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Under the Dome - February 20, 2013

"Innovation" bill in the Senate


Karen Godfrey gave a reprise of her testimony on HB 2319 - the coalition of innovative districts act - in the Senate Education Committee during a hearing on SB 176, the twin of HB 2319 (sometimes the identical bill is introduced in both chambers. We don't know exactly why. Maybe just to keep the lobbyists confused!)


The only conferees today were KASB (proponent), KNEA (opponent), and USA (neutral) making for an interesting hearing. 


The bill would allow ten school districts to opt out of all state rules and regulations and most state statutes including the professional negotiations act, the due process act, and the continuing contract act. KASB supports that part of the bill while KNEA believes the key to innovation is empowering teachers and making sure that they feel free to take risks because they have protections in their contracts and in due process provisions that make them feel comfortable to try radically different approaches to instruction.


School districts that testified in support of the bill over in the House said they did not believe in waiving the teacher protections but those districts cancelled their appearances in the Senate today due to the coming "snowpocalypse." 


The committee took no action on SB 176 and due to a lack of time opted to delay once again working SB 44, the dyslexia bill (see yesterday's report). 


House Education Committee digs into charters


Surprise, surprise, surprise! That's the way the education lobbyists felt this morning when they found that a hearing had been scheduled over night for HB 2320 a radical expansion of charter schools in Kansas. None of the usual lobbyists were prepared to testify at the last minute on a 27 page bill. We talked with Committee Chair Kasha Kelley who apologized for the late notice and promised that the hearing would be continued so that the education community could weigh in on the bill. 


While we have been frustrated with sudden changes in the committee calendar that make it difficult to respond appropriately to controversial bills, Chair Kelley has been very considerate and worked diligently to make sure that we get the opportunity. We thank her for that - she is now working with the regular education lobbyists to make sure that our constituencies are heard. 


Senate passes constitution amendment on school funding


The full Senate today debated and voted on SCR 1608, the first constitutional amendment intended to allow the legislature to ignore a court ruling on school finance. 


SCR 1608 says only the legislature can decide what is "suitable funding" for schools. The amendment actually says the legislature gets to decide on appropriations implying that they could ignore a court ruling. There was lots of talk in the debate about sovreignty with Terry Bruce even suggesting this was about kings and tyrants rather than checks and balances. 


Senator Carolyn McGinn tried an amendment to change the election for this constitutional amendment to the general election when more Kansans vote. Her amendment was defeated because conservatives don't want more voters - they like the idea that, for the most part, only conservative anti-government voters turn out for primary elections. 


The amendment was advanced to a final action vote which was taken as an "emergency rules suspension." Usually a final action vote is held until the next day. 


The final vote was 27 - 13 with five Republicans joining the 8 Democrats in opposing the measure. Since a constitutional amendment takes a supermajority to pass, this means that the measure passed by only one vote! 


The five Republicans who supported the right of Kansans to seek redress in the courts were Senators Emler, Longbine, McGinn, Schmidt, and Wolf. They deserve your thanks as do all our Kansas Democratic Senators.


Send them thank you notes at:


The measure must now go to the House.


Legislature cancelled for Thursday, pro-forma Friday


With the coming snowmaggedon, the Legislature decided to cancel their Thursday session and to meet "pro-forma" on Friday. Pro-forma means they won't take any action and attendance is essentially optional. 


Many legislators will take advantage of the decision to head home before the worst of the storm hits giving you the chance to give them a good talking to at back home legislative events over the weekend. 


Democrats will be staying in Topeka for their annual meeting known as "Washington Days." It's a weekend for the Democratic faithful to come together and plan for the future. 

In addition, there will be a rally at the statehouse on Friday for working Kansans to express their views on the actions of Governor Brownback and the 2013 Legislature. Learn more about the 2:00 pm rally by clicking here!

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