Legislative Report from Don Schroeder

By Rep. Don Schroeder
March 06, 2015

The mid-point of session, known as turnaround, is now past and we can move on to the next phase of the legislative process. In the House, we only have a couple of weeks to consider Senate bills and then the process of conference committees begins. Conference committees work out differences between Senate and House versions of bills and the bills come back for a final vote in both the House and Senate.

The last two days before turnaround the House considered many bills, but most of them were not controversial in nature. One of the more controversial was a bill to change the Professional Negotiations Agreement that schools and teachers use as a framework for negotiations. The bill was changed significantly on the House floor before passing out with a large majority.

The other was a bill to further limit under what circumstances someone can withdraw from a political race. In the bill passed out of the House, death is the only reason someone can withdraw their name. It passed by a fairly narrow margin. We will see what the Senate does with this issue.

Now the House has an opportunity to look at Senate bills. Some I am hearing about are SB 171, SB 45, SB 70 and SB 56. Senate bill 171 is the bill that moves the spring elections to the fall. It narrowly passed the Senate Thursday of last week. SB 45 is the bill to allow concealed carry without a permit. Some are saying this is not much change from current law, but it would allow concealed carry without any safety training and no education about firearms and how they work.

SB 70 requires regular background checks for persons that work directly with school children. Currently background checks and fingerprints are only done one time as someone is hired to work for a school. This would make background checks and fingerprinting a requirement every five years. It does not seem to be too controversial but the question is who pays for the check and fingerprinting.

A blessed House bill, 2345, is one that is described as prohibiting a school board member from having a conflict. That conflict is described in the bill as a spouse, sibling or parent who works for the school district. Normally a conflict is something that affects someone personally so this is a major expansion of the definition of a conflict of interest.

As I understand it at this point, SB 56 would allow a parent to bring charges against a teacher if the parent thought the material being taught was offensive. This was brought on by an incident in one school where some inappropriate material was posted for a class. The school quickly took down the material and disciplined the teacher. Taking care of the situation locally makes sense, so passing a law that affects everyone based on one incident seems a little over the top.

There are quite a few bills that were blessed, so they are still alive to be worked after turnaround.  A sampling of blessed bills includes speed limits, bonding for KPERS, and campaign finance and others. There were also many bills that either died or were left in committee to be available next year. This is the first year of a two year legislative cycle, so bills left in committee are still there for the next session.

This week is a short week as we returned to Topeka for only two days, but expect to hit the ground running next week. We are still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on adequacy of school funding, but the bill that makes block grants to schools rather than using the existing formula came out this morning. Because the block grant bill only came out this morning, I hope to have the weekend to look it over more thoroughly as it deserves study.