We returned after turnaround to start hearing the Senate's
bills. The event everyone has been waiting for finally arrived, when the Kansas Supreme Court published its ruling in the case
of Gannon vs. State, otherwise known as the school finance case.
The ruling by the Supreme Court is sure to set the stage for the rest of the
session, and I will keep you updated as I learn more.

We returned after turnaround to start hearing the Senate’s
bills. The event everyone has been waiting for finally arrived, when the Kansas Supreme Court published its ruling in the case
of Gannon vs. State, otherwise known as the school finance case.
The ruling by the Supreme Court is sure to set the stage for the rest of the
session, and I will keep you updated as I learn more.

Supreme Court ruling on school finance case
The Kansas Supreme Court issued its school funding opinion Friday. It upheld part of the ruling of Shawnee County District
Court and remanded part of it back for more work.
It agreed that the state has created unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities between school districts by: (1) withholding all capital outlay state aid; and
(2) prorating the supplemental general state aid payments to which
certain districts were entitled for their local option budgets.
The Supreme Court also stated that the original court did not apply the
correct constitutional standard in determining whether the state
violated the requirement of adequacy in public education, and so
remanded that part back.
The bottom line for the legislature is a deadline of July 1 to end the
unconstitutional disparities in funding. Either the legislature can pay
what the current formula requires with no proration, or the legislature
can change the current formula in a way to make the funding equitable,
or the legislature can do nothing and the referenced statutes concerning
the proration of the local option budget and the capital outlay will be
null and void.
With the current statutes that were found unconstitutional gone, two
things happen: (1) transfers from the state general fund to the capital
outlay funds of school districts will occur automatically, which would
cost approximately $25 million across the state; and (2) the local
option budget (LOB) will cease to exist, so no district could utilize it
and the state would have to cover almost $104 million.
According to a member of the Leavenworth School Board, if the
legislature complies with the court it means approximately $3.2 million
in additional state funding for Leavenworth County’s six districts.
It could also mean mill levy — property tax — decreases for taxpayers:
approximately 6.14 mills for Easton USD 449, 4.62 mills for Leavenworth
USD 453, 3.03 mills for Basehor-Linwood USD 458, 4.43 mills for
Tonganoxie USD 464, and 5.02 mills for Lansing USD 469.

Transparency Act makes its way to appropriations
A Senate bill that aims to increase the transparency and accountability
of representatives in the Capitol made its way to the House this week.
SB413, also called the Transparency Act, would require audio and video
streaming in the four largest committee rooms here at the statehouse.
Cameras would be set up in rooms that hold the committees on budget,
education, judiciary, commerce, and federal and state affairs.
Proponents want to make it easier for constituents to see their representatives in action, and allow Kansans, especially those who can’t make it to Topeka, to get more involved in the democratic process.
A two-year trial run is proposed with an approximate annual cost of $188,000 a year. Opponents of the bill say that political theatre is an inherent
part of committee meetings and events that take place on the floor, so
having cameras will only enhance the showboating by legislators.
They also stated that with technology today, some people may take bits and
pieces of the footage, negatively twist it and then post it on social
Kansas is one of only three states that permit audio-only
streaming from the House or Senate floor.

Bill proposes changes to death penalty appeals
Earlier this session, the Senate passed a bill that would make changes
to the death penalty appeals process. The Senate put the contents of
their bill into House Bill 2389 that had already passed last year, a
procedure called a “gut and go.”
That meant the House could only concur or non-concur with the bill. This is the same process that was used by the Senate to pass the Kansas-wide smoking ban in 2010 and the tax cuts of 2012.
But. this session, in an effort to understand HB 2389, the chairman of
the Corrections & Juvenile Justice Committee made a motion to non-concur and a conference committee was appointed.
Now the bill will be discussed by three Senators and three Representatives and possibly amended before a final vote by both chambers. The chairman held an informational hearing in our committee on the bill.
HB 2389 would shorten the time limits for submitting appeals, restrict
the number of pages of an appeals brief, limit the review for errors to
only the sentencing phase, and would be retroactive.
The proponent held up appeals briefs that were more than 400 pages and stated that they believed defense attorneys produced such long briefs on purpose in order to delay the process.
He testified that the bill would only put the current Kansas Supreme Courts rules into statute and shorten the process to 8-10 years.
The Board of Indigent Defense testified in the Transportation & Public
Safety Budget Committee that they would need hundreds of thousands more
dollars for their budget if the bill passes.
Currently, the state has four BIDS defense attorneys that handle death penalty cases.
They do all their research, investigations, and writing themselves with
no additional staff. The BIDS director testified that we would need to
hire more attorneys and staff to meet the deadlines proposed in the
Opponents to the bill testified that this bill would take away judicial
discretion in deciding how much time is needed and how long a brief is
required. They testified that some briefs are covering cases with tens
of thousands of pages of evidence.
One opponent was a man that was exonerated after serving 24 years; others were relatives of murder victims. Another opponent who represented Public Defense Attorneys testified that the bill would actually make the appeals process take longer because it would be their duty to fight the unrealistic time and page limits.
They stated that currently the Supreme Court allows extensions only because the public defenders have convinced the court that they are needed to meet constitutional requirements and this statute would conflict with U.S. Constitutional rights.
It was a very informative and interesting hearing on the appeals process
and the committee will discuss the issue this coming week.

Keep in touch
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your input on the various issues facing state government in order to
better serve my district and this state. Please feel free to contact me
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