Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

 

Sen. Pat Pettey

March 14, 2014

In this issue:

•  Three weeks left of regular session

• Fund equalization

• Mortgage fee elimination

• Health care exchange navigators

• Party swapping

• Raffle amendment

• Student data privacy act

• Innovative districts

• Over at the House

• Healthcare information

Three weeks left of regular session

We had a slow week last week, but that wasn’t the case this week. Committees held hearings on bills, worked them, and passed many out of committee for consideration on the Senate floor. We also had several days of floor votes. This will be the pace for the next three weeks until April 4, which the last day of regular session.   The Senate convenes Monday-Thursday at 2:30p.m and Friday at 8:00a.m. To listen to legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live” on the homepage of www.kslegislature.org. You can also find daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills on that website.   If you have any questions about any bills, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.

Fund equalization

Since the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday, there has been much discussion about what the school finance decision actually means for the state of Kansas. The court’s opinion has split school finance into equity and adequacy.

To address the funding inequalities, the court has mandated that the Legislature fund capital outlay and local option budget equalization by July 1, 2014. Capital outlay provides money for operations, such as food service, building maintenance, heating, air conditioning, and technology.

A local option budget utilizes a portion of revenue from property taxes to fund local school districts and makes up about 25 percent of a school district’s budget. The local option budget equalization provides supplemental funding from the state to provide balance for districts that may be in smaller or poorer communities that have less property tax revenue for their local option budgets. Currently, funds appropriated have only covered a percentage of what would be needed to create a balance.

To equalize these two elements of the school finance formula, the Legislature will need to allocate approximately $129 million. If no action is taken to address the local option budget equalization, the court will stop local school districts from using their local option budget authority.

This underfunding of the LOB looks different depending on the property wealth of the district. For example: Turner has been underfunded to the tune of $1,410,486. Kansas City, Kan., to the tune of $7,063,356. Shawnee Mission $0.

In terms of adequacy, the Supreme Court ruled that the District Court must further review and determine if lawmakers have also failed to fund schools adequately. This is what will impact the base state aid per pupil amount, which is currently $3,838 and is statutorily required to be at least $4,492.   The three-judge panel’s initial ruling in January 2013 indicated the funding was not adequate, but the Supreme Court remanded this decision stating it did not apply the correct test to determine adequacy. We predict that it will not take long for the District Court to review this and provide their opinion.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis , D-Lawrence, announced late Thursday afternoon that a bill is being introduced in the House and the Senate to fully fund the equalization to the statutory amount. I agree with Rep. Davis and will be supporting this bill. It will ensure that all Kansas children are receiving an equitable education.

Mortgage registration fee

At the beginning of the session the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee held hearings on a bill that sought to repeal the mortgage registration fee by July 1, 2014. The committee later amended the bill (Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 298) to phase-out the mortgage registration tax over five years, but phase-in a certain per-page fee increase over four years. The bill had been on the calendar for debate this week, but went back to committee to further amend the phase-out/phase-in portion.

The mortgage registration fee currently generates nearly $45 million statewide. This bill would replace that with new fees that will only generate about $26.5 million. In other words, counties would face an overall loss of $18.7 million by FY2019. There is no doubt this will result in property tax increases.

The bill has once again passed out of committee and is expected to be on the floor for debate next week. The realtors association of Wyandotte and Johnson counties. does not support this bill. They say that home buyers are more interested in property taxes and good schools and see this fee as part of purchasing a home or property. Both Johnson and Wyandotte counties lose revenues with this bill. The amendment lessens that hit but I still see no reason for a change that could raise property taxes.

Health care exchange navigators

On a vote of 30-10, the Senate passed a bill this week that mandates onerous requirements on individuals who work as navigators for the health care exchange. I voted against Senate Bill 362 because it requires background and credit checks for individuals who provide assistance in obtaining insurance through the health care exchange, but are not required for those who provide assistance for programs such as Medicare Part D and KanCare.

The bill received supporting testimony only from Americans for Prosperity and a legislator, while opposing testimony came from a host of independent experts in the health care field along with credible health care and small business entities.  I chose to not ignore the experts. I voted against this misguided and misinformed bill.

Party swapping

A bill that prohibits voters from changing party affiliations between the candidate filing deadline and the date the primary election results are certified is headed to the desk of the governor after it passed the Senate on a vote of 27-12 this week and the House on a vote 72-49 last week.

Proponents of House Bill 2210 argue that it is necessary to protect the integrity of Republican primaries because it will prevent individuals from switching parties to vote in primaries and then switch back the day after the primary. Opponents argue it is yet another bill seeking to silence the opposition. I voted against it. It also adds another layer of confusion to registering to vote.

Raffle amendment

An amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would legalize charity raffles received unanimous support from the Senate this week. The proposed amendment would alter Section 3 of Article 15 – which prohibits lotteries with the exception of bingo, betting on dog and horse races, and state-owned and operated lottery – to authorize the Legislature to establish licensing, conduct, and regulation of charitable raffles by nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, educational, and veterans organizations.

The amendment will now go to the House for debate. If it passes the House, it will have to be approved by a majority vote in the general election before it actually amends the Kansas Constitution. I voted for this measure.

Student data privacy act

The Senate voted unanimously in support of a bill that creates the Student Data Privacy Act.

Senate Bill 367 outlines what data contained in a student’s record can and cannot be disclosed and to whom.

It would permit student data to be disclosed at any time to the student or the student’s parent or legal guardian so long as the data solely pertains to the student. Additionally, this bill does not prohibit the disclosure of student data for urgent health or safety reasons, but with confidentiality requirements. I supported this bill.

Innovative districts

The Kansas State Board of Education met this week and decided it will make another attempt to receive clarification from Attorney General Derek Schmidt to determine the constitutionality of a law passed last year establishing innovative school districts. Their first attempt went

The question of constitutionality comes up because these districts would not be subject to oversight by the Kansas State Board of Education, as required by the Kansas Constitution. Instead, they would be approved and monitored by a special coalition called the Coalition of Innovative Districts comprised of representatives of each innovative district.

As you may recall, the Legislature passed the law (SB176) last year that would allow school districts to apply to receive “innovative” status thereby exempting them from most state laws and rules and regulations in order to improve student achievement. For example, the districts who receive this status would not be required to hire licensed teachers. I voted against it.

Over at the House

Property tax relief

On a vote of 116-4, the House passed a property tax relief bill (House Bill 2542) late this week that was amended to include $45 million in funding for the Local Ad Valorem Tax Relief Fund a fund established as a trade-off with local units of government. The fund has not received a single dollar since the 2008 recession set in. This was the same amendment offered in the Senate last week that failed on a vote of 14-23.

Autism coverage

The House Committee on Insurance held a hearing this week on House Bill 2744, which would require all insurance companies to require coverage for 10 hours per week of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for autistic children up to the age of 18 starting January 1, 2016. Many in the autism community argued that 10 hours of coverage each week is not enough; the minimum recommendation is 20 hours.

Fitness club tax exemption

The bill that passed the Senate last March on a vote of 25-14 that would provide a multi-million dollar property tax exemption to for-profit fitness clubs has been tabled for the session by the House Committee on Taxation. The main proponent, who is the owner of a chain of fitness clubs, has contributed more than $100,000 to campaigns of current legislators in an attempt to sway their votes. He contends the bill would “level the playing field” for them and nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA. I have opposed this bill the entire time because I believe it is an unfair carve out for a special interest group.

School nutrition

From the Kansas State Board of Education:

Kansas’ school nutrition program ensures healthy, hunger-free children.

• 1,560 participating schools

• 354,433 lunches served daily

• 116,191 breakfasts served daily

• More than 1 million summer meals served in FY2013

• $177,841,512 in state and federal reimbursement

Healthcare information

From the American Heart Association: Overweight kids have a 70-80 percent  chance of becoming overweight adults. Parents’ health attitudes and behaviors can play a critical role in childhood development.

Here are three simple steps to begin building a healthier diet:

• Always look for (and choose) fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu or at the grocery store.

• Try foods that are baked, steamed, or grilled instead of fried.

• Check out the nutrition information on food packages when at the grocery store, or ask restaurants if their nutrition information is available. Farmers Markets are increasing in popularity and are popping up all over the state. These venues are a great way to buy food when it is in-season and in its freshest state. To locate a farmers market near you, visit www.KSfarmersmarkets.org.

When you think of the food you ate growing up, how does it compare to the foods you eat now? For some, it may look quite similar but for others it may look like a completely different diet. In fact, the average portion size of most foods has dramatically increased. Compared to 20 years ago, a serving of soda has tripled in size, a serving of spaghetti has doubled in size and the average chocolate chip cookie now has 5 times the calories. These changes didn’t happen all at once, and it could take even longer to get them to shift back to something healthier. With so many changes in portion sizes, it is no wonder we have so many overweight kids.

Former governor played role in helping Wyandotte County

Column

by Murrel Bland

Bill Graves was pleased to have played a role in the significant transformation of Wyandotte County that started in the mid-1990s and continues today.

Former Gov. Bill Graves

That was the message he delivered to an audience of more than 600 persons at the annual meeting of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce Friday, March 7, at the Reardon Convention Center.

Graves, who is now the president of the American Trucking Associations in Washington, D.C., and nearby Arlington, Va., cited three major accomplishments that needed state government approval—the change to a unified city and county government, the authority to issue sales tax bonds necessary to develop Village West and the creation of an independent KU Hospital Authority.

Graves gave much of the credit to other state leaders such as Gary Sherrer, his lieutenant governor and secretary of commerce, and then State Sen. Mark Parkinson.

“Once the election was over, we forgot about party labels,” Graves said. He said that he doubted that such accomplishments could occur today because of the partisan bickering in Topeka.

Graves, grew up in Salina, Kan.; his family owned Graves Truck Lines and had a terminal on Seventh Street here. His father was a good friend of Jay Dillingham who was president of the Kansas City Stockyards. He recalled another Salina native, coach Walt Shublom, who led Wyandotte High School to state championships.

Graves said he had met with Bill France and Lesa France Kennedy privately in Topeka a few years after he took office in 1995. France told him of plans to expand the International Speedway Corp.  to other areas including Kansas. That excited Graves, who said he has been a race fan since childhood. Today he serves on the board of directors of the ISC.

Graves said he worked with Mark Parkinson, a state senator from Olathe, who played a key role in assuring that legislation passed to allow consolidated government in Wyandotte County. Enabling state legislation and a positive vote of the people allowed the Unified Government to become a reality in 1997.

The problems at the KU Medical Center and its hospital needed attention, Graves said. Bob Hemenway, then the KU chancellor, came to Graves explaining that the KU Hospital was losing money and would be in a much better position to compete with area hospitals if it were governed by an independent authority. Graves helped that legislation pass.

Graves also told a humorous story about a meeting in Topeka with Richard Petty, a NASCAR driver with the nickname “The King.” Petty won seven national NASCAR championships and is famous for wearing his big cowboy hat and sunglasses.

Petty had learned that Graves was the only secretary of state in the country to later be elected governor. Graves said Petty was planning to do the same thing in North Carolina and wanted political advice.  Petty ran for secretary of state but lost.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

Sen. Pat Pettey

Newsletter from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

In this issue:

• Legislature begins second half of session

• School finance decision

• Property tax transparency

• Judicial budget

• Kudos to Wyandotte County Democrats

• Health information

• Important state phone numbers

Legislature begins second half of session

Legislators were back in the Capitol Wednesday, following a short recess. My time will continue to be split between committees and floor debates for the next few weeks. At the end of March, we hit the deadline for non-exempt bills to be out of their second chamber. With little time left in the session, I encourage you to contact me with any concerns or questions you have about bills or committee meetings.

The Senate convenes Monday-Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday at 8 a.m. To listen to legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live” on the homepage of www.kslegislature.org. You can also find daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills on that website. If you have any questions about any bills, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.

School finance decision

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Friday that Gov.  Brownback and the Kansas Legislature have created an unconstitutional school finance system in its ruling on the school finance lawsuit Gannon vs. State of Kansas.

The court ruled that the legislature must fund capital outlay and the local equalization fund by July 1, 2014, to address funding inequalities. This will require approximately $129 million.

Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that the District Court must further review and determine if lawmakers also failed to fund schools adequately. This is what will impact the base state aid per pupil amount.

We predict that it will not take long for the District Court to review this and provide its opinion.

The bottom line here is that the court made it clear that it is time to restore the cuts Gov.  Brownback made to our schools. This is not about fixing a broken formula, as Brownback once claimed; it’s about funding the formula.

Property tax transparency

On a vote of 39-0 the Senate passed a bill that would modifies the prohibitions on cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, and other taxing subdivisions from approving annual budgets or other appropriations funded by property taxes that exceed the property tax revenue collected in the preceding year by allowing for adjustments based on changes in the consumer price index and lowering the amount of ad valorem tax to reduce any increase in property valuation above the increase in the consumer price index.

This bill also requires governing bodies to provide publication of such vote in official county newspapers.

During the debate on HB2047, Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley attempted to restore funding to a program that provides property tax relief.

Hensley offered an amendment that would have put $45 million into the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund, a fund established as a trade-off with local units of government. The fund has not received a single dollar since the 2008 recession set in. The amendment failed on a roll call vote of 14-23. I voted in favor of it.

Additionally, my Democrat colleague Sen. Tom Holland (Baldwin City) offered an amendment to require the state to publish in every county newsletter the votes of state senators and representatives when a bill passes in the legislature that would most likely result in increased residential property taxes. 31. I voted in favor of it.

The legislature has a responsibility to let our constituents know when we take action that will increase property taxes. This legislation is another way for the legislature to undermine Home Rule.

Judicial budget

The Senate also approved an omnibus bill that impacts the Judicial Branch’s budget and policies. Senate Substitute for House Bill 2338 is made up of five different bills, coming from two different committees that appropriates $2 million in additional funding from the State General Fund to the Judicial Branch in FY2015, which begins July 1, 2014.

It also increases filing fees to fund the costs of non-judicial personnel. Additionally, it modifies statutes governing Judicial Branch operations concerning budgeting, the election of chief judges, and allowing for a delay in filling judicial vacancies for up to 120 days.

The modifications include allowing each chief judge in each judicial district in the state to “opt-in” for responsibility of their budget and establishing that the district court judges in each judicial district would elect a district judge to serve as chief judge.

Currently, the chief judges are appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Finally, this bill eliminates the statutory requirement for the payment of longevity to Judicial Branch non-judicial staff. The bill passed on a vote of 23-12. I voted against it. This bill unprecedentedly blends budget and policy decisions. I oppose the policy modifications.

The policy portion of this legislation appears to be an attempt to further erode the authority of the Supreme Court in Kansas. We deserve to have a independent judicial system state wide and this legislation moves in the wrong direction.

HB 2599, Boat ramp in Wyandotte County

This bill authorizes the Secretary of State to grant an easement to the Unified Government of Wyandotte County for a boat ramp to be used solely for fire department water training and rescue use.

This bill will allow the UG to make use of federal funds they received for this purpose. This bill passed unanimously.

Kudos to Wyandotte County Democrats

Congratulations to Bill Reardon on receiving the Anthony Hensley Legislative Achievement Award this weekend at Washington Days. Bill is a former legislator who represented the Kansas City area for 34 years. He is now a lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kansas School District.

Congratulations to David and Joan Spero on receiving the Chair’s Special Support Award at Washington Days. They have been long time Democratic activists in Kansas City, Kan., with the party and the Postal Workers’ Union.

Health information

From the American Heart Association: “In 2011, Americans spent about 40 percent of their food budget on food eaten outside the home. By eating at home you have more control over portion size and you can prepare foods with fresher ingredients and less fat and sodium.”

“1 in 3 children and adolescents, ages 2-19, are overweight or obese and nearly none meet healthy diet and physical activity recommendations.”

Important state phone numbers

Here is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during the Legislative Session. I hope you will find this information helpful.

Attorney General (888) 428-8436

Child Abuse Hotline (800) 922-5330

Consumer Protection (800) 432-2310

Crime Tip Hotline            (800) 572-7463

Crime Victim Referral (800) 828-9745

Department on Aging (800) 432-3535

Driver’s License Bureau (785) 296-3963

Fraud Hotline (800) 432-3919

KPERS (888) 275-5737

Governor’s Office (877) 579-6757

Highway Conditions (800) 585-7623

Housing Hotline (800) 752-4422

KanCare Consumer Assistance (866) 305-5147

Kansas Jobs (785) 235-5627

Kansas Lottery (785) 296-5700

Kansas State Library (800) 432-3924

Legislative Hotline (800) 432-3924

School Safety Hotline (877) 626-8203

Social Security (800) 772-1213

DCF (785) 296-1491

Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255

Tax Refund Status Info (800) 894-0318

Taxpayer Assistance (785) 368-8222

Unclaimed Property (800) 432-0386

Vital Statistics (Birth Certificates) (785) 296-1400

Victims of Human Trafficking (888) 373-7888