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Under the Dome - June 3, 2013


Session is over
The final four bills holding things up - taxes, budget, common core standards, and special prosecutorial powers for Kris Kobach - were wrapped up by 2:17 am on Sunday morning.

Two of them failed to pass while the other two did.

Kobach had wanted special powers to personally prosecute those he accused of voter fraud. It was a very controversial bill and a radical expansion of the Secretary of State's powers. In the end, the Legislature chose to reject the measure and leave law enforcement in the Attorney General's office.

Common Core Standards survive challenge
A number of extreme conservative legislators had chosen to hold the budget hostage until they got a chance to ban the use of common core standards in Kansas schools. In the waning days of the session, Senator Ty Masterson called a special meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee where he rammed through a bill that would "suspend" spending on common core standards and set up a legislative study committee to decide whether or not to outright ban the standards in the future.

The House had demanded that such a bill be passed by the Senate and sent to the full House for consideration before they would vote on the budget. You see, the House did not vote as a whole body on Rep. Bradford's bill to prohibit the standards because the House Education Committee, after countless hours of testimony and study, had voted the bill down.

The Senate passed Masterson's bill and sent it over to the House. Masterson had put it in a House bill so that it would not have to go through the committee process once again in the House. The House could simply concur in the Senate amendments to their bill. There was a motion non-concur and send the bill to committee but Rep. Kasha Kelley offered a substitute motion to concur in the Senate amendments. If Kelley's motion were to pass, the bill would become law.

After a spirited debate which included discussions of ignoring the legislative process, holding the budget hostage, usurping the authority of the State Board of Education, and whether or not adoption of the standards was a federal takeover of public education in Kansas - we even heard Rep. DeGraaf point out how important the ban was to homeschoolers (even though homeschoolers aren't required to follow any standards at all) - the bill failed on a vote of 55 to 58.

Here's the House vote tally:
Yeas: Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Crum, DeGraaf, Dove, Edmonds, Edwards, Esau, Gandhi, Garber, Goico, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hermanson, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jones, Kelley, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, McPherson, Meigs, Merrick, O'Brien, Osterman, Peck, Powell, Read, Rhoades, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Schwab, Shultz, Siegfreid, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey.

Nays: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bideau, Boldra, Bollier, Burroughs, Carlin, Cassidy, Christmann, Clayton, Concannon, Davis, Dierks, Dillmore, Doll, Ewy, Finch, Finney, Gonzalez, Grant, Henry, Hibbard, Hill, Hineman, Jennings, Johnson, Kelly, Kuether, Lusk, Meier, Menghini, Moxley, Pauls, Perry, Petty, Phillips, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Ryckman Sr., Sawyer, Schroeder, Schwartz, Seiwert, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weber, Weigel, Whipple, Winn.
Absent or not voting: Barker, Bridges, Bruchman, Frownfelter, Henderson, Houston, Kahrs, Lane, Montgomery, Peterson, Wilson, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate vote tally was:
Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Fitzgerald, King, Knox, LaTurner, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O'Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, Smith, Tyson, Wagle.

Nays: Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Longbine, McGinn, Pettey, V. Schmidt, Wolf.

Present and Passing: Kerschen.

Absent or Not Voting: Donovan, Emler, Holmes.

Tax bill raises taxes by $777 million
The tax bill adopted by both chambers continues Governor Brownback's march to zero income taxes by further reducing the income tax brackets. The low bracket (those with incomes of $60,000 or less) will drop from its current 3.0% to 2.3% by 2018; the high bracket (those earning more than $60,000) will drop from its current 4.9% to 3.9%.

There are also reductions in the deductions you may take against your income tax. All itemized deductions including home mortgage interest, property taxes paid, and medical expenses are reduced by 30% in 2013 and are reduced further by 5% per year until they are cut by 50% in 2018. The charitable contributions deduction is the only one that is not cut. The deduction for gambling losses is eliminated altogether.

The standard deduction is also reduced. Currently it is $9,000 for both married filing jointly and head of household. Starting with the 2013 tax year, it will drop to $7,500 for married filing jointly and $5,500 for head of household.

The bill raises the sales tax from 5.7% (Kansas rate as of July 1) to 6.15%. The Governor insists on raising the sales tax to fill the massive hole created by his income tax cuts of last year.

KNEA's position on taxes includes three principles: 1. The tax system should maintain a balance among the three main sources - income, sales, and property; 2. The tax system should be progressive; and 3. The tax system should be broad-based.

Passage of the tax bill in 2012 and this bill in 2013 ensures that balance among the three sources is destroyed putting more pressure on sales and property taxes and that the system becomes far more regressive making low income earners pay a disproportionately larger share of their income in taxes. This bill benefits the wealthy at the expense of middle income and low income earners.

Imagine if you are in a family of four. If you own a home, you likely itemize deductions. Under this bill, while your income tax rate will decline a little, you will begin to lose your deductions for property taxes paid, home mortgage interest, medical expenses, and child care. Your sales tax will increase as well.

Here's the House vote tally:
Yeas: Alford, Bideau, Boldra, Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Cassidy, Claeys, Concannon, Crum, Dierks, Doll, Dove, Edwards, Ewy, Gandhi, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Hawkins, Hedke, Hermanson, Highland, Hill, Hineman, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jennings, Johnson, Jones, Kelley, Kelly, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, Meigs, Merrick, O'Brien, Petty, Phillips, Proehl, Read, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Ryckman Sr., Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Shultz, Siegfreid, Sloan, Suellentrop, Sutton, Swanson, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber.

Nays: Alcala, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Christmann, Clayton, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Dillmore, Edmonds, Esau, Finch, Finney, Grant, Grosserode, Henry, Hibbard, Hildabrand, Kuether, Lusk, McPherson, Meier, Menghini, Moxley, Pauls, Peck, Perry, Powell, Rhoades, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Sloop, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Whipple, Wilson, Winn.

Absent or not voting: Barker, Bridges, Frownfelter, Henderson, Houston, Kahrs, Lane, Montgomery, Osterman, Peterson, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate vote tally was:
Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Fitzgerald, Kerschen, King, Knox, LaTurner, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O'Donnell, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Smith, Tyson, Wagle.

Nays: Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, McGinn, Ostmeyer, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Wolf.

Absent or Not Voting: Donovan, Emler, Holmes.

K-12 flat in the budget; higher ed takes a cut
The budget passed this weekend did not vary much over the course of the session. The final budget held K-12 education flat (despite a court ruling that schools are underfunded) but includes a House provision cutting post-secondary education by 1.5% per year for two years. In the final negotiations leading up to passage, the post-secondary cut was not applied to community colleges or tech colleges. Unfortunately this cut to the Regents universities is likely to drive up tuition putting more pressure and students already burdened with large college loans or on families supporting their children through college.

Unfortunately, passage of the tax bill will put an extreme stress on the budget in future years. The tax bill provides that when revenue growth exceeds 2%, income tax rates would be dropped even more. That means that revenue to the state will be essentially capped making it difficult for the Legislature to replace funds lost due to earlier budget cuts and even giving small increases in school aid will be challenging.

Here's the House vote tally:
Yeas: Alford, Bradford, Bruchman, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Carlson, Carpenter, Cassidy, Claeys, Corbet, Crum, DeGraaf, Dove, Edwards, Esau, Ewy, Gandhi, Garber, Goico, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hermanson, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Johnson, Kelley, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, McPherson, Meigs, Merrick, O'Brien, Osterman, Peck, Powell, Proehl, Read, Rhoades, Rothlisberg, Ryckman Jr., Ryckman Sr., Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Shultz, Siegfreid, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber.

Nays: Alcala, Ballard, Becker, Bideau, Boldra, Bollier, Burroughs, Carlin, Christmann, Clayton, Davis, Dierks, Dillmore, Doll, Edmonds, Finch, Finney, Gonzalez, Grant, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Jones, Kelly, Kuether, Lusk, Meier, Menghini, Moxley, Pauls, Perry, Peterson, Petty, Phillips, Rooker, Rubin, Ruiz, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Whipple, Winn.

Absent or not voting: Barker, Bridges, Campbell, Concannon, Frownfelter, Kahrs, Lane, Montgomery, Sawyer, Wilson, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate vote tally was:
Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Fitzgerald, Kerschen, Knox, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O'Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Tyson, Wagle.

Nays: Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, LaTurner, Longbine, McGinn, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Smith, Wolf.

Absent or Not Voting: Donovan, Emler, Holmes, King.

Retention bill gone
The "Read to Succeed" Program which started out as a mandatory 3rd grade retention bill, was modified to be a permissive 1st grade retention bill and put into a conference committee report before the end of the regular session. It was approved by the Senate on April 4.

The report was never taken up by the House and so was not passed. But the budget specifies that "if a bill enacting the Kansas Reads to Succeed Program is not enacted into law, $6.0 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund shall be used to implement a Lexia Reading Core5 program for FY 2014."

And thank goodness the ban on Common Core Standards did not pass because the Lexia program boasts of its strong alliance to the Common Core Standards!

We're done...Almost
The real work is done. What's left is the Sine Die session - one ceremonial day that will convene at 10:00 am on Thursday, June 20.


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