News from Topeka — A legislative update
The following is an update on legislation and events that may be of interest to you. This past week saw major action from all three branches of state government as the Legislature moved a major education bill from the House to the Senate, the Governor issued her first veto of the session, and the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a case on two election integrity laws. Big issues remain as we head towards the end of session.
Education Savings Accounts Move Forward
By a vote of 64-61 (I voted YES), the House advanced SB 83, which contained a mix of education budget and policy proposals. The bill is a compromise measure that fully funds special education at the level requested by Governor Kelly, establishes educational savings accounts (ESA), provides additional funding for rural schools, and provides mandatory raises for teachers.
Although the legislature has made significant concessions towards the Governor’s priorities, she has so far indicated she will not compromise, despite her campaign promise to meet us in the middle.
Further, despite a narrative that this would take money away from public schools, nothing in this bill changes how public schools are funded. The support for rural schools allows districts with high schools classified as 1A or 2A to use their highest head count in the last four years (instead of the last two) when calculating funding, which provides millions in additional funding to schools that are in areas with declining populations.
Finally, many school districts have a history of failing to push funding increases to teachers and this bill ensures support for our hard-working teachers. SB 83 not only empowers families to better have their unique needs met but re-enforces Kansas’s commitment to quality education through increasing teacher salaries and bridging the gap in Special Education where the Federal Government has been negligent.
Governor Issues Veto on Fairness in Women’s Sports
Late Friday afternoon, the Governor issued her first veto of the session by vetoing HB 2238. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act prohibits biological males from competing in women’s sports.
Despite election promises that the Governor did not want men playing women’s sports, the Governor vetoed this legislation for the third straight year.
The Senate passed this bill with a veto-proof majority as did the House, but with no votes to spare. There will likely be immense pressure on the lone Democrat that voted for this measure in the House. Due to the legislative calendar, you can expect to see a veto override attempt soon. I support HB 2238.
Lowering Electric Rates
In contrast to education and women’s rights, House members showed bipartisan support in a near unanimous vote to pass HB 2225. The bill limits the costs that certain electric public utilities can recover on transmission related expenditures, a cost that is ultimately passed on to ratepayers.
The bill also requires public utilities that are seeking rate increases to evaluate the regional competitiveness of electric rates and the economic impact a rate increase would have on the state. This bill preserves utility companies’ ability to invest in grid capacity while also resulting in an immediate $11 million in savings to ratepayers.
Court Halts Election Laws
The Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a district court judge by finding that recent laws, one limiting the number of ballots that an individual can collect and submit to the election office on behalf of others (commonly called ballot harvesting) and another law requiring more due diligence from election officials when verifying the signatures on advance ballots, may violate the right to vote.
The court decided to apply a new and stricter standard to voting laws and remanded the case back to district court for further findings. I’m proud of the secure election procedures in Kansas, but these laws were commonsense measures that served a legitimate interest in preventing fraud. There will be much more litigation to come in this case.
My office is 459-W and my office phone is 785-296-7665. Please feel free to reach out with any concerns regarding proposed legislation, problems with state agencies, or other areas of concern. You can also contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. My cell is 785-285-1238. Until next time, may the blessings of God be yours.