We are right in the middle of March Madness, both on the basketball court and in the Capitol. By the time you read this you most likely already know, the cost study regarding school finance came back confirming what previous studies have said: we are underfunding Kansas schools.
Last Friday, the long-awaited report was released by Dr. Lori Taylor, consultant to WestEd on estimating the costs associated with reaching student achievement expectations for Kansas Public Education. The study includes scenarios that tie student success with dollars invested. This will certainly give us more things to think about as we move forward to try to satisfy the courts.
In Senate Ways and Means Committee, we have nearly completed our budget work and hope to present it to the entire chamber within a couple of weeks. The main components were stripping out many of the former governor’s initiatives and replacing them with priorities from the committee. Those priorities include funding part of the statutory requirement for water programs and trying to fix the problems in social services that have been devastated in the past six years, leading to the death and disappearance of Kansas children. Whether or not these initiatives stick will be very dependent on how much money we will need to add to the K-12 budget.
Other issues that came up and were debated in the Senate in the last few weeks had to do with the Convention of the States, gun legislation and a bill that was presented as a freedom of speech policy on public college campuses but in its current form would have been discriminatory toward certain groups, it failed.
I heard from some of you concerning a call for a Convention of the States. After listening to the debate, I learned that generally this process needs to start at the federal level. Many questions were raised- how we would handle the selection process for choosing delegates to the convention (for amending the constitution), and we need to know the process for the ratification of adopted amendments.
We had two gun bills on the floor one dealt with reciprocity for other state’s concealed carry licenses and one dealt with helping individuals impacted by domestic violence. We had many amendments on the floor. I supported an amendment to allow college campuses to make their own decisions about gun policy and another amendment that would have increased training for individuals wishing to have a conceal carry license. I support the Second Amendment, but have always supported better training to protect the very individual that is carrying the gun.
In the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, we dealt with the definition of a chicken unit as it pertains to dry verses wet manure. The concerns primarily dealt with set backs, odor, nutrient management and flies. These facilities are enclosed so dealing with odor and flies are not the challenge that it once was 25 years ago. Consumption of chicken is going up. If a county does not want any of these facilities, there is a process they can go through, and so far Tonganoxie said no as well as Sedgwick County. This bill puts in place the framework for those counties that who want these types of facilities. Most businesses are not going to move into a county they are not welcome.
Also, due to the changes in the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KWPT) policy concerning a prohibition on guides and outfitters on public land, it has increased the number of requests to private landowners. This bill requires guides and outfitters to register on the KWPT website, so landowners can find out if profiteering is going on without their knowledge.
In the coming weeks, the House and Senate will begin negotiations in conference committee regarding the bills passed this session. The Legislature will adjourn April 6 for a few weeks to allow the Governor to review the bills approved. The Legislature returns April 26 for the Veto Session.
We still have openings for anyone who like to serve as a page. Please call my office and ask for Joyce if you have an interest. If you are interested is seeing more happenings at the Capitol through my e-news, send us an email and put e-news in the subject line.
— Carolyn McGinn is a Republican member of the Kansas Senate, who has represented the 31st District since 2005.