Monday, March 4, 2013

Capitol Report: School finance, Democratic gubernatorial candidate; why Francisco voted for drug testing

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World  

School finance amendment in detention

Last month, a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the courts from school finance decisions limped out of the Senate with the bare minimum two-thirds majority.

The House hasn't taken it up yet.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said, "We're still working on that. It's in the queue."

A constitutional amendment in the 125-member House would require 84 votes to win approval. So far, Democrats, who oppose the measure, think there are enough votes to block it.

If approved, it would then go before the voters.

Democrat will emerge to challenge Brownback

Democratic leaders in the Legislature say names of possible Democratic challengers to Gov. Sam Brownback won't start surfacing until after the legislative session, which ends in May.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence say they believe a recent poll that shows Brownback has a low approval rating.

"There is a lot of concern about the direction that the governor is taking the state," Davis said.

Hensley said in his recent re-election campaign in November he did polling about how people in his district felt about Brownback. Hensley said Brownback's approval rating, especially among women, was significantly low.

The election isn't until November 2014, but a Democratic challenger would have to start raising money soon.

The Public Policy Polling survey in Kansas found 52 percent of Kansans disapprove of Brownback's performance, while 37 percent approve. Still, Brownback polled better when matched against six different Democrats.

Explanation of vote on drug testing

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, was the only Democrat to vote for a bill that would require drug testing of those receiving welfare or unemployment benefits if the person is suspected of using illegal drugs.

Francisco said she voted for Senate Bill 149 because the Kansas Department for Children and Families was already conducting drug tests on some recipients, and the proposed bill would put into statute the specific procedures. She also said the legislation emphasizes that the purpose of the drug testing is to provide drug treatment, and that welfare benefits will continue to flow to the children of an adult who tests positive for drug use.

On the same bill, state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, voted present, but passing.

Holland said he felt he could not vote against the bill because he had supported an earlier amendment to the legislation that applies the drug testing rules to legislators. But he said he couldn't support the overall bill on drug testing, calling it an "overreach."

Quote of the week:

"How ironic that we have a bill with freedom in the name that is one more mandate on local government." State Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, on House Bill 2280, requiring schools teach about U.S. history and founding documents during "Celebrate Freedom Week," starting Sept. 17.

What's Next:


10 a.m. — Governor's Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty, Board of Regents Conference Room in the Curtis State Office Building.


6:30 p.m. — State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, will discuss Gov. Sam Brownback's income tax plan, at the Emporia Public Library, 110 E. Sixth St., Emporia.


9 a.m. — Hearing on House Bill 2055, expansion of concealed carry to guns, before House Federal and State Affairs, room 346-South.

1:30 p.m. — Hearing on Sub House Bill 2027, contract negotiations for teachers, before House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee, room 346-South.

1:30 p.m. — Marriage and family presentation before Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, room 118-North.


8:30 a.m. — Perspective on Kansas economy and dynamic budget scoring by Art Hall, before Senate Commerce Committee, room 548-South.

8:30 a.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 191, repealing certain agriculture corporation statutes, before Senate Natural Resources, room 159-South.

9 a.m. — Hearing on House Bill 2253, abortion restrictions, before House Federal and State Affairs, room 346-South.

1:30 p.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 196, creating the Kansas public charter school act, before Senate Education Committee, room 144-South.


9 a.m. — Hearing on House Bill 2054, restrictions on adult entertainment, before House Federal and State Affairs, room 346-South.