As I look at the legislative calendar, this is already week nine for the session. Obviously things are moving along as the days are getting longer and spring is in the air. Our calendar says it is only two weeks until the scheduled end of regular session, known as first adjournment. The budget is coming along and if everything goes as planned, we may be able to meet that time schedule. Rarely do things go as planned.
Late last week the so called block grant bill for schools was passed out of the Appropriations Committee. There were a few amendments made to the bill, but other than adding a sunset the bill remains basically unchanged. While the block grant proposal may not be really terrible, there is good and bad. We debated in the full House and it narrowly advanced on Thursday.
What the school block grant is supposed to do is provide a specific amount of money to schools using the current amount of money distributed to each school as the baseline. While the amount of money is claimed to be higher, most of the additional money is required to be turned over to the KPERS system, so is counted as a legitimate school expense but is not available to the classroom directly.
The block grants certainly give local boards of education more local control, but the law is written such that reserve funds will be spent, funding is capped at predetermined levels, and there is no assurance that funding will not be reduced further. Most weightings are ended with the block grants and concern has been expressed that weighting for low enrollment, which generally are rural areas, will not ever return and possibly force consolidation. My legislative district, 74, is considered to be rural.
In final action on Friday, we sat in our chairs for two hours waiting for an absent member to arrive. There were 62 votes in favor and a Constitutional majority requires 63. When that member finally arrived, the final vote in favor was cast and the show was over. Now we will see what the Senate does, but expect quick action.
Action in committees is still a little slow, but most bills in committee are Senate bills, and there are a limited number of those. This week is the last week regular committees can meet, so anything not in a blessed bill will be finished until next year. Much of the attention is still on the budget and recently on the block grant proposal. When half of the State General Fund (SGF) is wrapped up in K-12 funding, that deserves attention.
The ag committee heard a bill that would outlaw the use of carbon monoxide chambers to euthanize animals. While we are not aware of any facilities that actually use that method, the law would simply make sure. These days, euthanizing is done by injecting a drug that causes them to drift off peacefully.
I had the opportunity to tour the Department of Ag and Department of Health and Environment labs at Forbes Field. Much, but not all, of what the Dept of Ag does is weights and measures and testing of plants and soil for pesticides. KDHE does testing mainly related to human issues, such as screening of newborns for genetic traits as well as water and food testing. Something I did not know is that the KDHE lab is a regional lab for use if there should be a radiation incident.
Even with some slowness, it has been an interesting week.