Capitol Chatter
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Capitol Chatter

Tom Krebs

Monday, March 20, 2017

 “Admission is free and characters abound”
The phrase “past performance is not an indicator of future results,” or some variation thereof, can be found in the fine print of all mutual fund literature that displays past performance data.
An iteration of this may or may not be true as a school finance bill moves forward…
Some great new friends to K-12 education were sent to the Kansas Senate in January. Making it even more important was a number of public education critics were sent packing. When the dust settled, the Moderate R/Democrat coalition had picked up some serious heft. What had numbered 12, on its best days last session, increased to half the 40-member chamber, and grew to 22 when given its first big vote, approving the tax package sent over by the House in HB 2178.
The newcomers with strong education ties included:
  • Ed Berger, R-Hutchison, past president of Hutchinson Community College. He defeated Terry Bruce, who had served as Senate Majority Leader;
  • John Doll, R-Garden City, a former teacher, coach and House member, replaced conservative Larry Powell;
  • Bruce Givens, R-El Dorado, took conservative Forest Knox’s seat. Sen. Givens has an extensive history in Special Education administration;
  • Lynn Rogers, D-Wichita, serves on the Wichita USD 259 school board. He took the seat held by conservative Michael O’Donnell;
  • Dinah Sykes, R-Lenexa, took the seat held by conservative Greg Smith. She worked extensively with her local PTA; and
  • Mary Jo Taylor, R-Stafford, took the seat of conservative Mitch Holmes. She will leave the superintendent’s office of Stafford USD 349 July 1.
Others likely to vote with the coalition on many, but not necessarily all issues, include:
  • Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills. A former House member, Sen. Bollier took the seat of Kay Wolf, who voted with the mod/D coalition often, but not always;
  • Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, took the seat of conservative Ralph Ostmeyer.  He also came over from the House;
  • John Skubal, R-Overland Park, took the seat of conservative Jeff Melcher;
  • Randall Hardy, R-Salina, took conservative Tom Arpke’s seat; and
  • Dan Goddard, R-Parsons, took the seat held by Jeff King. King was Senate vice president last session.
By having more Mods/Ds in the chamber, committee make-up also changes. This was reflected in the members recently appointed to the Select Committee on Education Finance, which met for the first time last Thursday. A quick count of noses would indicate, at first blush, a moderate committee: six of the nine members voted to override the Governor’s veto of HB 2178. Both Democrats voted to override and four Republicans did.
The committee will be chaired by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, and the vice chair is Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, will serve as the ranking minority leader. The remaining committee members are Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg; Sen. Bollier; Bud Estes, R-Dodge City; Sen. Goddard; Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain, and Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City.
Last year, with the clock running out on the working-after-retirement issue, a Senate committee, after sitting on the sidelines much of the session and letting the House pension committee do the heavy lifting, weighed in. Members had to be brought up to speed on a number of complex issues, work that had come to some conclusion was reopened, and new concerns were raised.
One could make the argument that tactic was not particularly productive as unresolved/emerging WAR issues are being hashed out again, this time by both chambers.
Could the same thing happen to a school funding bill? The K-12 Budget Committee, under Chair Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, has been working very hard since early in the session on a new bill, which is reportedly going to have a hearing this week.  Will the Senate education committee participate similarly to last year’s KPERS committee? Will it try to supplant new considerations? Backpedal on agreement hashed out in good faith negotiations by House members?  Carve brash new paths?
Hopefully, the Mod/D coalition with hold sway in the Senate Committee, and it will quickly align with the vision passed out of the House.  If it doesn’t, the May veto session wrap up could start easing suspiciously close to June, which gets dangerously close to a June 30 deadline.
Tom Krebs is a recently retired KASB staff member who survived nine legislative sessions.  He is a former teacher, administrator and school board member. For more news from the statehouse and around the education world in general, follow him, if you dare, on Twitter at TomKrebs1. Again, admission is free, characters abound and views are his and his alone!


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