The Legislature was delayed because of snow throughout the state. We canceled all orders of business Thursday for the safety of legislators, visitors and all those who participate in making the process work.
• Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR 1608) passed the Senate with 27 votes, as required for a Constitutional amendment, and now goes to the House of Representatives for further debate. SCR 1608 would allow voters the final decision in determining to amend Article 6, Section 6 of the Kansas Constitution by adding the following sentence: “The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power.” SCR 1608 is not aimed at reducing education funding.
Our Constitution defines the legislature’s exclusive right to appropriate funds and this amendment would clarify that this includes education finance. When the court defines a spending amount, the funds have to come from somewhere, either cut from other programs, or a possible tax increase. Voters deserve the ability to have the final say as to who makes the spending and taxation decisions.
We have a duty to properly fund schools, and we also have a duty to support public safety, to provide for the developmentally and physically disabled, and to support higher education. For 47 years, education funding has been in an unending cycle of litigation. The litigation is costly, uses taxpayer dollars for lawsuits — instead of in the classroom, and contributes to education funding uncertainty. If approved by a two-thirds majority in both chambers, the question would appear on the August 2014 ballot, the earliest ballot possible.
• The Senate passed a bill last week that updates the American Medical Association (AMA) Guide edition. Currently, in Kansas statute, we reference the AMA guide. The changes will update the information from the fourth edition to the sixth edition. Primarily, the bill will clarify that workers who are not U.S. citizens or who are not authorized to work in the US are not eligible to make wage loss claims under the workers compensation program. The bill also will modify the process for requesting recusal of an administrative law judge in workers compensations cases. The Senate passed Senate Bill (SB 73) by a vote of 32-8.
• SB 141 prohibits abortions that are performed solely on account of the sex of the unborn child. The woman, the father, or parents of the woman may seek relief in a civil action if found that an abortion was preformed due to the sex of the child. The bill passed by a vote 37-2.
• In 2007, the Kansas Legislature established the Technical Education Authority. The authority consists of 12 members, appointed under specified geographic, party and career representation guidelines. The Technical Education Authority is delegated the task of coordinating statewide planning for postsecondary technical education, new postsecondary technical education programs, and contract training. SB 22 would extend the authority by three years, to June 30, 2017.
• Senate Resolution (SR) 1711 addresses the problems Kansas landowners are having with the federal government’s safe harbor agreement. The safe harbor agreement was drafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to encourage non-federal landowners to voluntarily allow reintroduction of black-footed ferrets on their properties. In December 2007, the USFWS reintroduced black-footed ferrets into Logan County, Kansas as part of a recovery effort. The resolution states, on behalf of Kansas landowners, a number of reasons we oppose the program. The resolution further requests the USFWS to exclude Kansas from the territory contained in the safe harbor agreement and the USFWS refrain from releasing any more black-footed ferrets in Kansas.
• SB 27 is a proposal that would provide veterans the opportunity to take part in the Military Service Scholarship Program. The scholarship now is only available to veterans who served in specifically named countries. SB27 amended the definition of “qualified student” to include future students who may be in combat operations in countries that are not listed in current law. Our Military service men and women deserve to have the opportunity to qualify for this scholarship regardless of where they served. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously.
• As the Affordable Care Act is set for implementation next January, the Health and Welfare Committee introduced SB 163, also known as “mandate lite” legislation. The measure would allow insurance companies to provide products for healthy individuals and families who plan on resisting the ACA’s requirement. Insurance companies would be able to sell medical policies that exclude coverage of mental health, pharmacy, or chiropractic treatments to individuals who wouldn’t use them and don’t want to pay for them. The legislation will bring more certainty to the marketplace and provide Kansans with a safety net if their employer decides to drop their coverage. The legislation passed the Senate 38-1.
Caryn Tyson is a Kansas state senator, representing District 12, which includes Franklin County. Email her at Caryn.Tyson@senate.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6838.