Pace picking up with debate time tight

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

As promised, the pace has picked up for the legislative session. Many of the Senate bills look similar to previously passed House bills, so the time to debate and amend is shorter.

The missing piece is still the study on appropriate school funding. That will be available next week, so expect a flurry of activity once the report arrives.

A peer review was done on the Augenblick and Meyer study from several years ago, as well as the Legislative Post Audit report that was done more recently. I have read the report once, but need to go over it again.

At this point an executive summary is not included, so digesting the contents of the 51-page report takes a little time. The peer review basically updates information based on current trends and practices, but from the early reading, does not make specific recommendations.

Next week we expect to receive the full study from Lori Taylor, a Texas A&M professor. There have been several K-12 school cost studies done over the years and this is the latest.

While it takes some time to put together a study of this type and the time we have is short, it makes sense to have the latest information available to base decisions on. The report is due March 15, so we should have that report available by the weekend.

This week and next will finish most of the committee work for the session. The committees that will continue working are the Appropriations Committee and the Tax Committee, if necessary. We are approaching the place in the session where time is about to run out for new ideas to be floated.

While the number of bills introduced varies each year, it is noted that the number of new bills introduced this year seems to be slightly lower than normal. The number of bills passing between the House and Senate has been reduced as well. However, that could be an end-game strategy for leadership so there are more bargaining chips left over to end session.

The Senate had a very short session calendar to end the week, but the House had the poultry bill above the line for debate. While SB 405 is somewhat controversial in that there are those opposed to large commercial livestock operations, the overall prospect of bringing jobs and production opportunities to Kansas is attractive. Kansas currently has almost no laws that regulate poultry production.

SB 405 does two main things, which are to determine how many chickens it takes to equal a cow, and to define what types of permitting is required for different sizes of poultry production facilities. The bill also more clearly defines separation distances.

The misconception with the bill seems to be that not passing SB 405 will keep out large-scale facilities when, in fact, SB 405 puts at least a minimum framework of regulation to be followed and puts in place similar requirements as the state has in current law regarding hog and beef facilities. The Legislature can always make additional adjustments later, if needed. The House advanced SB 405 with some opposition and without amendments.

Yesterday the House worked a bill that mandates statewide due process for teachers. Briefly, due process requires a hearing to be held for dismissal of a teacher since teachers work under contract.

Currently the process is relegated to the local school board to determine if they wish to allow due process proceedings. Due process is allowed as a negotiated item between the teachers and the board. I understand many of the schools allow due process hearings even though it is not currently mandatory.

Several comments have been made to me about the slowness of the session. While I mentioned the number of bill introductions, the number of bills passed by both House and Senate is quite low. We are only about three and a half weeks from first adjournment with the education issue yet to be addressed.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.

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