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Dear Friend,

The first week of April, the House debated and passed HB 2445, an update to the school finance formula. We did this in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s October finding in Gannon v State that the formula passed last year did not provide suitable funding for schools based on the language of the Kansas Constitution. The Court split the Gannon case into two parts – equity of funding across districts so similar effort would raise similar funding (property valuations and therefore tax revenue to districts vary widely) and adequacy of funding to achieve expected outcomes.
Learning Phase
Over the years, the legislature has commissioned a handful of studies to determine the costs, investigate efficiencies, and analyze consolidation concepts. Those studies have gathered dust. Nevertheless, in December, another study was commissioned to determine the actual cost of providing an education based on the Rose Capacities and the inputs/outcomes work done by the Kansas Department of Education under the Kansas Can initiative. That most recent study showed Kansas education funding was hundreds of millions less than it would have been had we kept up with payments from the last lawsuit which was settled in 2005 (Montoy).

HB 2445
In short, the bill addresses both the equity challenge with policy measures and the adequacy component with additional funding on top of that already passed under last year’s plan. The bill had days of hearings in the House, where dozens of amendments were offered, debated, and voted on. We then spent two days debating the bill on the House floor where again, many amendments were offered, debated, and voted on. If you click the link above, you can see the paper trail of discussion on the House floor. Finally, the bill passed the House 71-53, I voted yes.

Representative John Eplee

Kansas State Legislature
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Doniphan County
Atchison County

Contact Doc Eplee
At the Capitol:
300 SW 10th St., 512-N
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Atchison:
163 Deer Run
Atchison, KS 66002
Equity changes:
  • Repeals the 10% minimum floor for at-risk funding
  • Repeals the expanded use of capital outlay funds for utilities & hazard insurance
  • Adjusts the LOB calculation to use current year data rather than the prior year
Other policy provisions:
  • Reworks the transportation weighting to address concerns raised by the Legislative Post Audit study released in December
  • Removes sunset on Career & Tech Ed weighting
  • Expands the 4-year old at-risk program to allow 3-year olds as well
  • Repeals the cap on bonding authority that conflicted with previous limitations put in statute in 2016
Adequacy provisions:
  • Increases Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) over 5 years as follows:
    • 2019 increase to $4170 per pupil
    • 2020 increase to $4307 per pupil
    • 2021 increase to $4444 per pupil
    • 2022 increase to $4581 per pupil
    • 2023 increase to $4781 per pupil
  • Increases Special Education funding by $74.4 million total over 5 years, and 
  • Adds $10 million for a pilot partnership with community mental health centers to improve student behavioral health.
Here is a snapshot of the total year-over-year new spending on K-12 provided by both SB 19 last year and HB 2445 this year:
To access a resource document outlining the history of school finance, click here.

The Senate also passed a funding plan with substantially less money but some good ideas on the policy side. However, instead of working with the House to draft a compromise, the Senate began working on a tax cut bill! We’ve only just begun to recover from the 2012 tax cuts, and only because we were able to pass a tax reform package just a year ago. With the Senate obstructing progress, the House used the often-maligned “gut-and-go” procedure to remove the contents of Sub SB 423, which was under consideration by the House, and replace it with a compromise education plan with a little of what both the House and Senate wanted. With this action, the Senate could only agree or disagree with the House’s changes to their bill (concur or nonconcur). This move passed the House 63-56, I voted yes. 
The bill was then sent to the Senate to concur or nonconcur. They filibustered any action until seconds before adjournment, and finally concurred with House amendments on a vote of 21-19. The governor has indicated he will sign it and the Attorney General’s office is preparing their defense of the bill due on April 30.
The House got what it wanted while the Senate bickered, but we also gave up something. To give the Senate a little more time to get to the right solution, the House agreed to an adjournment resolution that gives up a lot of our power. Typically, the official last day of session (Sine Die) is about 20 days after the end of veto session. This allows legislative staff to complete paperwork and for the governor to consider, sign, or veto legislation – he has 10 days to do so. When we come back for the Sine Die session, we can decide whether to vote to override his vetoes. 
This year’s adjournment agreement sets Sine Die for May 4th, forcing an extremely shortened veto session. Any bill passed during the veto session could be held by the governor beyond Sine Die, when it could be vetoed. In order to attempt an override, a special session would have to be called. This places a great deal of power in the governor’s hands, with no recourse by the legislature. The tradeoff is we sent not only a good faith effort, but a solid financial plan to the Supreme Court for consideration. 
HCR 5029 – Constitutional Amendment
There is a movement afoot to strip the voice of Kansans who amended the constitution to prioritize education in 1966. At that time, education funding was not mandated by the Kansas Constitution, so voters sought to make it a priority by adding the following words: 

“The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance 
of the educational interests of the state.”
This passage is the crux of every school finance lawsuit in the last 30 years, so many want to remove that portion or add language to clarify that the legislature is the only body that can determine what is suitable. I can understand the perspective that these words have caused a great deal of angst, but also see the need for them as some in our state would go so far as to eliminate funding for education altogether. The real ramifications of changing the constitution would be a complete reset on court precedent on this issue. The millions of dollars already spent and thousands of hours would be null and void as all future litigation would be considered through the lens of new language. This is the goal of many who support such an amendment. 
A constitutional amendment would require 84 of 125 votes in the House and 27 of 40 votes in the Senate. The reality is, the votes just aren’t there, but we shall see. 

As of early Sunday morning, the legislature is adjourned until April 26 when we begin the Veto Session. 

Early Tuesday, an error in the bill that was sent to the governor's desk was discovered, decreasing the size of spending by approximately $80 million. The Governor will sign this bill into law and work with the House and Senate to resolve this issue as soon as possible, most likely by drafting a trailer bill. It is possible that the legislature may have to convene in special session to resolve this issue over the summer.  To read Mark Desetti's article, "The Error and What to Do", click here.

During adjournment, I will be home visiting schools and businesses, as well as meeting with constituents. I hope to see you at home!
Please feel free to share my legislative newsletter with your friends and family and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments. It is an honor and a pleasure representing you at the Capitol. As always, it is an honor and a pleasure representing you at the Capitol. 

Representative John Eplee, MD
Kansas House District 63
Serving Atchison and Doniphan counties
Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy A. Porter, CPA, Treasurer
Copyright © 2018, All rights reserved.

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Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy Porter, Treasurer · 163 Deer Run · Atchison, Ks 66002 · USA

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