SCHOOL FINANCE PLAN PASSES HOUSE
A coalition of Democrats and Moderate Republicans passed a plan to boost school funding by a vote of 64 to 61.  I voted for this plan.  After the Senate passes a plan, this bill will go to a conference committee where a compromise will be reached with the Senate.
The new plan will phase in a $610 million increase in aid to public schools over three years.  The House debated into the early hours of Friday morning to pass the plan, where 26 amendments were offered.  The final plan came in the form of an amendment to a bill that only included a one-year funding increase, which would likely have not passed muster with the Supreme Court.
The underlying one-year plan, stuffed with additional bureaucratic increases for public schools and provisions to limit court authority in school finance cases, was rejected during the debate. Here are the details of the plan:

  • All day Kindergarten funded (presently only funded for half day).
  • Special Education excess costs funded at 92% (now 89.3%).
  • Correlation weighting is changed to “high enrollment weighting” and is designed to close the gap in funding between low enrollment districts (now those 1662 students or smaller) by adding funding to the 56 districts that do not receive low enrollment weighting.
  • $2006-07–$50 base state aid per pupil (BSAPP), at-risk from .193 to .268, high density at-risk .08, high enrollment weighting from 1662 to 1632 students,  bilingual scholarships for teachers, additional LOB authority, equalized, to 30%.
  • $2007-08–$49 on BSAPP, at-risk to .368, high density at-risk to .09, high enrollment weighting to 1602 students, LOB authority, equalized, to 33%.
  • $2008-09–$35 on BSAPP, at-risk to .482, high density at-risk  to .10, high enrollment weighting to 1572 students.
The bill requires the State Board of Education to submit an annual report to the Legislature showing in detail improvement in student proficiency which is attributable to the increase in state funding beginning last year.  The bill would require each district to conduct a needs assessment and use the results in its budget preparations.  Districts would also be required to report the number of at risk students served by state approved at risk programs as well as the number of students eligible for funding. Senate leaders have drafted a $660 million plan but haven’t scheduled a debate on it, waiting to see what happened in the House.
IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION
Victims of identity theft will get further help in reestablishing their financial lives in a bill passed by the House this week. The bill places certain restrictions on the use of social security numbers in public records, increases penalties for identity theft, provides for a credit report alert, and provides a credit report freeze for victims of identity theft.
The bill also allows victims of identity theft that are charged of a crime due to the theft to receive a waiver for the fees charged to expunge their criminal record.  Currently, these victims must pay a fee in order to not have these crimes appear on their record.
BILL PASSED TO ENSURE SAFETY OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
The House passed a bill that would require that wholesaler distributors of prescription drugs, other than registered manufacturers, and each of their facilities be licensed annually by the State Board of Pharmacy.  This bill is a response to growing concerns about counterfeit drugs being imported into the state.  This bill will help Kansans get the drugs they need without concern for safety. I served on a subcommittee with Rep. Don Hill (R-Emporia) and Rep. Willa DeCastro (R-Wichita) to craft this piece of legislation.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY
The House gave approval to a four-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school supplies.  The measure would drop sales taxes for computers, clothing, pencils and paper during the first weekend of each August.  The measure was added to a separate tax bill on a narrow 63-57 vote. The bill still has several steps to become law.  About a dozen states have sales tax holidays, lasting two to nine days for a range of items. The proposal would to eliminate taxes for up to $300 in clothing, $100 in school supplies, $300 in computer software and $2,000 in computer equipment. The holiday would be the first Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each August.  Supporters said it could help border counties compete with out-of-state retailers. Some opponents said it would hurt the finances of cities and counties, many of which rely on sales tax revenues.  Others opponents said retailers were likely mark up their prices during the sales tax holiday and residents would stock up during the holiday, reducing sales tax revenues further.
SENATE AMENDS CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT BILL
Parents falling behind in their court-ordered child support payments could lose their right to drive in Kansas under a House-passed bill.  On Thursday, the Senate amended HB 2706 to give the parents some leeway, allowing parents to have a restricted license for such things medical emergencies, driving to and from work or school or taking children to school.
The bill still says those owing more than $500 in child support would be targeted by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to have their license revoked until the debt is paid or until the parent makes arrangements to pay what’s owed. Most child support payments in Kansas go through SRS to the parent primarily responsible for the child’s care.  SRS says the bill would mean an additional $200,000 in child support collections.  About 54% of children owed support money receive the full amount, and the average nonpaying parent owes $7,127 to their children. SRS says for the one-year period ending June 30, 2005, child support collections were $156 million. Kansas ranks 36th nationally in enforcing child support orders.
A bill allowing the suspension of hunting and fishing licenses of such parents is also being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee.

Paid for by Tom Holland for Kansas Senate
Kris Marsh, Treasurer