KEPC UPDATE: Education – $520M for schools, constitutional amendment, inspector general; one more week; STAR Bonds; HPIP; transpo task force; broadband

In this issue …

  • Committee proposes $520 million for public schools
  • Education constitutional amendment introduced
  • Attempt to create education inspector general fails
  • Legislature has one more week before break
  • Budget bills becomes STAR bonds debate
  • HPIP changes pass Senate
  • Transportation Task Force bill advances in Senate
  • Broadband changes pass Senate


Committee proposes $520 million for public schools

What everyone at the Statehouse has been waiting for finally happened Wednesday night.  A school finance bill passed out of committee that puts significant dollars into the education formula in an effort to pass a funding bill that will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

House Bill 2445 was amended by the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and is expected to be debated by the full House of Representatives on Monday. It passed out of committee without recommendation.

The bill would increase school funding by about $520 million.  That’s on top of the money directed to schools by last year’s education funding measure.

Representative Steve Johnson (R-Assaria) proposed the amendment.  Some lawmakers expressed hope that the plaintiffs in the school finance lawsuit will agree with the action.


Education constitutional amendment introduced

Meanwhile, a constitutional amendment to change the way schools are funded was introduced this Thursday.

A copy of the measure was not available as of this writing.   However, the title is, “constitutional amendment to declare the power to appropriate funding for education is exclusively a legislative power and not subject to judicial review.  This is seen as a way to prevent future school finance lawsuits.  It must pass both houses of the legislature by a 2/3 vote and approved by voters.


Attempt to create education inspector general fails

A school finance measure that makes some changes to the formula passed the Kansas Senate this week.

Senate bill 422 makes changes to:

  • Local Option budgets
  • At-risk weighting
  • The use of capital outlay

During debate, the Senate rejected some controversial amendments.

Senator Ty Masterson (R-Andover) tried to include language creating an Office of Education Inspector General, which would be part of the State Treasurer’s Office.  It would have added $228,300 to the budget to pay for it.

Masterson said education takes the largest amount of dollars for the state budget, so it needs regular audits.

Masterson’s amendment failed on a vote of 12 to 27.


Legislature has one more week before break

The Kansas Legislature is scheduled to end its regular session by Friday, March 6.  This normal break usually lasts at least a little over two weeks before the veto session begins.  This year, it’s scheduled for April 26.

There has been some discussion about cutting the break short this year to continue work on school finance.  Lawmakers are facing an April 30 deadline to pass a constitutional school funding measure.  That deadline was set by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Both the House and Senate have gone home for the week, choosing not to work over a three-day Easter weekend.


Budget bill becomes STAR bonds debate

Discussion of a budget bill in the Senate turned into a STAR bonds debate this week.  Senate Bill 269 eventually passed the Senate 34 to 6, but not after a lengthy debate on a couple of amendments to restrict STAR bonds, the controversial economic development program.

The program provides municipalities the ability to issue bonds to pay for the development of major commercial, entertainment, and tourism areas.  The revenue generated by the development is used to pay off the bonds.

Senator Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City) offered an amendment that would give municipalities until the end of June to have a development plan approved by the Commerce Department.  After that STAR bonds could not be used to construct new arenas, sports facilities or stadiums, including facilities to support amateur or professional sports activities.

Holland said STAR bonds have become a way to subsidize projects by certain local governments and developers.  The Senate Commerce Committee has been working on STAR bond legislation for many weeks but has been unable to agree on changes.

Holland’s amendment failed on a voice vote.

Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook also offered an amendment that failed.  It would say no Kansas state or local government official can enter into any financial arrangement in which they would benefit from a STAR bonds project.  Senators thought it was too vague and unworkable.


HPIP changes pass Senate

Another economic development bill has passed the Kansas Senate.

Senate Bill 430 makes changes to HPIP (High Performance Incentive Program).  It reduces the amount of HPIP tax credits earned by businesses.  The credits earned are reduced by 50 percent.  In return, they would continue to be available from 16 years to 25 years.

After the 16th year, only 10 percent of the credit could be claimed on tax returns.


Transportation Task Force advances in Senate

A special task force to come up with a new transportation program passed the Kansas House this week by a vote of 123 to one.

House Substitute for Senate bill 391 establishes the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force.

It would be made up of 27 members, including six members of the House and six Senators.  The rest of the group would come from various organizations.  Their mission is to evaluate system conditions, use of the State Highway Fund, current transportation funding and additional projects.

The Task Force must submit a report to the legislature on or before January 1, 2019.


Broadband passes Senate 40 to 0

The bill creating the statewide broadband expansion planning task force (Senate Substitute for House Bill 2701 passed the Senate this week 40 to zero.

A final report would be due in January of 2020 with a status report to the legislature in January of 2019.


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.