PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS THE LAST NEWS ARTICLE UNTIL THE VETO SESSION WHICH BEGINS ON APRIL 27.
The end of this week brings us to first adjournment. The Legislature has first adjournment scheduled for Friday. We finished today, Thursday. Nearly all committee meetings except for Tax and Appropriations are finished. Mainly the conference committees are meeting to work out differences between the Senate and House positions.
On Monday we had 31 bills up for debate. We never know how long it may take to finish. Most bills go very quickly while others, such as one to restrict cities and counties from imposing housing inspection rules, take more time. It just depends on how many people want to talk on an issue on the House floor.
There are still several controversial bills floating around. A Senate bill to lower the threshold for impeachment of Supreme Court judges is one and property tax lid is the other. In the House, we debated the so-called anti-common core bill. This bill would do away with the current common core education standards and require them to be replaced by 2017. That bill failed by a significant margin.
That bill is worded in such a way that new standards must be significantly different that the current standards. Not sure that is even possible. People seem to confuse standards and curriculum. Standards simply say by the end of the Kindergarten, Johnny will be able to count to 20, or something similar. Curriculum is something the local school board determines and their responsibility is to make sure Johnny actually has those skills by the end of the 4thgrade by using appropriate materials and teaching methods. Also, in reading the Article 6 of the State Constitution, it is clearly the responsibility of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to oversee education in Kansas and not the Legislature.
Back on conference committees. The long floor session in the Senate Monday and the House Tuesday has delayed conference committees meeting. As of Wednesday, it appears both the House and Senate are finished with floor debate for the session which means there are many issues that have, once again, made it only half way through the process. That could create some conference committee reports that are packed with all sorts of issues the House has not had a chance to debate at all. All the items in a report are supposed to be related in some way, but often that means anything that came through that particular committee is eligible. Then, we vote on the package, yes or no, without amendment.
Much work will remain when we adjourn. The overall fiscal issues in the State will be left for later after the new revenue estimates are available late in April. We are required to build the budget on the basis of revenue estimates. The school equity issue may have been resolved, for only one year, with an agreement that holds all schools harmless and allows the SBOE to administer the extraordinary needs fund. Providing that plan to the courts earlier may allow more opportunity for the courts to rule earlier as well. If adjustments are needed later, the time frames may not be as short.
This will be my last report until we return April 27. I have filed for re-election and certainly appreciate all the communication on the many issues we see here in the Statehouse. I expect quite a bit of action over the break as the Appropriations committee should be meeting and putting together the rough draft of the omnibus budget at that time, with final touches when we return.