KEPC UPDATE: School finance, constitutional amendment, broadband task force, food sales tax

In this issue …

  • Senate and House pass different spending on school finance
  • Constitutional amendment passes committee
  • Broadband Task Force expected to pass
  • Transportation Task Force in conference
  • Food sales tax reduction might not move forward


Senate and House pass different spending on school finance

School finance legislation broke loose from its moorings in the legislature this week as both the House and Senate passed different versions of a new school finance bill in an effort to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

On Thursday, the Senate passed SB 423 by a vote of 21 to 18.  The bill spends about $275 million additional on K-12 education.  Here’s a link to how senators voted.

Here’s a link to what’s in the senate version of school finance.

Earlier in the week the House passed HB 2445, which spends about $520 million more on public education.  The vote was 71 to 53.  Here’s a link to how representatives voted.

Here’s a link to an explanation of what’s in the house bill.

As for what the bills do for individual school districts, the Kansas State Department of Education has prepared computer runs showing the amounts.  This will take a little effort to find the correct printout. Follow this link and then:

  • Click on SF 18-085 – Computer Printout to see an Excel spread sheet showing the impact of SB 423.  Column 8 is the increase in state general fund aid.
  • Click on SF 18-078 – Computer Printout (providing effects on school districts) to see what the House bill does to individual school districts.

The House of Representatives goes in at 1:30 Friday afternoon.  The senate returns at 10 a.m.  The plan would be to appoint a house-senate conference committee to iron out differences between the two bills.  That could not formally happen until the afternoon when the house returns.

There has been some discussion that lawmakers might work into the weekend, or even a few days next week.  However, it’s also possible that they might begin their spring break and return at the end of April to finish their school finance work.  But, that provides little time for a bill to pass and be prepared for presentation to the Kansas Supreme Court, which has set a hearing for April 30.


Constitutional amendment passes committee

There was some drama this week as senate leadership said they would not run a school finance bill until a constitutional amendment passed the House of Representatives to prevent the courts from ordering more spending on education.  In the end, the senate leadership capitulated.

Still, the House Judiciary Committee passed out HCR 5029 by a vote of 12 to 10.  The original version of the constitutional amendment would declare that the power to appropriate funding for education is exclusively a legislative power and not subject to judicial review.  There were strong objections to that from Democrats and Moderate Republicans.

If 2/3 of the House and Senate approve the constitutional amendment, it would go to a vote of the people.

The legislation was changed by the committee.  The explanatory statement that would appear on the ballot would read:

The purpose of this amendment is to provide that suitable provision for the financing for public education means that the provision is adequate and equitable.  Questions of adequacy of total funding of public education shall be determined by the legislature.

A vote for this proposition would require suitable provision for the financing of public education to be both adequate and equitable and would reserve the power to establish and resolve any question of the adequacy of the funding to the legislature.

A vote against this proposition would make no change in current law and maintain the current provisions regarding suitability of the provision made for the finance of education.

It appears the change would mean the courts could still take up the equity (or fairness) of school funding, but not the amount of money spent.

After the legislation passed out of committee, many were saying they were hearing overwhelmingly from Kansans that opposed the change, with little or no contact from anyone who supports it.


Broadband Task Force expected to pass

Both the House and the Senate have now overwhelmingly passed a bill creating a Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force.  The bill passed the Senate this week 40 to zero.

Because the House and Senate versions of the bill are different, a conference committee of three Senators and three Representatives has been named to try to work out the differences of opinion.  They are expected to come to an agreement and send the bill to Governor Colyer for his signature.


Transportation Task Force in conference

Another Task Force is also in a conference committee, which is reportedly having some difficulty coming to agreement.  It’s establishes the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force for Evaluation of the State Highway Fund and the State Highway Transportation System.

The conference committee has been disagreeing on whether to have subcommittees and what organizations should be included in the Task Force.  It is seen as a prelude to coming up with a new transportation program and continuing to finish the 2010 T-WORKS Program.


Food sales tax reduction might not move forward

Last week, a Senate committee passed out a bill that reduces the sales use tax rate on food and food ingredients.  Senate Bill 444 has not been scheduled for debate in the full Senate and it is unclear if and when that will happen.

The bill defines food and food ingredients to include substances, whether in liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated form, that are sold for ingestion or chewing by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value.

Bottled water, candy, and soft drinks would be specifically included.  Sales of alcoholic beverages, dietary supplements, food sold through vending machines, tobacco, and certain prepared foods would b excluded and would not qualify for the tax reduction.

The bill may not come up because of its cost to the state general fund.

It reduces revenue by an estimated $152 million in Fiscal Year 2020, eventually growing to $317 million by Fiscal Year 2023.


Bill tracking

Here’s our latest bill tracking on measures we think are of interest to our readers.  All of these bills are held over from 2017.  As new bills of interest are introduced, I will add them to the list.

You should be able to click on the bill number and be taken to the Kansas Legislature’s web site page for that particular bill.  You will be able to see all actions taken, read the bill, and read any supplemental notes (layman’s descriptions) and fiscal notes (how much does the bill cost the state) that have been prepared.