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Week 12 Newsletter

This week, we moved towards first adjournment which is scheduled to occur on Friday, April 5th. The Legislature should have most of their work done by then. Votes would have been cast on various conference committee bills, which includes school funding.

School funding has been a very hot topic this session. The school funding litigation has been going on for over 20 years now with brief pauses at times. In most recent history, SB 19 was passed in 2017 adding $1.2 Billion over 6 years (2018 - 2023). The court ruled that wasn’t enough, so in 2018 the Legislature passed SB 423 & SB 61 which added $1.32 Billion over 5 years (2019 - 2023) for a total of $2.52 Billion over those years. That brings us to 2019 where the court ruled that still wasn’t enough.

SB 142 passed the Senate March 14 by a 32-8 margin. This bill spend appx. $90 Million per year for 4 years to “adjust for inflation”. This adds another $320 Million to the $2.53 Billion for a total of $2.85 Billion dollars. The House tried to take a more pragmatic approach to financing by including policy into the conversation. The bill was ultimately split into a policy bill and a finance bill. While the policy bill narrowly passed the House, the finance portion was not voted on. Under the House finance plan, it would have had some requirements to appropriate money to specific initiatives such as mental health. So the policy from the House met the finance bill from the Senate in conference committee. Conference committee ended up with the Senate’s finance package and some transparency pieces from the House.

Many of you may remember my stance from when I was running for office. I was very critical of the Supreme Court's desire to usurp the Legislative authority of appropriations. Section 2, subsection 24 of the Kansas Constitution states: No money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law. Section 6, subsection 6, (b) states: The Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the education interests of the state. The constitution of Kansas is very clear on who shall appropriate and it is not the Supreme Court. If it were not for the Supreme court, the Legislature would not be debating another $90 million in education funding this year. There are already 4 years of increases at 3% annually from the state, plus the increases in Local Option Budget based on the appreciation of real estate in the school district. It’s reasonable to assume a 5% total increase year over year.

The future of the state of Kansas depends on its children. We are obligated as citizens of this state to ensure they have adequate funding to make sure the recieve an education that prepares them for higher education and adulthood. As your Legislator, it is my responsibility to balance the needs of all state agencies while taking into consideration the tax obligation it puts on every citizen in Kansas. It is my belief that if the Supreme Court was not appropriating from the bench, we would not be forced to ask the taxpayers to bear this additional $90 million burden. It is for that reason that I did not support the bill to increase school funding at this time. The bill ultimately passed on a vote of 76-47. Today, the schools are financially sound while other agencies are not. I submit my explanation of vote:

Today, the Kansas House of Representatives chose to increase school budgets in lieu of ending the crisis within DCF, in lieu of ending the 8 year wait list for disabled Kansans, in lieu of ending State of Emergency in our prison system. Instead of taking a stand for our constitutional responsibility to appropriate, this body chose to fold. At what point is the body going to stand up and Legislate for what is right for Kansas instead of Legislating for re-election? You know the saying, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure? Well one agency’s inflation adjustment is life saving money for another.

We are blessed with some of the greatest educators who truly care about our children. I have had the opportunity to visit with and tour many of the schools in the 74th. I have first hand knowledge of the passion and dedication each of these teachers and staff members have in making sure our children are educated. Those who educate our children have my utmost respect and appreciation. Thank you for your service to Kansas.

We are scheduled to return to the Capitol on May 1st for the veto session. As I set on Appropriations committee, I am required to return on April 30th to get an updated from the Consensus Revenue Estimating group. This group is scheduled to meet mid-April to give a more definitive update on what the ending balances will be as of June 30, the state’s year end. This allows us to go into veto session with all the facts.

The veto session is where the omnibus spending bill is worked and approved. Every bill that was passed by the Legislature that spends money is then added to the previously passed budget and any final changes are made before final adoption occurs. Once both the House and Senate agree and vote, it goes to the Governor for her signature and our work is complete.

Many Legislators are assigned to interim or joint committees that meet throughout the year. I have been assigned to the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight for the off-season. I look forward to working with my Senate counterparts to address the corrections related needs of this state.

Please let me know if you have any concerns or topics of interest. I would be happy to visit with you. It is truly an honor to be your Representative and I am humbled by your prayers and support.

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Committee to Elect Stephen Owens,
Gloria Arrellano, Treasurer
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