It was good to receive some precipitation during the last few days, and the land is starting to green up. Before long, all those long-awaited spring activities will be under way. As always this time of the year, legislative activities move at a faster pace. There are many moving parts, so keep in mind what you hear and see probably will not be the outcome, but they are points in the process.
One of the issues most people are interested in is school finance. On March 21, the House K-12 Education Budget Committee had an informational briefing on the proposed Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act, HB 2410. This bill represents the work product of an entire session of public input arrived at through a fair and open committee process. The bill encompasses components of several plans and ideas that were presented and is closely connected to the recommendations from the Legislative Post Audit cost study. Hearings on the bill were at the end of last week, with action planned for this week. The committee will continue to work on the bill to find the most sensible, student-focused, outcomes-based formula that provides our students with the best possible opportunity for excellence.
Documents detailing fiscal impact to each district and explanations also were released by the Kansas Department of Education: www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/School-Finance/Whats-New.
Again, this is a starting point. This proposal really hits many of the schools in the 110th District and any school with declining enrollments. The discussion and negotiations will continue to find what truly is equitable for all schoolchildren in Kansas.
Another issue which has been coming and needs to be addressed is cybersecurity. One of the primary functions of government is to protect its citizens from harm. House leadership chose to make protecting our taxpayers’ highly sensitive and private personal data a high priority with the creation of the House Committee on Government Technology and Security. The committee worked diligently to craft HB 2331, which centralizes IT and cybersecurity for the state. It would create the Kansas Information Security Office and establish the position of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). The bill also would replace the Office of Technology Services (OITS) to the Kansas Information Technology Enterprise (KITE). KITE would be responsible for all functions of OITS. These changes would reflect the need to develop and implement comprehensive information security programs, and would centralize all IT and cybersecurity operations for the state. These efforts would protect all executive branch agencies, including the various departments, under one centralized system. The Committee of the Whole amended HB 2331 to exclude KPERS from the bill’s provisions. The bill passed out of the House and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Work continues on the Mega Budget Bill and any tax reform measures. There are proposals for pay increases for state employees and a possible gas tax, but there will be many changes through negotiations, so nothing is certain for now. We will continue those discussions in future columns.
The House Committee on Federal and State Affairs heard testimony concerning HB 2307. HB 2307, also known as “Simon’s Law,” would prohibit a hospital from withholding, withdrawing or restricting life-sustaining measures for any patient younger than the age of 18 without written parental consent. Additionally, the bill would prohibit hospitals from issuing a do-not-resuscitate order without written parental consent. Simon Crosier, for whom the bill is named, was denied life-sustaining treatment due to his unique birth. Additionally, Simon’s doctors chose to issue a DNR without informing his parents. Simon passed without his family’s awareness of the order. The Crosier family described their traumatic experience with their son and testified in full support of the bill, wishing no other family to suffer such a tragic loss. Kansans for Life, the Family Policy Alliance, and the Disability Rights Center also offered their support for the legislation, expressing the need to protect the most vulnerable and defend the parents’ rights. The Center for Practical Bioethics and two medical doctors opposed the bill and explained written permission from at least one parent or legal guardian questions the expertise and motives of the medical community, and called the legislation “politically motivated.” Simon’s Law already has passed the full Senate in the form of SB 85 with a final vote count of 29-9. The committee passed it out favorably on Monday.
Also, last week, the Federal and State Affairs Committee had hearings on HB 2389, which would amend current law concerning amusement park inspections, permit fees, and would amend other provisions of the Kansas Amusement Ride Act. Proponents of the bill expressed their concern for the safety of amusement park rides and would enforce inspection protocol. In addition, the proponents noted the lack of safety measures in Kansas statute and requested greater inspection training requirements. Opponents asserted HB 2389 would subject carnivals and traveling companies to burdensome regulations that might hamper business operations, and that National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials certifications act as sufficient training for inspectors. Neutral testimony followed and highlighted potential lawsuits, age and size of different rides, and various certifications. The committee articulated concern for the insurance policy of $100,000, insuring the owner or operator against liability for injury. They identified the need to increase that threshold.
The Kansas Department of Revenue has created a webpage regarding the recent wildfires. The page contains links to forms necessary for receiving refunds and sales tax exemption certificates — www.ksrevenue.org/wildfires.html.
Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, represents the 110th District in the Kansas House.