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Pat PetteySen. Pat Pettey
Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.
Jan. 17, 2014
In this issue:
• 2014 session convenes
• Governor delivers state of the state address
• Democrats respond
• All-day kindergarten
• KanCare recommendations
• Budget revisions outlined
• Hard 50
• Important state phone numbers
2014 session convenes
The 2014 legislative session is underway. Legislators ceremoniously convened Monday, Jan. 13, and awaited the annual State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Committees also began meeting this week to review proposed legislation.
Legislators will have full plates this year, as we debate a number of important issues including education funding and the budget deficits created by Gov. Brownback’s massive income tax cuts.
Although there are many busy weeks and some long nights ahead, I remain committed to making the Kansas economy work for working families; restoring cuts to education so our kids can go to good, safe schools; and lowering the tax burden on middle-class families and Kansans living on fixed incomes.
I welcome your input on any of these issues. Please feel free to visit or contact me at 785-296-7375 if you should have any questions. Or stop by my legislative office, located in room 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.
We are presently setting up our calendar for Senate pages. Any student, 6th grade or above, can apply to be a Senate page. Please contact my office if you are interested.
Daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live.”
Governor delivers state-of-the-state address
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Gov. Sam Brownback delivered his fourth State of the State Address before a joint session of Senate and House members, cabinet secretaries and dozens of state dignitaries.
In his speech, Gov. Brownback outlined his 2014 legislative priorities, including:
• Fund all-day kindergarten
• Allocate $2 million to address the housing shortage in rural communities
• Incentives to encourage doctors to move to rural communities
• A 50-year water vision
The governor also touted the economic growth in Kansas and the increase in jobs. However, a report released by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research indicates that Kansas’ economic growth is slower than the national rate. Additionally, the latest jobs report indicates 16,000 fewer Kansans are in the labor force than when Governor Brownback took office. (http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.ks.htm)
As is tradition, the minority party outlined their own legislative priorities during an official response to the State of the State. This year, the response was given by House Democratic Leader Paul Davis (http://davisforkansas.com/sections/media/52d70d8c26b8f460370000f8).
Restoring funding to our schools and easing the burden on middle-class families and those living on fixed incomes are our top priorities this session.
The Kansas Legislative Research Department has confirmed that the cost of the governor’s proposal to fund all-day kindergarten is $244.5 million over five years, not the $80 million as the governor has stated. Also, in his proposal, the governor neglects to identify a funding source for the program and he fails to mention that many school districts around the state increased fees for their all-day Kindergarten programs – while some districts even cut their programs – as a result of his massive cuts to public schools in 2011.
There is no question that I support funding an all-day kindergarten program. It’s a program that has garnered support from Democrats and Republican for a long time. This time, though, I have concerns with the proposal and I’m not alone. Even Republican leadership has expressed concerns.
I think the governor and the legislature need to focus on reducing class sizes, retaining quality teachers, and ensuring classrooms have the necessary materials to teach our students. This will only happen when the legislature funds the current school formula as the law dictates.
The KanCare oversight committee met Monday, Jan. 13, to outline and approve recommendations for the state’s privatized Medicaid program. These recommendations will be given to the full Legislature for consideration later in the session. The major recommendations pertain to claims, prior authorization, and decrease or denial of service as well as the role of the ombudsman (http://www.khi.org/news/2014/jan/13/kancare-oversight-committee-develops-recommendatio/).
Democrats who serve on this committee are Sen. Laura Kelly, ranking member (Topeka); Sen. Marci Francisco (Lawrence); Rep. Barbara Ballard (Lawrence); and, Rep. Jim Ward (Wichita).
Budget revisions outlined
Gov. Brownback released his revisions for the FY 2014, 2015 Supplemental Budget proposals Thursday morning. The proposal includes increased spending in FY 2014 of $30.7 million and in FY 2015 of $429.8 million. The increase in FY2015 mostly accounts for restoring the governor’s veto last session of the Department of Corrections’ entire budget.
While the proposal includes funding for all-day kindergarten, it does not restore all the cuts made to higher education at the end of last session or provide any increase in base state aid per pupil for K-12 education.
Historically, when governors release their budgets they include a five-year general fund profile projection. Brownback only released a two-year profile with his budget revisions. The Kansas Legislative Research Department ran the traditional five-year profile, and it indicates that to maintain a zero ending balance, the legislature would have to cut nearly $922 million by FY 2019.
I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date in the coming weeks as legislators begin to work through specific budget issues. In the meantime, to access the Governor’s Budget Report in full, visit the Kansas Division of Budget’s website at http://budget.ks.gov.
The issue that brought legislators back to the Statehouse for a special session in September has already had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. As you may recall, the special session rewrote the procedure of the law from judges imposing the sentencing to juries for those convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. This rewrite came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar law unconstitutional.
This session Senate Bill 250 seeks to change the presumptive sentence for premeditated first-degree murder to a minimum of life without parole eligibility for 50 years, with juries weighing evidence that could reduce the sentence to a minimum of 25 years to life. The bill also seeks to change the presumptive sentence for attempted capital murder from a 12-year term to life without parole eligibility for 25 years/
I serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Sen. David Haley (4th Dist., Kansas City, Kan.).
Important state phone numbers
Here is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during the legislative session. I hope you will find this information helpful.
Child Abuse Hotline
Crime Tip Hotline
Crime Victim Referral
Department on Aging
Driver’s License Bureau
KanCare Consumer Assistance
Kansas State Library
School Safety Hotline
Suicide Prevention Hotline
Tax Refund Status Info
Victims of Human Trafficking