The state's budget and education funding likely will dominate this year's session of the Kansas Legislature, according to two local lawmakers.

The state's budget and education funding likely will dominate this year's session of the Kansas Legislature, according to two local lawmakers.

The 2018 session of the Legislature began Monday in Topeka.

State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said the budget and taxes always dominate the Legislature.

And this year, lawmakers are facing a deadline set by the Kansas Supreme Court regarding legislative remedies for school funding.

The state's highest court has ruled that a state school funding formula approved by legislators last year is unconstitutional.

The court set an April 30 deadline for legislative remedies. And the justices plan to make a ruling regarding any legislative changes by June 30.

State Rep. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, said he believes lawmakers did a good job last year in coming up with a structure for a school funding plan.

“It just needs some tweaks,” he said.

Pittman said he hopes there will be enough money for school funding generated through existing taxes without the need of a tax increase. He said state tax revenues are coming in higher than previously projected.

Fitzgerald said a lot of legislators voted to increase taxes last year. But he believes lawmakers will suffer politically if they vote to increase taxes again.

“This is an election year,” he said.

Fitzgerald said he does not believe educational interests of the state will be served by increasing overall funding. In the short term, he believes there can be a reallocation of some of the existing funding. He said some services also could be consolidated.

Even though the Supreme Court has ruled on the state's funding formula for public schools, Fitzgerald believes taxation and appropriation are functions of the Legislature and outside the jurisdiction of the court.

When it comes to other legislation, both Fitzgerald and Pittman said lawmakers may be voting on a shared parenting bill this year.

Fitzgerald said this law would establish a presumption that both parents have an equal right to custody at the beginning of a court proceeding.

Pittman said lawmakers also could see bills related to transparency in state government.

He said lawmakers also may be looking for ways to bolster the state's response to mental health issues.

Another bill that may make its way through the Legislature this session is a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution stating that only local school boards can close schools, Fitzgerald said.

Such an amendment likely would be aimed at concerns that the Kansas Supreme Court could order the closing of schools if justices do not approve of the state's funding for education.

If such an amendment receives the necessary votes in the Legislature, it still would have to be approved by voters.

State Reps. Debbie Deere, D-Lansing, Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, and Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, and Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, also represent portions of Leavenworth County.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR