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Week of January 16th-20th

Kansas legislators this week started work on the budget and taxes and some key votes are expected next week. Meanwhile, the Kansas Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a 2014 law that stripped teachers of some procedural rights.

Next week, committees are expected to be voting on spending plans for the remainder of the current fiscal year and a bill that would repeal the 2012 tax change that eliminated state income taxes for owners of limited liability companies and other similar businesses.

There will also be public hearings on bills requiring seat belts in school buses and allowing citations for when a person is captured on video improperly passing a school bus.

On the state budget, legislators must plug a nearly $350 million budget for the fiscal year ending July 1. Then they face a nearly $600 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.

This week, the House K-12 Education Budget Committee forwarded to the House Appropriations Committee  its recommendation. The K-12 committee rejected a plan by Gov. Sam Brownback to delay an $84 million payment to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Supporters of rejecting Brownback’s KPERS proposal said it was a statement, while opponents questioned where the money would come from to make the payment.

Meanwhile on the Senate side, Ways and Means subcommittees were formed to dive into the budget and some discussions were underway to propose an across-the-board cut, including public schools, in the current year.

The House Taxation Committee started a hearing on House Bill 2023, which would repeal a major portion of Brownback’s tax cuts from 2012. Brownback said exempting more than 300,000 business owners from paying state income tax would boost the economy and create jobs. Critics contend the exemption has done neither while unfairly increasing the tax burden on everyone else.

Also this upcoming week, two bills affecting schools will be considered in the House Transportation Committee. A public hearing will be held Wednesday on HB 2008, which would require school buses purchased after Jan. 1, 2018 have seat belts. On Thursday, a hearing will be held on HB 2040, which allows school districts to equip buses with video cameras to catch motorists who improperly pass buses and increases the fine for a second offense from $315 to $750.

On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court rejected a challenge from the Kansas National Education Association to legislation enacted in 2014 that removed procedural protections to teachers who were terminated or non-renewed.

KNEA alleged the legislation violated the Kansas Constitution provision prohibiting bills from containing more than one subject. The court ruled the Legislature can combine appropriations and general legislation in one bill as long all the provisions address the same subject. In this case, the court held the legislation related to same subject — education.

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