Greetings to you from the second week of the 2018 legislative session. We are off to a relatively quick start this year. The governor already delivered his State of the State message and nearly every committee in both chambers has held meetings. Proposed legislation has been introduced at a pretty consistent clip and many committees will be conducting hearings beginning this week.
The largest issue facing the Legislature this year will be responding to the Kansas Supreme Court decision in the Gannon school finance case. It is not yet clear what that response will look like. The lawyers for the plaintiffs want Kansans to pay roughly $600 million more, which would be in addition to the $3.4 billion currently being spent on K-12 education in Kansas. This $3.4 billion comes from the $6.2 billion dollar state general fund and comprises about 54 percent of the state budget.
The state Senate has commissioned a new study — the last one was conducted in 2006 — to attempt to determine what the proper funding level should be. That study will be completed on March 15 of this year and there will be a second study right on its heels to ensure proper statistical analysis was used as well as comparing the methodology to that of prior studies on this issue. The court has not given the Legislature a set number but rather asked it to “show its work” on this issue. The study will help the Legislature to do that.
So, look for this issue to really come to the fore in March of the session. Until then we will continue to see a variety of other issues come forward. While it is still early we are already seeing bills about civil asset forfeiture, reducing the use of prisons for non-violent offenders, some tweaks to the strong beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores bill from last session, updates to the adoption code, and a whole host of other topics as well. I’ll do my best to use this space to keep you updated as the session unfolds.
Monday marked the day we honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this era of hot button reactions on social media, an ugly bloom of incivility in our public discourse, and far too many stories of people treating others badly, I hope we took a moment to reflect on Dr. King’s dream and equally important his methods. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” No matter what cause is important to each of us, let us commit to seek it in that same spirit of civility, respect, and kindness as we make our way through 2018 together.
I am still honored every day to serve you as your representative in the Kansas House. Thank you so much for the opportunity to do so. If you ever need to contact me to share your thoughts, ask a question, or need my assistance with a state matter, please do not hesitate to call me at (785) 296-7655 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Blaine Finch is a Kansas House member, representing Franklin County and the 59th District in the Kansas House.