Topeka Constitutional change sought for school finance
A Senate committee was urged Tuesday to consider changing the Kansas Constitution to clarify that the Legislature has the final word on school spending.
Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, asked the Judiciary Committee to support his proposal to change Article 6 so it reads that legislators shall provide funding for schools at a level they deem appropriate.
Currently, the article states legislators shall make suitable provision for funding of schools. Two years ago, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that legislators were failing their duty to provide enough resources for schools. The Legislature appropriated $831 million in new spending through the next two fiscal years.
Journey said the intent was to clarify that only the Legislature has the power to appropriate money and determine how much is enough.
"The amendment simply clarifies the legislative power of the purse," he said.
Similar efforts to amend the constitution, including changing how justices are selected, failed in 2005 and 2006 as legislators wrestled with the school finance question. Journey said his proposal likely wouldn't leave committee but was worth offering for discussion.
More on education
School finance isn't the dominating issue it was the past two sessions, but a number of bills to modify education funding are floating in various committees.
In the House Education Committee, legislators had a hearing on changing how districts are compensated for busing students who live a mile or more from school and addressing students at Kansas schools who live out of state.
The Senate Education Committee considered two bills that were technical changes to the school finance formula passed last year, the first dealing with the high concentration of students living in poverty in districts and a second changing how districts can qualify to raise additional property taxes to pay teachers.
Clone wars continue
Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr hopes to have the House Health and Human Services Committee vote this week on a bill setting out the legal definitions for 31 terms related to cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
Landwehr, R-Wichita, supports the measure, as do critics of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
The biosciences industry contends the measure would "marginalize Kansas" as it attempts to nurture companies and research.
Some of the bill's definitions are likely to inspire controversy. For example, it says a "cloned embryo" is created from a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which some researchers don't view as cloning.
However, the measure wouldn't impose any restrictions on research or limit what research state dollars can finance.
Landwehr said the bill is about people using consistent definitions to avoid confusion if legislators debate such restrictions.
Meanwhile, 39 House members, led by Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, introduced a bill that would make it a felony to create animal-human hybrids.
The House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill updating the standards the state uses to determine whether new commercial buildings are energy efficient.
The House expects to take final action today. Passage then would send the measure to the Senate.
The bill says that the International Energy Conservation Code of 2006 is the new standard for commercial construction. Previously, the state relied on the 2003 version of the code. Also, cities and counties have long had the power to adopt their own standards.
The bill also would expand a requirement that people building or selling a previously unoccupied home disclose information about its energy efficiency. The requirement would be applied to new duplexes or apartment complexes with three or fewer floors.