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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Capitol Report: judges, political advocacy on tap; concealed carry expansion filed; action on arts still draws controversy

January 27, 2013

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Judges, political advocacy on tap

Two major changes sought by conservative Republicans and related to school finance will be aired out this week.

Conservative Republicans want the governor and Legislature to have more say in who gets appointed to the appellate courts. A proposed constitutional amendment on that issue will be debated in the Senate.

And conservatives are pushing legislation that would make it more difficult for organizations representing teachers, state employees and other public service workers to participate in political advocacy. The House is expected to debate that measure this week.

In 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court found the school finance system unconstitutional and ordered a funding increase. And earlier this year, a three-judge panel again found the Legislature had failed its constitutional duty to adequately fund schools. The rulings have angered conservatives, including Gov. Sam Brownback, who says elected legislators should be in charge of school finance. Conservatives have also opposed the Kansas National Education Association’s stance in support of increased school funding.

Concealed carry expansion filed

House Bill 2055, which would allow concealed carry of weapons in public buildings, is before the Legislature.

The measure approved by the House last year but stymied in the Senate, includes a provision that would allow higher education officials to set the policy for post-secondary institutions.

The Kansas Board of Regents opposes concealed carry on campuses.

The bill has been referred to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Action on arts still draws controversy

Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” may be an appropriate expression of how some arts lovers in Kansas have looked at the actions of Gov. Sam Brownback when it comes to the arts.

When he took office, Brownback issued an executive order abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission, saying arts funding wasn’t a core function of state government.

But that order was overturned by the Legislature. Brownback got the last word in, however, by vetoing funding for the agency, which made Kansas the only state without a public arts agency. The move cost the state $1.2 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Midwest Arts Alliance.

Then last year, Brownback signed into law the creation of a new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission with a $700,000 budget and placed under the Kansas Department of Commerce.

But Brownback’s budget for the next fiscal year includes only $200,000 for the commission. Democrats say that isn’t enough. “The administration has pretty much dropped the ball on the whole issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

The commission held its first meeting last week, more than six months after the new budget was signed into law. Commission members elected Lana Gordon as chair of the commission. Gordon is a former state legislator from Topeka, and Brownback’s appointed secretary of labor.

Quote of the week

Working through the night “separates the men from the boys and I want to be one of the men.”

— State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, speaking against a proposal that would have stopped debate in the House at 11 p.m.

What’s next:

Monday

10:30 a.m. Education spending report by Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute, before Senate Ways and Means, room 548-South.

1:30 p.m. House and Senate education committees hear recommendations from Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force, room 112-North.

Tuesday

9:30 a.m. Hearing on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax proposal, before Senate Assessment and Taxation, room 548-South.

Thursday

9 a.m. Hearing on House Bill 2037, religious displays on public property, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, room 346-South.

9 a.m. Presentation on climate science before House Energy and Environment Committee, room 582-North.

Friday

House and Senate education committees field trip to Walton Rural Life Center in Newton, and Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City.

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