Variety of Issues on the Agenda for the 2006 Session
Wow! It seems like it was only a short time ago when the Kansas Legislature wrapped up its contentious special session over the K-12 school finance dilemma. So I guess it was only fitting that on the first day of the 2006 session, the Legislative Post-Audit Division was releasing the details of its much awaited K-12 school finance cost study.
The study found that additional funding needed for the 2006-2007 school year would be at least $316 million using an input based approach and nearly $400 million using an output based approach. An input based approach refers to providing the curriculum, services and programs mandated by the state statutes as well as high school graduation requirements; it does not consider student performance outcomes in determining the level of funding needed. On the other hand, an output based approach refers to meeting the performance outcome standards adopted by the State Board of Education; it is naturally more expensive to meet this type of objective. Not surprisingly, the study also concluded that additional costs associated with students in poverty accounted for approximately $240 million of the additional funding estimate and increased special education costs accounted for approximately $75 million of the increase. Given the large size of the additional cost estimate, we may be in for another session of tough school finance negotiations.
There will be many other topics debated this year as well. In her State of the State address, Governor Sebelius called for elimination of the property tax on new business machinery and equipment purchased after Jan. 1, 2007 as well as doubling prison time for child sex offenders. The Governor also spoke of spending $3.5 million to provide health coverage for 15,000 uninsured children (newborns to 5 year olds) and of giving parents access to tools to block inappropriate web sites, guides showing which TV shows and movies are family-friendly, and limits on access to violent video games. The use of eminent domain proceedings by local government to transfer property from one private owner to another will be heavily debated, and expect to see a “conceal and carry” handgun bill as well.
I will be working hard to push through bills I introduced last year as well as new bills for the 2006 session. House Bill 2372, the “1099 Misclassification Act”, addresses those situations where an employer treats a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee. This illicit business practice allows employers to avoid paying social security, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, liability insurance, and both overtime and time-off wages. It is also costing our state millions in lost income tax revenues. I will also be introducing bills that address such problems as exorbitant winter utility costs and the lack of affordable health care coverage for small business employees.
In subsequent Signal articles, I’ll be writing in more detail about these and other major issues Kansas is facing. If you have any particular comments or suggestions for legislative initiatives you would like to see me work on, please let me know!