Monday, March 18, 2013

Capitol Report: Higher education cuts, pension changes, proof of citizenship

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Republican budget plans would cut higher ed

Republican budget plans teed up for debate in the House and Senate this week will take whacks at higher education in Kansas.

The plan approved in the House Appropriations Committee would apply a 4 percent across-the-board cut to higher education, which would total $29.2 million, and impose a cap on wages and salaries. A 4 percent cut in state funding to Kansas University would equal nearly $10 million and put state funding at KU below 2006 levels.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee plan would cut higher education by 2 percent, reduce by half the state's $5 million annual commitment to the KU Cancer Center, and cut $10 million that Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed for the KU Medical Center for a new health education building.

The proposed cuts in spending are driven by Republican plans to reduce spending to coincide with a reduction in revenues from a proposed cut to the state income tax. 

Brownback administration seeks further pension changes

Why are Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Nobel Laureate professor Robert Merton and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley testifying in support of a state Senate bill that deals with a fund transfer to the Kansas Highway Patrol?

Because Senate Bill 117 will become a vehicle used to consider a plan design for overhauling the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, and chairman of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

According to the Capital-Journal article, Bradley and Merton are affiliated with Dimensional Fund Advisors, an Austin-based investment firm led by Kansas University donor David Booth, who recently made headlines for purchasing the original rules of basketball for $4.3 million.

DFA offers a 401(k)-style retirement plan that conservative Republicans have expressed an interest in for state employees.

The newspaper reported that Gov. Sam Brownback, Colyer, State Treasurer Ron Estes, Kansas Public Employee Retirement System Executive Director Alan Conroy, Budget Director Steve Anderson, Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, and Johnson met with Booth and others earlier this month.

The hearing on Senate Bill 117 is at 9 a.m. Monday before the House Pensions and Benefits Committee in Room 152-South.

Arizona voting law challenge could affect Kansas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments to a challenge to an Arizona law that requires residents there to show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before voting in national elections.

The case could have implications for Kansas and other states that have similar requirements.

Supporters of the law say it is needed to prevent noncitizens from voting, while opponents say the law makes it more difficult for eligible voters to vote, specifically minorities and the elderly.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected in June.

As of Jan. 1, people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas must provide documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship.

Quote of the week:

"The United States belongs to the citizens of Kansas, not the other way around."

— State Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, in support of a bill that would put federal officers in jeopardy of arrest if they tried to enforce a federal law on a gun owned or manufactured in Kansas that stays in the state.

What's next:


9 a.m. — Possible vote on House Bill 2384, dismantling classified employment system, before House Appropriations, Room 112-North.

3:30 p.m. — Higher education institutions and economic development agencies will speak against the salary and wage cap for higher education, Room 546-South.


1:30 p.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 149, drug screening for recipients of cash assistance and unemployment benefits, before House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Hearing on House Bill 2192, repealing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 141, prohibiting abortions based on gender of unborn, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Vote on Senate Bill 141, prohibiting abortions based on gender of unborn, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.