Senate Passed JudicialAppointment Amendment
With one vote to spare, the Senate Wednesday approved SCR 1601, a constitutional amendmentthat would end the practice of limiting the Governor’s appointment of SupremeCourt judges to nominations from a commission largely chosen by lawyers. Instead, the Governor could make anynomination, which would then have to be confirmed by the State Senate, a methodsimilar to the U.S. federal system in which the President makes appointmentswith Senate confirmation. The vote was28-12; one vote more than the required 27.
The proposal goes to the House, where it is unclear if therewill be the required 84 votes out of 125. The Senate proposal would have the public vote on the amendment with theAugust primary election in 2014. TheHouse Judiciary Committee has passed a similar measure, except it calls for thevote during the November 2014 general election. A majority of those voting must approve a constitutional amendment.
KASB supports the current system and joined the Kansas BarAssociation in proposing an alternative that restructures the judicial nominationcommission to give the Governor and Legislative leaders a majority ofappointments. School leaders areencouraged to share concerns with House members in anticipation of this vote.
Final House Vote on PACContributions Thursday
The House voted 66-54 to advance HB 2023 to final action tomorrow. The bill would make it unlawful for teachers associations to spend anymoney collected from payroll deductions on political activities designed toinfluence elections. Funds for politicalaction could be collected by check or money transfers. Supporters say it would reduce undue pressureon teachers to join unions. Opponentssay it is designed to weaken the political influence of the Kansas NationalEducation Association. KASB did not takea position on the bill. School leaders haveuntil about 11 a.m. Thursday to contact your Legislators and express yourviews.
Hearings Continue onGovernor’s Revenue Bill
KASB testified in support of the Governor’s income tax bill,SB 78, in the Senate Assessment andTaxation Committee Wednesday. KASB saidadditional state revenue will be necessary to at least maintain current levelsof state funding for K-12 education and other critical government functionsover the next due years. The bill wouldkeep the state sales rate at the current level, rather than dropping 0.6percent on July 1, and eliminate state income tax deductions for mortgageinterest and property taxes paid. Therevenue raised is used to finance the Governor’s two-year budget plan, whichmaintains the base per pupil for school districts and increases funding forKPERS contributions and bond and interest aid. It would also finance some additional reductions in the state income taxrate, pursuing the Governor’s goal to eliminate the state income tax.
Joining KASB in support of the bill was the state chapter ofthe National Federation of Independent Business. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce appears as aproponent in support of further income tax cuts, but questioned the need tokeep the sales tax in place. The KansasPolicy Institute appeared as neutral but argued the state should spend downstate ending balances and find more government efficiencies before consideringwhether to raise the sales tax rate. Opponents of the bill will testify next week.
Hearing Thursday onReligious Displays Bill
KASB will testify in support HB 2037 in the House Federal and State Affairs CommitteeThursday. The bill would place instatute guidelines concerning the display of certain religious-themed materialsin public areas, including public schools. KASB legal staff believes the bill is consistent with First Amendmentprotections and federal requirements.