VETO SESSION WRAP-UP
On April 27th, the legislature began the wrap-up “veto session”. Our main duty is to pass the Omnibus Reconciliation Bill. This bill balances the state budget by taking into consideration all of the fiscal notes on the bills we passed during the regular session and the latest revenue estimates. Meanwhile, other conference committee reports can be considered and attempts to override the Governor’s vetoes can be brought. The House veto session was gaveled to a close on Sunday morning, May 1 at 2:50 a.m.
LEGISLATURE PASSES SUNDAY SALES BILL
The House passed a proposal that addresses Sunday liquor sales and uniformity in Kansas liquor control law. The bill passed the Senate in March. The bill would:
· Make the Act uniformly applicable to all cities and counties after November 15, 2005.
· Allow retail liquor stores in all cities unless an ordinance is adopted to prohibit such stores.
· Prohibit sales of alcoholic liquor and cereal malt beverage (CMB) on Sundays unless a city ordinance or a resolution is adopted to allow such sales. A protest petition followed by an election could be held to reverse the city/county ordinance or resolution.
· Authorize any city to adopt an ordinance on or before February 15, 2006 to prohibit retail liquor stores within the city. The voters could have a protest petition to have an election on whether to permit such sales. A subsequent election may be held to reverse previous prohibition of such sales.
· Authorize cities and counties to enact ordinances or resolutions to approve or disapprove the sale of alcoholic liquor and CMB on Sunday other than Easter and the sale of liquor on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. These ordinances and 2-298 resolutions would be subject to protest petition followed by an election.
If ordinances or resolutions or voters approve selling alcoholic liquor and CMB on Sunday and holidays, sales in those cities and counties would be prohibited only before 12:00 noon or after 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or Easter, and before 9:00 a.m. or after 11:00 p.m. on any day where sales are permitted.
An amendment was added to the bill that would outlaw the use of alcohol without liquid machines. These machines allow a user to breathe in alcohol without liquid. Opponents of such machines cite their danger and fear they may encourage underage drinking and drunken driving. Another amendment was added to help grow the wine industry in Kansas. This amendment would double the capacity wineries are allowed to produce from 50,000 gallons to 100,000 gallons. It would also allow wineries to have one on-site outlet and three off-site outlets. Current state law only allows two off-site outlets.
Most of the cities with Sunday sales are near the Missouri border, which has had Sunday sales for years. Kansas communities with Sunday sales, which include the 23 cities and Shawnee County, have a population of nearly 900,000. Two years ago, in a lawsuit involving Wyandotte County, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that communities could opt out of the state Liquor Control Act, which bans Sunday sales, because the law wasn’t applied uniformly. The lack of uniformity is partly exemplified by different requirements in the Kansas Liquor Control Act for different-sized cities to sell packaged liquor. A 1960 amendment to the Kansas Constitution says cities can use their home rule powers to exempt themselves from nonuniform state laws.
Since the court ruling, lawmakers have been wrangling over how to address it because some have feared that local governments may exempt themselves from other parts of the liquor law, such as the section setting the legal drinking age at 21.
GAMING FAILS TO MAKE AGENDA
As the Legislature begins the annual wrap-up session, it was expected that the body would consider a bill that would expand casino gambling beyond the state’s four Indian-owned casinos in Brown and Jackson counties. The gaming bill was never brought to the Senate floor, however, as the Senate Leadership believed they did not have enough votes to get the bill passed. The measure would have allowed “destination” casinos in five areas — Crawford or Cherokee County, Dodge City, Junction City, Wichita and Kansas City, Kan. It also would allow for slot machines at Kansas’ five dog and horse tracks. The bill would provide that the money generated from those endeavors — an estimated $150 million in the first year; $300 million each year after that — goes to enhance public school funding.
In an industry that has seen more than a decade of legislative failures, gambling interests this year are making public education funding the center of their argument. And they have combined forces for the first time — possibly ever — to roll out a radio advertising campaign urging Kansans to keep their gambling dollars at home instead of exporting Kansas gaming dollars to Missouri riverboats.
The Kansas Supreme Court is evaluating the $125 million funding increase for public schools in HB 2247. If the plan is struck down, the Legislature would have to come up with even more money in a budget that has no money to spare. Also, the court specifically asked the Legislature about the “constitutional significance” of the failure to identify any specific stream of revenue for schools beyond the 2005-2006 school year. It is possible that some lawmakers will get nervous about the need to find more revenue without raising taxes and thus support a gaming bill.
The proponents insist that their push for expanded gaming is not just about public education funding. They point out that the state is facing dwindling ending balances, especially with the increased funding in HB 2247. The state is likely to be experiencing shortfalls in fiscal year 2007.
FUNDS ADDED TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES PURCHASE HEALTH CARE
The Business Health Partnership is a not for profit entity formed to develop and market a low cost health plan to small businesses. The Partnership is a joint venture between the State of Kansas and business leaders from around the state. The House amended the state budget to increase funding for the Business Health Partnership. Almost 300,000 Kansans are without health insurance. Nearly two-thirds of uninsured Kansans are employed by small businesses.
BOOSTER SEAT BILL DEFEATED IN HOUSE
A bill requiring children ages 4-8 to be seated in booster seats in cars was defeated in the House of Representatives. A vote to bring the bill up for debate failed to receive the 63 votes necessary for the House to hear the bill. This bill was passed in the Senate earlier in the session, but voted down in the House. Current Kansas law requires children under the age of 4 to be seated in a child safety seat. 31 states have laws requiring booster seats for children too old for a child safety seat, yet too young to be safe in a conventional seat belt. Opponents of this measure do not want the state to mandate to parents the usage of booster seats. I voted to support this legislation.
FILINGS MADE IN SCHOOL FINANCE CASE
Two briefs by defendants in the school finance case were filed with the Kansas Supreme Court, but they did not agree about the question whether HB 2247 makes “suitable provision” for financing the educational of Kansas students. The brief filed on behalf of the Kansas State Board of Education said the Legislature has failed to provide a “suitable” education for Kansas schoolchildren. It asked the court to strike down three provisions of the measure which allow large increases in local property taxes by school districts.
According to an attorney for the State Board of Education, the Legislature’s school finance package fails to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to improve education funding. The Supreme Court ordered attorneys representing the state to file legal arguments by Monday, April 25 and scheduled a hearing for May 11. Attorneys for the plaintiff school districts that sued the state in 1999 must file briefs by May 5. Mr. Biles said in his legal brief that legislators, whose plan increases annual spending on public schools by $127 million, failed to respond to the court’s order in January to base spending on actual costs of educating the state’s 440,000 students. “Until legitimate cost studies can be completed to verify the adequacy of school funding, HB 2247 standing alone cannot be found to provide, or even presumed to be, full compliance with constitutional mandates as now interpreted by this court,” Biles wrote, referring to the bill containing the plan. “At best, HB 2247 is an interim step.”
Biles said the increased state spending should be viewed as a “good-faith effort” toward addressing the court’s mandate, and the Court should allow that part of the package to become law. That law would let districts begin planning for the next school term, which begins in August, he said. It would also negate the need for a special session. However, the Board believes the provisions allowing local districts to increase local property taxes must go. He asked the court to strike down provisions granting districts the authority to raise local property taxes for local option budgets and a provision granting 17 of the state’s 301 districts extra local property taxing authority because their housing costs exceed the state average. ”These provisions will only complicate the already difficult challenge mandated by this Court to distribute funds in a manner that bears a reasonable relationship between our educational goals and the costs associated with meeting those needs,” Biles wrote. Biles said that the Court should direct legislators to base future costs on the funding necessary to have students meet state and national academic standards. The court should retain jurisdiction over the case, he said, without becoming a “super Legislature” that sets education and spending policy.
Attorney General Phill Kline said the school board was “confused.” Lawmakers, he said, did respond to a Supreme Court order asking for more equitable school funding. Attorney General Phill Kline said that HB 2247 would close the per-pupil spending gap between districts. He supported the provisions that allow wealthier districts to use local taxes because he said those districts often receive less money from the state because they don’t qualify to use other provisions in the school finance formula, such as those providing additional funds for at-risk students or low-enrollment weighting. Legislative leaders have said that HB 2477, their solution to the school funding lawsuit, would be sustainable in the future with no new revenues. The are relying on revenue growth to sustain the increased funding. Budget outlooks reflecting increases in revenue, as well as increases in SRS and Aging caseloads, predict that in fiscal year 2007, the states expenditures would outpace receipts by $65.9 million dollars. That would increase to $355.6 million is fiscal year 2008. Based on this data, this education plan is not likely to be sustainable with current funds.
LEGISLATIVE POST-AUDIT TO BEGIN REVIEW OF EDUCATION COSTS
As a part of HB 2247, passed by the Legislature in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on education, the Legislative Division of Post-Audit is to complete a comprehensive cost-analysis to determine the costs of delivering K-12 curriculum, related services, and other programs mandated by state statute or Board of Education regulation. This is to be completed by the end of the 2006 legislative session. This study is essentially “re-doing” the Augenblick and Meyer study commissioned by the legislature in 2001, but using narrower criteria and a different methodology. Post-Audit will study the cost to provide an education that meets the requirements of State law for an accredited school for regular education students and how costs vary by district size and location. Post-Audit will review relevant State laws and Board of Education regulations covering such things as high school graduation requirements, admissions requirements established by the Board of Regents pursuant to K.S.A 76-716, State scholarship requirements established by the Board of Regents, and courses of instruction-required at the various grade levels.
The study will also look at the additional costs incurred to provide an education that meets the requirements of State law for an accredited school for special-needs students and how these costs vary by district size and location. The study will also review the distribution of special needs funds to determine if students being counted for the purpose of distributing these funds are actually receiving the applicable services. The study will review current educational research that shows the correlation between the amount of money spent on K-12 education and educational outcomes. The amount of state funding versus local funding being used to fund state mandated educational services will also be reviewed.
In order to complete this study, current expenditures will be reviewed along with interviews with administrators and educators to examine variations in expenditures and necessities not being met. The Division will use all current staff to complete the study, as well as hire a new Post-Audit team that will continue to monitor management practices in school districts. This team will conduct audits at the direction of the 2010 Commission, an education monitoring body established by HB 2247.
PLEASE KEEP IN TOUCH!! It is a special honor and privilege to serve as your voice in the Kansas House of Representatives. I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My Statehouse office address is 300 SW 10th Ave., Room 284-W, State Capitol, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 865-2786 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.