Monday, March 11, 2013

This week’s hearings and scheduled action; last week's recap

Several high-profile issues get a hearing in the Legislature next week, and school boards members are especially encouraged to consider speaking.  

School Board Elections

Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee has a hearing at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 13 (with possible continuation to Thursday) on SB 211.  Like HB 2271, which received a hearing last month, the bill would move school board and municipal elections to the fall of even numbered years.

House Elections Committee holds a hearing at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13 on HB 2227. This bill would move school district primary elections to the first Tuesday of August (2015) in odd numbered years, and the general election would be the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of such years.  “Municipal” elections would be partisan elections, but statute changes specific to school elections do not seem to require the publishing of party affiliation with board election candidates as it does with municipal ones.

KASB opposes both bills.  Local school board members are strongly encouraged to testify on these measures.  Several local board members testified effectively on HB 2271, and others had expressed interest but were discouraged by last month’s winter storm.  A hearing on SB 211 had been scheduled, but was postponed due to the weather.  Contact KASB for assistance in testifying.

Concealed Carry of Weapons in Public and Private Buildings

Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee holds a hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 15 on SB 186. The bill would allow individuals, with a license to carry a concealed hand gun, into state or municipal buildings unless the building has adequate security measures to ensure no weapons are carried into the building.  School districts are included in the definition of municipality.

On the House side, the Federal and State Affairs Committee recommended HB 2055 on Wednesday. This bill differs from SB 186 in that it exempts schools from the public building security requirements.  HB 2055 was also amended to allow school boards to permit employees to carry concealed weapons, even if the schools are posted to prohibit concealed carry.

KASB is neutral on HB 2055 because it leaves decisions on weapons policies to local school officials.  KASB will oppose SB 186 because it appears to require that boards either allow concealed weapons or adopt expensive security measures.  Concerned local school leaders are encouraged to testify or otherwise communicate with committee members and local legislators.

School Finance, Reserves and Efficiency Audits.

Senate Education holds a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 11 on HB 2261. This bill makes permanent the authority for districts to transfer funds from certain restricted accounts to general purpose accounts, subject to annual limits; and removes any limit on the contingency reserve fund, currently capped at 10 percent of the general fund.  KASB supports the bill.

Senate Education holds a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 on SB 224. This bill eliminates vocational, bilingual, non-proficient at-risk and virtual weightings, and requires prorating the at-risk weightings to achieve a base of $4,492. It is estimated that at-risk funding would be reduced by 31 percent.

KASB will oppose the bill because it eliminates or reduces several weightings specifically researched and designed to meet differential costs.

Senate Education holds a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 on HB 2349. This bill directs the Legislative Post Audit division to conduct three school district efficiency audits of different size districts each year.  KASB supports the bill.

Open Records Fees, Open Meetings

Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee holds a hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13 on SB 10.  This bill would prohibit school boards and other governmental bodies from charging staff time for producing open records upon request, and limit the amount that could be charged for copies.  KASB will oppose that portion of the bill.  It also requires that minutes be kept for public meetings under the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

High School Activities Association

House Federal and State Affairs Committee holds a hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 14 on HB 2197. This bill would require each league in the Kansas State High School Activities Association to have a board of directors composed of two directors chosen by the local boards (one employee, one non-employee).  It also amends selection of the executive board to allow legislative leadership to appoint members.

Working After Retirement

House Pensions and Benefits Sub-Committee is expecting to hold a hearing on HB 2308, probably on Monday, March 18. This bill is looking at the restriction of working-after-retirement language. The committee received testimony last week from Alan Conroy, executive director of KPERS.  Afterwards, sub-committee chair Rep. Jim Kelly, R-Independence said his hope was to have the full committee hear the bill. The committee is particularly interested in hearing from districts using a number of retirees.  Please contact KASB advocacy staff if you would be interested in testifying.

Planned legislative action this week

School Funding and State Revenue.  The House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees plan to finalize their proposals for supplemental appropriations this year and funding for state agencies, including K-12 education funding, for the next two years (FY 14 and FY 15).  To this point, both committees have maintained the Governor’s budget recommendations, which fund base state aid at $3,838 in FY 14 and $3,852 in FY 15; maintains level funding for Local Option Budget and special education state aid; uses state highway funds for partial funding of transportation weighting and special education aid; provides a formula increase for capital improvement aid and KPERS payments.

To fund that budget, the Governor proposed keeping the state sales tax at current rates and eliminating the state income tax deduction for mortgage interest.  As recommended by Senate Assessment and Taxation, HB 2059 would raise over $660 million for FY 14 and 15.  If the House and Senate fail to adopt new revenues, the state will have to either reduce spending significantly or spend down state general fund balances, or both.

Teacher Negotiations.  The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee on Friday completed two days of hearings on HB 2027, which would make changes to the Professional Negotiations Act recommended by KASB and the Kansas School Superintendents Association.  Final action in committee is expected today.  Most significantly, the bill would narrow the list of items which are “mandatorily” negotiable under current law.  KASB and KSSA testified the purpose of the bill is to give local boards and administrators more flexibility in areas such as teacher evaluation, discipline, attire and reduction in force, while maintaining the right of teachers to collectively bargain over compensation, amount of time worked and other “permissively” negotiated items.

KASB recommended several amendments yesterday to make clear boards must continue to negotiate with a single bargaining association for teachers.  The bill also gives boards more authority to provide additional compensation based on teacher performance or shortage areas.

Innovative Districts.  Both the House and Senate passed virtually identical bills (SB 176 and HB 2319) which would establish a process for a limited number of districts to be designed “innovative districts.” This would allow them to be exempted from most state school laws and regulations in exchange for higher student performance and completion standards.  The Senate bill allows up to 10 percent of districts (28) to become innovative districts; the House bill is limited to 10 districts. KASB supports both bills.

Independent Charter Schools. The House Education Committee is scheduled to take action Tuesday on HB 2320, which would allow the Kansas State Board of Education, Kansas Board of Regents, public and private postsecondary institutions, cities and counties to “authorize” public charter schools that would be independent of local school boards and exempt from most state laws and regulations. The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on a similiar version of this bill, SB 196, last Thursday.  KASB opposed both bill on two grounds.  First, the Kansas Constitution gives only the State Board of Education authority for "general supervision" of public schools, and requires that all public schools be "maintained, developed and operated" by locally elected boards.  Second, KASB presented evidence that state with more students in charter schools or more liberal charter schools do not have better educational outcomes.

Commercial Machinery Taxation. The House Taxation Committee passed out HB 2285 on Thursday on a voice vote.  The bill changes how commercial and industrial machinery and equipment will be defined, which will ultimately determine its valuation status and the money collected from the mill rate levied on it.  Although the numbers are still somewhat fluid, the state Legislative Research Department determined $11.6 million would not reach state coffers based on the 20 mill statewide levy.

What becomes more complicated is how the bill would affect the Local Option Budget distribution from the state, and how different districts will respond as it calculates the money they receive from its capital outlay levy.  There could also be an increase in a district’s bond and interest millage necessary to raise sufficient funds to make its bond payments.

Final comments indicated several representatives who would vote for the bill knew it would have ramifications for them as property taxes would likely go up for home owners and main street businesses.  It was also noted the committee, along with the $11.6 million hit to the SGF noted earlier, moved out a bill that had a fiscal note of $50 million, creating an additional $60 million cut the Appropriations Committee would have to address to balance the FY 14 budget.

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