The legislature is at the mid-point of the session, also known as turn-around. Any bills still in the House of origin that are not exempt or have not been blessed by touching an exempt committee are considered dead at this time. This can make it difficult to track bills as the history must be checked to see what has happened to them in the past.
Sometimes bill numbers change making them difficult to track. This occurs primarily to expedite the legislative process. The contents of Senate bills may end up with House bill numbers, or vice versa. While I understand the process, it can be very challenging to figure out where a bill has gone, or to figure out why and when a bill is suddenly different than the original. That process sets the stage for the end of the legislative session when we have conference committee reports that may combine several bills into one report. The final report normally uses a bill number of one of the bills that is included.
Since last week was turnaround weekend, the legislature was in recess Monday and Tuesday. The recess is done to allow the Revisor of Statutes and Research departments to check and rewrite bills that have been amended and changed. As the process of committee hearings on Senate bills begins, we need to have accurate information on exactly what the Senate has done to modify the original language of a bill.
A couple of issues are getting a push from interested parties. One I continue to hear about is the ‘Fair Tax’ bill. There has not yet been a hearing and none is scheduled at this time, but it is a taxation bill so is alive for possible hearing if the Tax committee chair chooses to do so. Another item of interest is the bill that would move spring election to the fall of odd numbered years. That bill was ‘blessed’ last week, so it could come back for action at any time. A third bill of interest, especially to Counties, is the Senate bill to eliminate the mortgage registration fee at the Register of Deeds Office. This bill is exempt and appears to be under the line, waiting for debate in the full Senate.
As I reflect on the first half of session, there are several other issues that possibly could become more prominent. There is a proposal to reduce the time allowed for appeal in death penalty cases. A maneuver was done in the Senate to circumvent debate in the full House. That may not be a good thing on an issue as important as this as more debate and input would help find any weaknesses. Another could be what is known in education circles as ‘Common Core’. The Common Core curriculum was adopted in 2010 by the State Board of Education but there is a push to rid the schools of that curriculum. At this point the bill is stuck in committee, but remains alive.
The Kansas Supreme Court decision on school funding came out Friday morning. Early analysis of the decision is that the focus is on an education system that provides generally equal educational opportunity. The issue is sent back to the District Court to examine how to equalize that opportunity through the capital outlay and Local Option Budget (LOB) process.
The LOB is probably the main issue here as more of that responsibility has been pushed to the local level where differences in school district wealth can cause large differences in how much money a school has available for education. Overall, the legislature either needs to fully fund the school finance formula to maintain equal opportunity or change the law. If the law is changed the District Court would review whether the change passes muster to meet the equal opportunity requirement.
I appreciate the contact you have made with me and look forward to hearing from you on issues that we continue to work on in the second half of session. Only two weeks remain for committee to work, so the process will move very quickly.