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Archive for Saturday, February 4, 2012

Differences arise between legislators over school finance, voter registration

February 4, 2012

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Douglas County legislators differed sharply over school finance, taxes, concealed carry and election law Saturday, mirroring the contentious debates dominating the 2012 legislative session.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, state Reps. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, speak with attendees at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast on Saturday at the Eldridge Hotel. Also speaking at the event were state Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and state Reps. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, and Ann Mah, D-Topeka.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, state Reps. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, speak with attendees at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast on Saturday at the Eldridge Hotel. Also speaking at the event were state Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and state Reps. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, and Ann Mah, D-Topeka.

The panel of legislators talked about the session and took questions in front of about 75 people at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast at the Eldridge Hotel.

Democrats criticized Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed school funding overhaul, saying it would lock into place school budgets that had already been severely cut the past few years, force local property tax increases and eliminate a key component of school finance that provides additional funding to educate children who are disadvantaged.

“This is a disaster for our urban school districts,” state Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said eliminating state limits on local property taxes would help students in wealthy districts but not poor ones. Brownback’s school finance plan “picks winners and losers. Your education is going to be run by zip code,” Holland said.

But state Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said the plan would give local school boards more authority on how to spend funds and whether to raise local taxes to help pay for costs. Gregory, however, parted ways with Brownback on his plan to have teachers evaluated based on student performance and input from supervisors, peers, parents and students, and then posting the grades on a website. “I think it stinks,” she said of that plan.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said the state should seek input from those working on the front lines, such as superintendents, teachers and school boards. “Why don’t we look to them for suggestions on how to improve education?” she asked.

Mah also blasted legislation by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would require new voters show proof of citizenship to register to vote as of June 15. The proof of citizenship requirement is already part of state law but doesn’t take effect until 2013.

“It will absolutely shut down grass-roots registration to vote,” Mah said, and it will cause confusion just weeks before the deadline to register to vote in the August primaries.

But Gregory defended the proposal, saying the best time to check on citizenship was before a presidential election when there is a surge of registration. She said it is more difficult to remove from the registration rolls voters who shouldn’t be there than it is to stop them before they register.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said Brownback’s budget proposal, which is being considered in several committees, is difficult. For example, she said Brownback has asked for $1.2 million more to bridge a shortfall in the state parks system but provides no additional funds to address a shortfall in the judicial system that could lead to courts having to shut down for up to six work days this year.

On the tax side, Holland, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate tax committee, said Brownback’s proposed tax changes would hurt the middle class. Brownback has proposed lowering income tax rates, eliminating numerous deductions and making permanent a temporary sales tax hike that is set to expire next year.

A proposal that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into public buildings and on college campuses also drew sharp differences.

State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, said he supported the idea. Brown said that his daughter was about to attend college and that there was no way a school could guarantee her safety.

Mah said that she supported the law that allowed concealed carry of guns but added that she thought local officials should have the authority to determine whether to allow them in public buildings and campuses. “The notion that you’re not safe unless someone in the room is packing heat, that’s just nuts,” she said.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said the most significant issue facing the Legislature is how to resolve the unfunded actuarial liability within the public pension system. He said the current proposal, supported by Brownback, to change the defined contribution system to more like a 401(k)-style plan does not address the underlying unfunded liability. State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said the state had a moral obligation to maintain pension benefits to those already vested in the system.

Comments

Getaroom 2 years, 10 months ago

And to Anthony Brown, there is no way a school, at any level, has the ability to offer absolute safety for any individual - not ever - and whether carrying or not carrying. He is expressing only his own views on firearms activism. His, is one of the most ignorant comments to date on the subject.

kochmoney 2 years, 10 months ago

I've only seen him offer the most ignorant comment to date on ANY subject.

Katara 2 years, 10 months ago

"Mah also blasted legislation by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would require new voters show proof of citizenship to register to vote as of June 15. The proof of citizenship requirement is already part of state law but doesn't take effect until 2013." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Proof of citizenship did not keep this fellow from committing fraud.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/02/indiana-secretary-of-state-convicted-of-6-voter-fraud-charges.html

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 10 months ago

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said the state should seek input from those working on the front lines, such as superintendents, teachers and school boards. "Why don't we look to them for suggestions on how to improve education?," she said.

What a concept!! At least one legislator has a fricking clue.

kochmoney 2 years, 10 months ago

But then we wouldn't get to play our favorite game, "blame the teachers."

volunteer 2 years, 10 months ago

Ann Mah is the person who represents my household in the legislature.

She won re-election by a mere handful of votes over a Republican newcomer to politics.( A tea-party sounding woman.) Ms. Mah may well lose to the same opponent next election; the same opponent has announced she will run again.

Regarding the public pension system, when will some legislator gain credence with voters by introducing a bill that reflects a truthful retirement plan for the state legislators rather than the absurd 366 day (wink, wink) formula they now have? Ann, Marci, Anthony Hensley, Ms. Ballard, can you hear me now? (I don't expect the Republicans to do the right thing. but the Democrats more often claim to be on higher moral ground)

And the governor and Dr. Colyer gripe about teacher retirement, but so far have ignored the ludicrous fiction of the legislators working every single day of the year, as if it were their full-time jobs instead of the part-time job it is.

Vote out all the incumbents until their retirement plan makes sense.

volunteer 2 years, 10 months ago

Ann Mah is the person who represents my household in the legislature.

She won re-election by a mere handful of votes over a Republican newcomer to politics.( A tea-party sounding woman.) Ms. Mah may well lose to the same opponent next election; the same opponent has announced she will run again.

Regarding the public pension system, when will some legislator gain credence with voters by introducing a bill that reflects a truthful retirement plan for the state legislators rather than the absurd 366 day (wink, wink) formula they now have? Ann, Marci, Anthony Hensley, Ms. Ballard, can you hear me now? (I don't expect the Republicans to do the right thing. but the Democrats more often claim to be on higher moral ground)

And the governor and Dr. Colyer gripe about teacher retirement, but so far have ignored the ludicrous fiction of the legislators working every single day of the year, as if it were their full-time jobs instead of the part-time job it is.

Alceste 2 years, 10 months ago

@volunteer:

366 day formula??? Nope it's 372 days they work each year: And let each of those that participate in it (a couple do not....as in the people with the even sweeter KU Regents lottery winning style retirement payoff/pension recipients.....as in Francisco and Ballard) publically admit/disclose what they signed up for when the signed up: They COULD have elected to do the right thing from the get and pay themselves a pension on their actual monies received and their actual time worked, but I will bet $10,000.00 (learned that bet from Mitt.....) they ALL signed up for the funny bunny 372 day calculation.

Tom Sloan likes to call himself a business man each and every time he votes and voted down pay raises to the Kansas civil service and when he participated in gutting merit increases for state workers. However, I'll bet another $10,000.00 he signed up for the Lottery Pay Out Legislators Special 372 day work year. What kind of a business person can survive with that kind of creative bookkeeping. Does Tom Sloan run his business that way too? Of Course Tom Sloan believes people who are vested in KPERS need to be paid because he wants his very own personal pay day once a month for the rest of life off the backs of the people who run Kansas. And yet, Tom Sloan voted time and again to NOT fund KPERS and to even raid the KPERS coffers. Swell business man he is. http://www.hark.com/clips/kqmrdtflcj-everybody-has-to-pay-taxes

Legislators have given themselves one heck of a sweetheart deal in how their own KPERS benefits are calculated. 372 days in a year! Leave it to a political hack to figure that one out!

For the legislator listing all income - the daily rate, subsistence and allowance - this is how annualization is calculated:

•$88.66 (daily rate) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $32,981.52

•$123 (subsistence) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $45,756

•$7,083 non-session allowance.

Altogether, that equals $85,820.52, and that's the pay figure that would be used for that legislator retiring now.

The Senate president and House speaker are at the top of the pay scale, and annualized pay for those posts could be as high as $99,859.74, depending on their enrollment choices.

This guy Morris who is the President of the Kansas Senate has even been quoted as saying he deserves that kind of KPERS benefit because he is so underpaid!!! Aren't legislators supposed to be servants of the people? Isn't the common thinking that people run for office, not to get rich, but to serve? We sure do think stupid real good like in this state: The people who do the day to day work which make Kansas run have their KPERS figured one way.....and the galoots who pose for 3 months a year as "legislators" get to figure their KPERS benefit in a totally different manner.....to the point where they've invented a new calendar: 372 days in a year and they work each and every one of them!! Woo Hoo!!!

del888 2 years, 10 months ago

if these people can't agree on anything then it's time to get rid of them. we need to vote in people who can actually do something productive.

Alceste 2 years, 10 months ago

del888: Up until the past several months they ALL agreed to take the KPERS deal they gave themselves. There you have it given you haven't heard a peep from them about it....in fact the Senate President is even on the record as saying he deserves the enhanced benefit. shrug

Leave these people alone....they're busy doing serious legislating.....

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