We have a new governor! Gov. Jeff Colyer became the 47th person to hold that office when Sam Brownback resigned to accept a position as the United States Ambassador for Religious Freedom. The Capitol rotunda was packed with all kinds of Kansans for the transfer of responsibility.
On Colyer’s first day as governor the state topped tax collection estimates for January by $165 million. Total tax collections for the fiscal year have now come in $248.6 million above what had been estimated. Now before you start writing me to spend it on a cost of living adjustment for Kansas public employees’ pensions or give the colleges a 4 percent increase from where they are currently at, please remember that we are all waiting to see where this K-12 funding situation is going to end up. This is going to shape spending again. Is the Legislature going to be required to do another $600 million, and where will that leave our mental health budget numbers, our transportation numbers, our KBI and security numbers, and on and on across all other agencies.
To complicate matters, the new administration is doing some changes which will bring new faces — some fresh and some known — to important positions. The current chair of K-12 budget is moving to a revenue position in the new administration, and that will complicate that K-12 budget process. It is almost as though our Kansas government as a whole needs a quick timeout, so as to get focused again on the task at hand.
I am working on several bills that will help with government accountability to the people. We must all remember that our governance is of, by, and for the people.
Here is a bill to keep on your radar: HB 2042, concealed carry licenses.
The bill would require the State of Kansas to recognize all valid concealed carry licenses and permits issued by other states to non-Kansas residents.
This passed out of the House with multiple amendments some good and some I do not like. I voted “Yea” to pass it out, but I do hope the Senate will make some changes by stripping the final amendment. If you missed the floor debate, you can see the bill history at http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2042/
• A legislative post audit study revealed the unauthorized distribution of $405 million to schools in transportation funding in violation of state law, which prompted a letter from legislative leaders and potential involvement by the Kansas attorney general.
• In December, unemployment in Kansas went down another tick to 3.4 percent. One year ago, the rate was 4.3 percent. Kansas gained 5,000 jobs in the last two months.
• Jan. 21-27 was National School Choice Week, and that included activities here in Kansas. The primary activities took place on Wednesday, the 24th, for “School Choice Day,” which included a rally inside the Capitol. Many families who had been positively impacted by school choice were present.
The Kansas Legislature enacted the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship program in 2014. According to EdChoice, there are 292 students currently enrolled in the program, but up to 7 percent of Kansas students are eligible. You can learn more about the program at https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/kansas-tax-credit-for-low-income-students-scholarship-program.
Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at email@example.com or call (785) 296-6287.