Other News - Weeks One and Two

Here are a list of other items the Senate has covered this week:

School Efficiency Report

Last year the Governor appointed an 11-member task force to evaluate our state’s finance and budgeting regarding education. Since September, the task force has met three times and spent their time analyzing education funding, examined how to spend it more efficiently and researched ways to eliminate wasteful spending not focused on the classroom.

This week the task force presented their final recommendations. These changes are geared toward putting more money in the classroom and less in administration and overhead costs.

The groups’ 12 recommendations are:

  • Establish a statutorily-required two-year school funding cycle
  • Place a priority emphasis on the timely transfer of state payments to school districts in June and January
  • Conduct a study to reevaluate the state’s open-ended obligation to equalization of school construction bond issues to provide the state with better visibility from a budgeting perspective
  • Conduct a study on implementing a state data management and accounting system that is integrated with K-12 school systems and post-secondary institutions for streamlined educational reporting of data flow/administrative processes
  • Restructure the operating parameters associated with the Capital Outlay Fund
  • Revise/narrow the Professional Negotiations Act to prevent it from hindering operational flexibility/resource assignment.
  • Legislatively eliminate, reduce and consolidate the statutory cash reserve accounts and separate fund accounts that currently exist, thereby ending the “use-it-or-lose-it” policy and allowing the funding contained in each fund category to be more broadly spent across the full variety of educational requirements. Accounts that remain, including the General Fund, should be allowed a modest amount of carryover from year to year
  • Authorize a study of school district administration personnel structures and positions. Develop a state plan for district-level administrative reorganization and alignment
  • Require that a university level finance/accounting/budget management course be included in district leadership licensing requirements, if not already included
  • Form a task force of education, finance, and legislative members to establish a commonly-accepted definition of “instruction” spending and review the 65 percent public policy goal figure
  • Place a limitation on duration of due process proceedings for special education hearings
  • Conduct an efficiency study/audit of the Kansas State Department of Education
Education is one of the core functions of our state’s government. The legislature is currently reviewing a number of bills regarding education reform and will continue to work to ensure every child receives a good education. These recommendations are focused on using a greater percentage of the state’s education resource dollars to support classroom instruction. The recommendations will provide as a good resource for the legislature as we continue to review our state’s education outcomes and support the best interest of the students.

To review the full report, please visit this link.

Drug Testing for Government Assistance
An increasing number of states have adopted, or are considering, measures to ensure government assistance is being used for its intended purposes. In 2012 alone, 28 states considered legislation regarding drug testing of welfare (TANF) and food stamp (SNAP) recipients. Kansas will be among those states considering similar policies this session.

The bill, expected to be introduced early next week, would prohibit an individual who fails a drug test from receiving assistance until they have completed drug treatment and job training programs. A second failed drug test would result in the individual having their assistance suspended for a year. Long term suspension would be for recipients who fail a third, or subsequent, drug test. In instances where a parent fails a drug test, the portion of cash assistance allocated for their children could go to a third party to administer on the child’s behalf.

Last February, Congress approved a measure allowing states to drug-test individuals who receive unemployment benefits. Under this proposal, Kansas would require potential employers who have a job applicant fail or refuse to take a drug test report that outcome to the Kansas Department of Labor. Failure of or refusal to take the drug test would result in the individual losing their unemployment benefits until they complete drug treatment and job training programs. This provision is similar to laws already enacted in Mississippi, Georgia, Arizona and Indiana.

The proposal is not intended to be punitive to those who rely on these programs but to identify those with substance abuse problems and assist them in getting the help and job skills needed to be productive members of the job market. I anticipate healthy debate on this matter and will do all I can to make certain the end result is a responsible, targeted approach that ensures assistance goes to individuals and families who truly need it.

Anti-Human Trafficking Laws
This week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt introduced language strengthening the state’s human trafficking statutes, with an emphasis on protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. Senate Bill 61, if passed, would establish a Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund to provide support for those victimized by human trafficking. The fund will be paid for through mandatory fines by individuals convicted of human trafficking and related sex crimes. The bill also provides for special Child in Need of Care procedures for children who have been subjected to human trafficking and expedites expungement procedures for those convicted of selling sexual relations, if they were subject to coercion. A new crime of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Child is created in the bill, increasing the penalties of the existing crimes of patronizing a prostitute and promoting prostitution of person under the age of 18. Additionally, the bill includes training and tools for law enforcement to combat human trafficking.

The bill currently resides in the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is waiting on a hearing. I look forward to supporting this legislation as it is an essential tool to better protecting children.

Senate Confirmations
The Senate has the sole authority to confirm appointments made by the majority and minority parties in each chamber and from the governor’s office. Once confirmed they will serve on Kansas’ several boards and commissions. This week, the Senate confirmed 21 individuals from around Kansas to serve.

  • Leslie Evans, Topeka, Kansas Electric Transmission Authority
  • Lori MacDonald, Lawrence, Kansas Employment Security Board of Review
  • Melvin Neufeld, Garden City, Kansas Human Rights Commission
  • Rick Cox, Hesston, Kansas Lottery Commission
  • Colonel Scott Dold, Lawrence, Kansas National Guard
  • Eileen King, Manhattan, Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission
  • David Moses, Wichita, Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission
  • Eric Meyers, Cunningham, Pooled Money Investment Board
  • Richard Fish, Howard, State Banking Board
  • Dale Koch, Beloit, State Banking Board
  • James Needham, Troy, State Banking board
  • Samantha Angell, Salina, State Board of Indigents Defense Services
  • Sue Christopher, Leawood, State Civil Service Board
  • Shari Feist Albrecht, Topeka, State Corporation Commission
  • Douglass Jorgensen, Topeka, State Fire Marshal
  • Monte Coffman, Coffeyville, University of Kansas Hospital Authority
  • Dave Kerr, Hutchinson, University of Kansas Hospital Authority
  • S.J Schaub, Lawrence, Kansas Bioscience Authority
  • Dean Reynoldson, Topeka, Alcoholic Beverage Control
  • Robert Smith, Overland Park, Kansas bioscience Authority
  • Bill Gale, Cunningham, Department of Health and Environment

Paid for by Melcher for Senate; Daniel Kjergaard, Treasurer