Monday, March 25, 2013

Capitol Report: Fire districts, third-grade retention and immigration

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Flory testifies for changes in fire district legislation

TOPEKA — Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory last week testified in favor of House Bill 2249 that would allow residents to have an election if they want to detach from a fire district.

Flory said Marion Township, where he lives, in Douglas County is covered by Fire District No. 4 in Osage County, but Marion Township is closer to the Clinton Township Fire Department substation. Under current law, he said, when a fire district has territory in more than one county, the residents of the district who do not live in the “home” county cannot detach from that district if the district’s governing body denies their petition.

“The current state of the law creates a situation where select residents essentially lack representation on the governing bodies that control a portion of their taxation,” Flory said.

But Steve Hirsch, secretary of the Kansas State Firefighters Association, opposes the bill, saying it could be abused in a way that hinders the ability of fire districts to depend on its tax base to purchase necessary equipment.

The legislation is still under consideration.

Retention of third-graders 

Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to hold third-graders back if they don’t read at grade-level on a test is still alive in an altered form, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, says he supports the idea, though he added later, “I’m not for mandates in any way, shape or form.”

When asked if that wasn’t a mandate, Merrick said he felt it was necessary for the child to succeed in school.

“If I had my way, you’d have to pass a test to get out of high school,” Merrick said.

Quote of the week

“I think it’s funny, Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you.”

— State Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, who is Native American, speaking to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is known for his anti-immigration positions.

What’s next: Most legislative action will be in conference committees and on the floors of the House and Senate.