Kansas House narrowly passes Gov. Brownback’s school funding overhaul

House Speaker Ray Merrick, left, and other Republicans raise their hands to hold the roll open during a final vote Friday on a bill overhauling Kansas school finance. Leaders were trying to round up three absent members in order to muster enough votes to pass the bill One of the missing members, Rep. Virgil Peck of Tyro, was flown back from Coffeyville on a state plane, but did not arrive in time to cast his vote, but it passed anyway, 64-57.

? The Kansas House gave final passage Friday to a bill that radically overhauls the way schools are funded in Kansas, but it took more than two hours — and a special flight on a state plane — to bring one lawmaker back from Coffeyville to Topeka, to corral all the legislators needed to send the bill to the Senate.

The Senate is likely to take up the bill next week, but a senior aide there said Senate leaders have not yet decided whether to debate their own version of the bill or merely concur with the House version.

Also on Friday, however, a three-judge district court panel in Topeka, which is presiding over an ongoing school finance lawsuit, threatened to block the law from taking effect.

In the House, the bill passed by a vote of 64-57. But leaders had to hold the roll open for more than two hours to get that many yes votes.

When the initial vote was taken shortly after 8 a.m., the vote stood at 62-57, one vote short of the 63 votes needed to pass legislation in the House. Five members were absent, including three Republicans who were expected to vote yes.

Among them was Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, who was travelling with Gov. Sam Brownback in Coffeyville when a “call of the House” was ordered, a move that requires all members to be present and cast a vote. The event was described as an “economic announcement” involving the ACME Foundry in Coffeyville.

The two other absent Republicans were Reps. Rob Bruchman of Leawood and James Todd of Overland Park.

Eileen Hawley, Brownback’s press secretary, confirmed via email that when the call of the House was ordered, Peck was flown back to Topeka on the state plane to cast his vote.

Hawley estimated the cost of the one-way flight from Coffeyville to Topeka at $205. She also said Peck would be flown back to Coffeyville after the vote to attend an afternoon event with the governor in nearby Independence.

But Peck did not arrive in time. Bruchman and Todd both arrived shortly after 10 a.m. and cast their votes in favor of the bill. Two other Republicans then switched their votes in opposite directions, cancelling each other out, leaving the final count at 64-57. Peck was officially listed as not voting.

The two Democrats who were absent were Reps. Barbara Ballard of Lawrence and Carolyn Bridges of Wichita, both of whom had voted no on preliminary passage of the bill Thursday. Since it takes 63 “yes” votes to pass a bill, their absences had the same effect as no votes.