
graders until they are proficient in
reading was one of Brownback's signature education initiatives this year.

But concerns were raised in committe
e about the appropriateness of cutting parents out of a decision that
could affect the long
-
term development of their children. Merrick said that though he supports the governor's
plan, he understands that perspective.

“I think they’re doing a disservice t
o their child by doing it," Merrick said of parents who want their children
to advance despite reading struggles. "But that’s still, as far as I’m concerned, their right.”

No proposal caused more of a clamor in the education community than the collective b
argaining bill, which
KNEA said indicated a "war on teachers." The teachers' union also took on the Kansas School
Superintendents Association and Kansas Association of School Boards for working with Rep. Marvin Kleeb,
R
-
Overland Park, without KNEA input.

S
eaman USD 345 superintendent Mike Mathes has said he told Kleeb from the beginning that he wanted
KNEA at the table. The group was eventually invited to talks, and Kleeb announced last week that he
wouldn’t work the collective bargaining bill this session
in favor of allowing all three organizations time to
sit down and work out their differences.

“I don’t think we ought to have moved forward on that issue to start with,” said House Minority Leader Paul
Davis, D
-
Lawrence. “If the parties want to try to reac
h some compromise, I think we ought to allow them to
have some discussions and try to achieve that rather than a bunch of legislators who probably don’t know a
lot about that (collective bargaining) process trying to ram something through."

But Merrick sai
d his appetite for change next year remains strong.

“In my opinion and the opinion of a lot of people in this building there needs to be reform," Merrick said.
"It’s just a matter of getting it out of committee and on to the House floor.”


Editorial: Let
board of education decide
Common Core

Posted:

March

22,

2013

-

8:34pm

By

The

Capital
-
Journal

Editorial

Board

While we feel strongly that the Legislature should determine appropriate funding levels for
Kansas public
schools, we agree that such instructional issues as the Common Core teaching standards are the domain of the
Kansas State Board of Education.

The House Education Committee made the right call Friday in rejecting a bill that would have banned
those
standards (House Bill 2289).

Without naming a specific bill, state board of education chairwoman Jana Shaver had sent a letter to all
legislators and the governor asking that they respect the board’s authority. Shaver said HB 2289, which
would have o
verturned the state’s math and English teaching standards (Common Core), mainly prompted
the letter.

“Our Board takes seriously our responsibility to Kansas students and schools and the decisions we make
come after considerable thought and deliberation,” s
he wrote. “We understand you exercise the same care in
the decisions you make. We are hopeful we can continue to work together in fulfilling our respective
responsibilities for the benefit of the people of Kansas.”

Critics had argued states were pressured
by the federal government to adopt the Common Core standards.
Proponents, such as Shaver, say that isn’t the case and that Kansas has been involved in their development
from the beginning. More than 40 states have adopted the Common Core. The Common Core m
ath and
English standards were adopted in Kansas in 2010.

Just like legislators, our state board of education members are elected and are beholden to their constituents.
Voters select their board of education members to wrestle with these very matters. Con
cerns about teaching
standards and other instructional issues are best taken up within the board framework, and members of the
public and interested parties have a voice in that forum to air complaints and debate the merits of teaching
standards, which the

board approves in seven
-
year cycles.

That said, concerns from legislators that certain standards could lead to appeals for more money are
understandable. The board of education must accept that schools have to live within the means provided by
legislators

when it comes to implementing any standards.

We’ll defer to the subject
-
matter experts as to the effectiveness of the Common Core standards themselves,
but the number of teachers who have spoken out in favor is telling. All five local school district
supe
rintendents and such professional associations as the Kansas Association of Teachers of Mathematics are
among those who supported the Common Core.

These standards have been evaluated by the board of education through its review committees and have been
vot
ed on by the board in its public forum. It wasn’t the Legislature’s place to second
-
guess them now.


Legislature developing 'creative teaching'
flexibility

Education committee hopes to unlock passion of students

Posted:

March

23,

2013

-

4:25pm

By

John

Milburn

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Legislators are continuing efforts to develop a pilot program aimed at freeing Kansas school districts from
rules and regulations that many claim impair creative
teaching.

Republican legislators and school administrators said the program would foster creative ways to get more out
of student achievement, while having the flexibility to operate outside of state rules and regulations.

“The more that we tailor educatio
n to unlock the passion of children the more we win,” said House Education
Committee Chairwoman Kasha Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.

The plan would set up a five
-
year pilot program allowing up to 28 districts to form a coalition of innovative
distric
ts. They would apply to be part of the program, spelling out what their goals would be for improving
student performance.

Senators approved the bill Thursday, sending it to the House for consideration. The Senate made changes to a
similar version the House

approved earlier in the session to expand the program from 10 school districts to 10
percent of the 286 Kansas districts.

The Kansas National Education Association and other detractors worry about the rights of teachers and
whether such a proposal is even

constitutional.

“Most of what (school districts) are complaining about are federal things. What does that leave?” said Mark
Desetti, lobbyist for the KNEA. “There are either things around the edges or teacher issues.

“There’s tremendous innovation going o
n under current law all over the state.”

KNEA and its members have been vocal during the 2013 session that the conservative GOP Legislature is
attacking teacher rights, aiming to break the organization through a range of efforts, including collective
barga
ining rights and the ability to deduct political action contributions from paychecks.

Desetti said education laws, like any law, are established because of a few individuals who will attempt bad
things, such as driving too fast on highways, not to “interfe
re with people who do the right thing.” KNEA’s
concern is that districts granted innovative status will opt out of contract negotiations or hiring licensed
teachers which could harm educators and schools.

“We have to watch these kinds of things. These are
dangerous trends,” Desetti said.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Abrams said such concerns about teacher negotiations and
putting unqualified staff in the classroom were “a red herring.” He, like Kelley, doesn’t think superintendents
and local sc
hool boards will scrap contracts or teacher quality if designated an innovative district.

“It’s no different than a private business that wants to be successful. You will want the employees to be on
board with the plan and happy,” said Abrams, an Arkansas
City Republican.

Abrams said because the districts are part of a pilot program and under more scrutiny for showing student
progress they will want to involve the teaching staff and community to make the process work.

“They are going to be under the spotlig
ht. They are going to do everything possible to be successful,” he said.

But Rep. Ed Trimmer, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee and former teacher, said the bill
is unnecessary and that many districts will choose to participate.

“We’ll see.

There’ nothing to indicate that it will make them any better,” said Trimmer, of Winfield. “Why
don’t we just fund education properly and let all schools be innovative?”

The Kansas Association of School Boards has been supportive of the proposal. Lobbyist
Mark Tallman said
districts aren’t going to scrap teacher contracts or licensure just to be innovative.

“We support it as a way of promoting higher standards with more local flexibility within the public school
system under the direction of a locally elect
ed board,” Tallman said.

He said if districts would be inclined to use unlicensed or certified teachers the boards would be held
accountable for getting better student performance or risk losing innovative status.

“That’s ultimately what it comes down to,”

Tallman said.


Math and English standards survive vote

Rep. Hedke introduced an amendment that failed to convince the bil's
opponents

Posted:

March

22,

2013

-

11:13am

By

Celia

Llopis
-
Jepsen

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

Kansas’ mathematics and English standards survived a vote in the House Education Committee on Friday
despite a late attempt to amend the Common Core bill to make it more palatable to opponents.

The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kasha Kel
ley, R
-
Arkansas City, and Rep. Shanti Gandhi, R
-
Topeka,
were among the seven votes in favor of the bill to ban the set of math and English standards that the Kansas
State Board of Education adopted in 2010.

The standards, called the Common Core, are being
used in more than 40 states and have been one of the
committee’s key topics this session.

The measure failed in an 11
-
7 vote with one abstention.

Rep. John Bradford, R
-
Lansing, introduced the bill and made a final plea for support before the vote, telling
the committee that the issue was straightforward.

“I would just remind everybody that House Bill 2289 was about money,” he said. “The basic question was,
are we going to spend the money?”

Opponents of the Common Core argue that its use is costing Kansas mi
llions of unnecessary dollars, a claim
that the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas State Board of Education deny.

Brad Neuenswander, deputy commissioner of education, says costs are involved every time Kansas updates
its standards


someth
ing the state board does on a seven
-
year cycle


but that the Common Core had
saved the state money.

KSDE estimates it would have cost between $150,000 and $200,000 to develop other math, reading, and
writing standards and an additional $25,000 to $30,000
for external reviews by companies that evaluate
standards. Developing state tests would cost another $9 million to $30 million, it says, depending on the
technological complexity of the computer
-
based tests.

Critics, however, point to a report by the Pione
er Institute, a free
-
market think tank in Massachusetts, that
tallies costs of textbooks, technology and other expenses it says result from the Common Core. Former state
board of education member Walt Chappell, who vigorously lobbied for H.B. 2289 and was
the board’s sole
vote against the Common Core in 2010, says Pioneer’s figures indicate Kansas will spend $186 million.
KSDE says those figures include expenses that don’t apply to Kansas, where school boards budget annual
textbook costs anyway, increasingl
y use open
-
source materials, and already use computer
-
based testing.

Speaking after the hearing, state board member Deena Horst


a former legislator of 16 years


said it was
a relief that the bill hadn’t passed.

“We would’ve had to start completely over,
” Horst said, “and frankly many local districts would’ve had to
start over and repeat teacher training.”

Horst said that a last
-
minute attempt to amend the bill had made sense in some ways, but that it still would
have infringed on the board’s authority.

T
he amendment, introduced by Rep. Dennis Hedke, R
-
Wichita, and supported by Bradford, included several
points and would have kept current Common Core standards in place, while banning adoption of future
standards produced by the Common Core consortium.

But
the committee voted down the amendment, with some saying it would have made the bill pointless.

The amendment also would have banned Kansas from sending “personally identifiable data” about students
to any public entity outside of Kansas.

H.B. 2289 had wor
ried the state board of education not only because it would have required the board to
redevelop math, reading and writing standards, but because the board considered it an infringement on its
constitutional role.

Bradford said this week that he disagreed
that the bill would have encroached on the board’s authority.

Rep. Melissa Rooker said the bill was the single measure that the committee spent the most time on this
session.

State board of education asks lawmakers,
Brownback to respect its role

House
considering bill to overturn math, English standards

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

4:38pm

By

Celia

Llopis
-
Jepsen

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Kansas State Board of Education has sent a letter to
lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback expressing
concern that some bills in the Legislature may infringe on the board's authority.

"We respect the Legislature’s constitutional responsibility to provide for the suitable finance of education for
Kansas students,"

says the letter, signed by chairwoman Jana Shaver on behalf of the board. "We ask that our
legislators likewise respect the State Board’s constitutional responsibility for the general supervision of
schools, which includes accrediting schools, providing f
or academic standards and the licensure of teachers."

The letter is brief and doesn't specify any bills, but it was prompted in large part by House Bill 2289, which
would ban Kansas' current mathematics and English standards.

Lawmakers in the House Educati
on Committee are considering that bill, with proponents arguing that the
standards, called the Common Core and adopted by dozens of states, are a federal imposition on Kansas
schools and not academically rigorous.

Though the committee had missed a deadline

to pass the bill out, it revived the measure this week by sending
it briefly to the House Appropriations Committee. The House Education Committee will discuss the bill
again at noon Thursday.

Shaver said the purpose of the letter was to clarify the board’
s constitutional role.

“I would say our major goal is to work together with the Legislature to provide the best quality education that
we can,” she said. “We have worked very hard over the years to establish standards that we think are
challenging and will

help move our students forward toward college and career.”

Shaver acknowledged that H.B. 2289 was the main impetus for the letter.

“Several of the board members expressed concern” about the bill, she said.

Two members of the board, Ken Willard and Deena H
orst, who serve as legislative liaisons for the board,
also have been speaking to lawmakers one
-
on
-
one about the math and English standards and what effect
banning them would have.

A former board member, meanwhile, Walt Chappell, has been lobbying lawmaker
s in favor of the bill.
Chappell, who believes the standards aren’t rigorous enough, was the only vote against adopting Common
Core in 2010.

Chappell disagreed that the bill would infringe on the board’s constitutional authority since the Legislature
funds

education.

“They can say, ‘We want Common Core,’ but they can’t say, ‘Now pay for it,’ ” he said.

At a meeting earlier this month, the state board discussed the bill and others that also touched upon standards
and curriculum. A number said such matters ar
e the prerogative of the state board and not lawmakers. Article
VI of the Kansas Constitution delegates “general supervision of public schools” to the state board, which by
law revises and passes standards for core subjects on a seven
-
year cycle. In 2010 i
t adopted new math and
English standards. This year it will vote on new science and history standards.

Seven members voted to send the letter. Willard abstained and two opposed the idea, Steve Roberts and John
Bacon.

“I appreciate that my fellow board memb
ers want a clearer distinction of our constitutional authority,”
Roberts said Wednesday, adding, however, that it is important to “treat everyone with respect, especially
when we have serious issues before us.”

All five school superintendents in Shawnee
County say they support the Common Core standards.


Hensley: Innovative districts unconstitutional

Minority leader says state board of education needs oversight

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

4:14pm

By

Andy

Marso

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Senate gave initial approval to a bill Wednesday that would allow 10 percent of Kansas school districts
to opt out of most state rules and regulations, despite Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley's warning that
it violates
the state constitution.

House Bill 2319 allows for 28 "innovative districts" that would have autonomy over almost all matters other
than special education requirements. Questions from Sen. Marci Francisco, D
-
Lawrence, revealed that the
state board of educa
tion wouldn’t have unilateral authority to end the districts "innovative" status for the
statutory duration of the program.

“I’m very concerned about that part of the bill,” Francisco said. “It seems like we’ve turned over
responsibility for supervision to

the state board of education and now for five years they’ll have no control.”

Hensley, D
-
Topeka, sounded the constitutionality alarm.

“That’s in direct violation of Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution,” Hensley said.

Other Democrats objected that one of
the regulations from which the innovative district will be exempt is the
requirement that teachers be licensed.

“What type of message are we sending to high school students when we say, 'Hey if you want to teach in
Kansas, you don’t have to be certified an
ymore?’ " asked Sen. Tom Holland, D
-
Baldwin City. "What does
that say?”

But the bill, carried by Sen. Steve Abrams, R
-
Arkansas City, still passed handily to final action.

Abrams, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said district after district has
come to him
complaining about red tape holding them back.

“What this does is it gets rid of those rules and regulations and focuses on performance of the students,”
Abrams said.

Abrams said the innovative districts could become models for the rest of the
state if student achievement
improves.

The House which passed a bill establishing 10 total "innovative districts" will have to approve the expansion
of the program in the Senate bill.


Funding questions postpone charter school
vote

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

5:23pm

By

Celia

Llopis
-
Jepsen

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

A vote on the charter schools bill was postponed another day Wednesday by opponents who continued their
barrage of questions about how the
measure would work.

But despite the delay, Sen. Steve Abrams, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which is
considering the bill, seemed determined to put the measure to a vote by the end of Thursday.

Sen. Pat Pettey, D
-
Kansas City, led much of the
conversation, asking for specifics on the bill’s provisions
concerning charter school facilities, funding, enrollment and oversight. Pettey argued that supervision of
public schools would be inadequate under the bill.

“It boggles my mind that we would want

to take this risk,” she said.

She homed in repeatedly on the bill’s potential costs, drawing objections from Abrams and Sen. Tom Arpke,
R
-
Salina.

Pettey said the bill could cost $25 million or more if private schools converted to charter schools, qualifyi
ng
them for state aid.

“I don’t believe that’s going to be a reality,” Abrams responded, suggesting that most students at parochial
schools would want to stay there.

“They value the religious training they are getting,” he said.

Pressed by Sen. Anthony Hen
sley, D
-
Topeka, about the costs of the bill, Abrams said there was no way to
know how much Kansas’ public student population would expand under the bill, and that it was unclear
where the funding would come from.

“First things first,” Abrams said. “There’s

no use getting an appropriation if we can’t get this into law.”

But Abrams assured Hensley repeatedly that the Legislature wouldn’t dip into existing public education
funding to finance new charter schools or private schools that convert into charter scho
ols.

“The money’s got to come from somewhere,” Hensley said, “and I think we should have an answer to that
question before this Legislature proceeds with this bill.”

“This doesn’t take money away from existing schools,” Abrams responded. “I don’t know wher
e (the money)
is going to come from because that is a legislative process.”

Abrams asked members of the committee to meet early on Thursday and if necessary to stay into the evening
until they are done with the bill.

House bill creates $10M aid program for

private schools

Critics contend measure lacks academic accountability, unfair to
disabled students

Posted:

March

18,

2013

-

4:07pm

By

Tim

Carpenter

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The House's education committee
gathered conflicting testimony Monday on a bill granting $10 million
annually in state

tax breaks to finance a new scholarship program for


students attending K
-
12 private
schools.

An advocate of Catholic schools

and the representative of an influential bu
siness organization praised the
reform as a modest step toward student "choice" in Kansas education,

while public school supporters
declared the measure a misguided precursor to

a damaging voucher initiative

long sought by parochial
and

unaccredited school
s.

State law allows donations to

nontraditional schools, but this legislation

would create a new format

for
directing gifts

for benefit of

disabled or low
-
income students interested in enrolling outside the public school
system.

"Parents should have the ri
ght to choose the best school for their children without being penalized for
enrolling them in a school not operated by the government," said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of
the Kansas Catholic Conference.

He said Kansas should follow the lead
of states adopting school
-
choice laws to empower parents who lack
financial means to afford a private school.

"This bill is not about

choice," said Tom Krebs, governmental relations specialist with the Kansas
Association of School Boards. "This bill is abo
ut discrimination. They (schools accepting scholarships) can't
discriminate

on race or religion, but they can discriminate on severity of the

disability, the capacity of the
income
-
eligible family or even athletic prowess."

Under

House Bill 2400,

donors pa
ying privilege, premium or corporate taxes


banks, insurance firms and
other entities


would receive a 70 percent state tax credit for contributions to a scholarship granting
organization. The corporate

donors also could

claim a federal tax break.

These
nonprofit organizations would be responsible for coordinating distribution of scholarships to
students

attending anything other than a public school.

Individual awards to a student could not exceed $8,000 annually. The money must be used for tuition and
tr
ansportation. A donor business would be blocked from earmarking

scholarships

for

specific student.

Eligibility for scholarships would be defined in two ways. Children in families making no more than 185
percent of the federal poverty rate, which, for a fa
mily of four, is close to $44,000, could apply. In addition,
students

with an individual education plan for a disability, such as autism, traumatic brain injury or blindness,
would qualify. Academically gifted students with an IEP

couldn't receive these sc
holarships.

A clause in the bill would mandate students accepting scholarships to waive their right to special education
services, meaning a private school wouldn’t

have

to abide by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Deborah Meyer, director
of special education services in the Shawnee Mission

school district, said

schools
accepting these scholarships could ignore service standards for disabled students rigorously applied to public
schools.

"A private school under HB 2400 could discriminate

ag
ainst students with disabilities and not be held
accountable," she said.

Former House Speaker Mike O'Neal,

the president of the Kansas

Chamber, said

legislators shouldn’t allow
the bill to

fall

victim to debate about how much tax revenue would be

subtracte
d

from the state treasury or
how much money public schools might lose by virtue of tax incentives to private education.

"Those who question businesses' contributions to

education need

look no further than the names inscribed on
the hundreds of education bu
ildings that dot our landscape,"

he said. "Many are our members."

The House Education Committee didn't take action on the bill, but chairwoman Rep. Kasha Kelley, R
-
Arkansas City,

said she would attempt to gain committee adoption of the measure.


Emotions f
low during immigrant tuition
hearing

Indian lawmaker to Kobach: Who's the illegal immigrant here?

Posted:

March

20,

2013

-

10:29am

By

Andy

Marso

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

The Legislature's annual attempt to
repeal a statute allowing in
-
state tuition for Kansas students without legal
residency drew an emotional crowd to a House committee Wednesday.

Students who have lived in the United States most of their lives got choked up as they described the academic
lif
eline in
-
state tuition has provided to improve their lives. A counselor who works with such students in
Wichita high schools shed tears as she showed legislators a scrapbook of success stories. Murmurs of unrest
were heard in the gallery as one House membe
r asked about the prevalence of illegal immigrants from gangs
and drug cartels in American prisons.

But nothing drew a bigger reaction than when Rep. Ponka
-
We Victors, D
-
Wichita, wrapped up a series of
questions to the bill's chief proponent, Secretary of
State Kris Kobach.

“I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you,” said
Victors, the Legislature's lone American Indian member.

The heavily pro
-
immigrant gallery burst into cheers and applause


a rare
reaction in normally staid
hearings.

"Please don't do that," said Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R
-
Olathe, the chairman of the House Federal and State
Affairs Committee.

Wednesday's hearing on House Bill 2192 would have repealed a nearly 10
-
year
-
old statute that al
lows
students who graduate from Kansas high schools and have lived in Kansas for at least three years to pay in
-
state tuition at state universities and community colleges, regardless of residency status.

Kobach, a lightning
-
rod for controversy on immigrati
on issues, told the committee federal law conflicts with
that statute.

“U.S. citizens should always come first when it comes to handing out government subsidies,” Kobach said.

Kobach also pointed out that natives of foreign countries who seek student visas

to attend Kansas universities
must pay out
-
of
-
state tuition.

“I think that is an absurd reverse incentive," Kobach said. "If you follow the law, we’re charging you three
times more.”

Proponents of the bill were outnumbered at Wednesday's hearing, but Koba
ch was joined by Leah Herron, of
Shawnee.

"As a taxpaying citizen, I believe it’s unfair for me to shoulder this responsibility," Herron said.

Fred Logan of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the students involved pay the same tuition as their high
school c
lassmates. Logan said of the 630 immigrants currently accessing in
-
state tuition under the law, more
than 500 attend community colleges. He called the 2004 law a "pro
-
growth" initiative and said it treats
students without legal status fairly.

“They’re inno
cent," Logan said. "That’s important to remember. They came here because their parents
brought them here.”

But Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R
-
Grandview Plaza, could be seen shaking his head repeatedly as Logan said the
word "innocent."

Rothlisberg later said he

believes illegal immigrant parents are "using their children as pawns" and he finds it
"patently offensive" when governments are asked to provide information in languages other than English.
Rothlisberg asked Elias Garcia, the head of the Kansas League of

United Latin American Citizens, why there
are so many illegal immigrants affiliated with drug cartels and violent gangs, such as El Salvador
-
based MS
-
13, in U.S. prisons.

Garcia said Rothlisberg was overstating the problem.

“I used to work with the Depart
ment of Corrections," Garcia said. "I kind of know a lot about who’s in our
jails and our prisons.”

Garcia said comprehensive immigration is on its way at the federal level and it would be a mistake to repeal
the tuition law. He and Logan were joined in op
position by a string of students, including Georgina
Hernandez, a Wichita State University graduate student who said her parents brought her to the U.S. from
Mexico when she was 10.

Not eligible for federal student aid, Hernandez said she has worked nights

as a hotel clerk and days as a
housekeeper in order to afford in
-
state rates, while watching peers in southwest Kansas give up their college
dreams for work in meat
-
packing plants.

“It’s like we’re already on the floor, and this bill would just kick us in

the face,” Hernandez said.

Kim Voth, the Wichita schools counselor, said that before coming to testify she talked to one of her students
who used the in
-
state tuition law to get an education degree and has since become a U.S. citizen and been
teaching for

five years.

“I asked her what I should say today," Voth said, beginning to cry. "She got very quiet, then said, 'Please tell
them that my college degree changed my life.' ”

Several religious groups, including the Kansas Catholic Conference, also opposed t
he bill.

The committee took no action on it.

Supreme Court justices argue citizenship
voting law

Kansas requirements similar to those being challenged in Arizona

Posted:

March

18,

2013

-

1:30pm

By

Jesse

J.

Holland

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON


Supreme Court justices disagreed Monday over whether states can require would
-
be
voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up
easier.

Arizo
na and other states told the justices the precaution is needed to keep illegal immigrants and other
noncitizens from voting. But some justices asked whether states have the right to force people to document
their citizenship when Congress ordered the state
s to accept and use federal “motor voter” registration cards
that only ask registrants to swear on paper that they are U.S. citizens.

“I have a real big disconnect with how you can be saying you’re accepting and using, when you’re not
registering people wh
en they use it the way the federal law permits them to,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to
Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne.

Said Horne, “It is the burden of the states to determine the eligibility of the voters.”

This is the second voting eligibilit
y issue the high court is tackling this session. Last month, several justices
voiced deep skepticism about whether a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that has helped
millions of minorities exercise their right to vote, especially in areas of

the Deep South, was still needed.

The court will make decisions in both later this year.

In Monday’s case, the court is deciding the legality of Arizona’s requirement that prospective voters
document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration f
orm produced under the federal “motor voter”
registration law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that that 1993 National Voter Registration Act,
which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004.

Arizona app
ealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

The case focuses on Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration
issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states


Alabama,
Georg
ia, Kansas and Tennessee


have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating such
legislation.

The federal “motor voter” law, enacted in 1993 to expand voter registration, requires states to offer voter
registration when a resident applies f
or a driver’s license or certain benefits. Another provision of that law


the one at issue before the court


requires states to allow would
-
be voters to fill out mail
-
in registration
cards and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but it does
n’t require them to show proof. Under
Proposition 200, Arizona officials require an Arizona driver’s license issued after 1996, a U.S. birth
certificate, a passport or other similar document, or the state will reject the federal registration application
fo
rm.

Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to think that a sworn statement wasn’t enough to allow people to register to
vote.

“If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws,” he said.

But attorney Patricia Millet
t, representing those challenging the law, answered that courts accept sworn
statements as proof in criminal cases, some of which end in executions. Congress decided that a sworn
statement with the risk of perjury was sufficient to register to vote in the
federal system, she said.

“This is not just a ticket into the state’s own registration process so they can go, ‘Thank you very much,
(throw) it in the garbage can, now do what we would like you to do.’ It is a registration form,” Millett said.

The Arizona
requirement applies only to people who seek to register using the federal mail
-
in form. The state
has its own form and an online system to register to vote when renewing a driver’s license. The appeals court
ruling didn’t affect proof of citizenship requir
ements using the state forms.

Opponents of Arizona’s law see it as an attack on vulnerable voter groups such as minorities, immigrants and
the elderly. They say they have counted more than 31,000 potentially legal voters in Arizona who easily
could have re
gistered before Proposition 200 but were blocked initially by the law in the 20 months after it
passed in 2004. They say about 20 percent of those thwarted were Latino.

But Arizona officials say they should be able to pass laws to stop illegal immigrants a
nd other noncitizens
from getting on their voting rolls. The Arizona voting law was part of a package that also denied some
government benefits to illegal immigrants and required Arizonans to show identification before voting.

The case is 12
-
71, Arizona v.

Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc.


House, Senate bills toe constitutional tightrope

Competing forces praise individual spirit, condemn reckless arrogance

Posted:

March

23,

2013

-

6:09pm

By

Tim

Carpenter

THE CAPITAL
-
JOURNAL

Secretary of State Kris Kobach infused academic flair and bare
-
knuckle politics into drafting a bill aimed at
stopping gun
-
control fanatics in their tracks.

More than 90 members of the House voted to pass the Second Amendment
Protection Act, making it illegal
for local, state or federal law enforcement agents to enforce U.S. regulations on firearms or ammunition
manufactured and sold in Kansas. The bill calls for federal authorities crossing that line to face prison time.

Kobac
h said the legislation, scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in a Senate committee, was woven tightly
enough to survive constitutional challenge.

On the other hand, Kansas assistant attorney general Charles Klebe said, "to state the obvious," the
supremacy clau
se of the U.S. Constitution "cannot be waived by state law and any conflict between a valid
federal law and a state law will be resolved by the courts" against a state.

The three
-
year cost of defending Kansas taxpayers against lawsuits linked to this gun
bill was estimated at
$475,000. If supremacy is indeed found to be supreme, awards to plaintiffs and for attorney fees could be
costly.

"It's a fight worth having," said Kobach, a former law professor at the University of Missouri
-
Kansas City.
"These are f
undamental principles of federal and state authority."



RANGE OF THOUGHT

This gun
-
rights bill is among a barrage of legislation arcing through the House and Senate during the 2013
session. If signed into law, some could light the fuse on lawsuits. Topics
capable of starting legal fights
include concealed and open carry of guns, abortion, lobbying, education policy, religious symbols, airport
security, drug testing, agriculture, worker rights and regulatory reforms capable of starting legal fights.

Veteran
political figures in Kansas have distinctly different ideas about the trend.

Joan Wagnon, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party and a former House member, said legislators in
Kansas too often dropped into the hopper bills prepared by the conservative A
merican Legislative Exchange
Council in Washington, D.C., without reflection on whether the proposed reform served Kansas' interests.

"There's a certain arrogance in the Legislature now that leads them to think there are no constraints," she said.
"The Con
stitution is a big constraint that every legislator should respect."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat and a lawyer, said some questionable bills were