Capitol Comments – March 13, 2017
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The Legislature returned from a one-week break last week and accomplished nothing.
After the Senate failed to override the veto of the bipartisan tax plan, the Senate Tax & Assessment Committee moved the bill out of committee for consideration. After more than an hour of debate early last week, the Senate effectively killed the plan. No further work was done on the floor during the remainder of the week.
Committees are continuing to meet and hold hearings. The Senate is supposed to consider bills later this week. The Senate Committee on Ways & Means worked a rescission bill today. If it is passed out of committee tomorrow, it could be on the floor as early as Thursday.
On a personal note, my wife, Debbie, and I enjoyed attending the speech at Topeka High School by former Presidential nominee and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during Washington Days a few weeks ago. (Pictured on the right.)
It is truly an honor to serve you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 785-296-3245 or by email at Anthony.Hensley@senate.ks.gov. Or, stop by my legislative office located in room 318-E of the Statehouse. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook.com/
Senate Democratic Leader
In this issue:
Senate Bill 175 is the governor’s tax plan that was debated on the Senate floor earlier this week. His plan would increase the liquor enforcement tax, cigarette tax, and the tobacco products tax. Additionally, it increases the annual report fee for all for-profit business entities from $40 to $200 and would require all shareholders and partners who own more than 5% of the business to pay the annual report fee.
The consideration of the plan was nothing more than an exercise in futility. It served as a clear indication the Senate President and Majority Leader do not have a plan of their own. Until they realize they need a bipartisan coalition of 27 votes to pass a tax plan, the political gridlock and games will continue. I call upon them to stop making the Governor relevant and to start working with Senators in both caucuses to pass a tax plan with 27 votes.
On March 2, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that K-12 school funding is constitutionally inadequate. They ordered the Kansas Legislature increase funding to Kansas schools by June 30 of this year.
This ruling confirmed what we already knew. Kansas schools are significantly underfunded, threatening the quality of education our children are receiving wherever they may reside in our state.
The Court noted a widening achievement gap among students who are African-American, Hispanic, English language learner, disabled, and free and reduced lunch students. They concluded that nearly one in four students were not proficient in reading and math, subjects at the heart of an adequate education.
Additionally, their analysis determined the current system of funding fails to accommodate changing conditions such as enrollment. They argued that schools have to do more with much less, which impedes student outcomes.
Based on the Court’s analysis, there is a direct link between funding and student performance. It confirms the need for a funding formula that recognizes all students are not created equally. The new formula must provide more funding to help those students with additional needs.
Finally, the Court recognized the importance of KPERS employer contributions for attracting and retaining quality teachers. They argued quality teachers are necessary for achieving desired student outcomes.
Now, more than ever, Governor Brownback and Republican legislative leaders must stop playing political games and get serious about fully funding our children and grandchildren’s education.
According to numbers from the Kansas Labor Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kansas lost 2,300 jobs between January 2016 and January 2017. For the first two years of his term, Kansas has seen a net gain of 12,400 jobs. Governor Brownback assured voters during the 2014 campaign that he would create 25,000 jobs a year for the next four years as governor. The new numbers indicate that the Governor is short of reaching his goal by 37,600 jobs. This is just more proof that it is beyond time to end Brownback’s reckless policies.
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is scheduled to deliver the State of the Judiciary address to members of the Kansas Legislature and the general public in the Kansas House of Representatives chamber on March 15 at 4:30 p.m.
The State of the Judiciary is an opportunity for the Chief Justice to give an update on the current state of Kansas’ court system and its role of providing services to individuals and businesses statewide.
To listen to a live audio stream, go to www.kslegislature.org. Then, in the box on the home page under “Live Audio Broadcast” click on “House.”