TOPEKA | Lawmakers plan to make another run this year at giving local school districts the ability to raise property taxes to fund extracurricular activities.
There are two bills pending in the Legislature that are aimed at accomplishing the same goal but are getting there a little differently.
One bill is backed by Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican. The bill would allow school districts to ask voters to raise their taxes to pay for extracurricular activities. The districts would be capped at 3 percent of the median amount spent per pupil statewide. It would potentially mean millions more for area school districts.
The Blue Valley School District stands to get $6.5 million out of the Denning bill if voters agreed to that much of a property tax increase. Olathe could get as much as $8.3 million and Shawnee Mission could get about $8.1 million. Roughly $2 million would be available to De Soto and $1.5 million could go to the Gardner-Edgerton School District.
There is another bill in the House that is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday. But that bill would not make as much money available to Johnson County districts because it would cap the amount at 2 percent of the average amount spent statewide per pupil.
Local lawmakers have been pushing for this extra taxing authority for several years. Initially, the bill was opposed by rural lawmakers who opposed giving the extra ability to Johnson County schools to raise money. Last year, the measure passed the House but died in the Senate.
Johnson County is fighting a proposal at the Capitol that would limit its ability to restrict the flow of waste going into the Deffenbaugh Industries landfill in Shawnee.
The bill would bar counties, like Johnson, from imposing restrictions on privately run landfills and their customers outside the county.
The bill is backed by the state health department, which argues that it’s unfair for cities or counties to impose potentially costly waste-disposal rules on communities outside their jurisdiction.
Johnson County officials have put limits on waste disposal at the Deffenbaugh landfill in order to lengthen its life span. The limits apply to everyone sending trash to the landfill.
The county told residents the new trash and recycling regulations were necessary because the landfill would run out of space by 2027.
County Manager Hannes Zacharia said the bill would put the county in a position of requiring its own residents to comply with waste-disposal restrictions while allowing anyone from outside the county to forego those same limits.
Zacharias also said the bill would make it more difficult to meet the state waste-management plan, which requires the county to detail specific ways for reducing the volume of trash going to the landfill.
A similar bill was passed by the House last year, but later died in the Senate.
State environmental officials emphasize the bill would not stop the county from imposing waste-disposal limits on its own residents or for a landfill that it owns. And the bill would still allow counties to seek agreements from outside users on restrictions they might want to put in place, they said.
So, you thought the only day to celebrate freedom was the Fourth of July?.
A group of Johnson County conservatives has joined in backing a bill that would require school districts to establish “Celebrate Freedom Week.”
The week generally would cover Sept. 17, the day the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787. The bill would require the state Board of Education to develop rules for school districts to teach the “original intent, meaning and importance” of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in their “historical contexts.”
The bill stipulates that the Declaration of Independence and its ideas should be taught in the context of the country as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement and the fight for women’s suffrage, among other things.
Johnson County lawmakers backing the bill include: Reps. Kelly Meigs of Lenexa, Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee, Scott Schwab of Olathe, Arlen Siegfreid of Olathe, Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe, Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park, Rep. Jerry Lunn of Overland Park, Bob Montgomery of Olathe; Charles Macheers of Shawnee, Craig McPherson of Overland Park and James Todd of Overland Park. All are Republicans.
State Rep. Brett Hildabrand’s battle for state’s rights doesn’t stop with overzealous airport screeners.
The Shawnee Republican has a bill that would prevent federal agents — or anyone else for that matter — from indefinitely detaining a suspect without filing charges or holding a trial. A violation of the law would be a misdemeanor.
Hildabrand contends that the federal law allowing suspects to be detained because of national security concerns runs afoul of the constitutional guarantee to a speedy and public trial.
“The Sixth Amendment makes no exception for who should receive the right to a public trial, regardless of the crime committed,” Hildabrand said in written testimony in support of the bill. “Secondly, I am concerned with the executive branch’s unilateral ability to define ‘terrorist’ and carry out punishment.”
Hildabrand said he believes it’s possible that abortion opponents, returning war veterans, gun rights supporters and third-party political candidates could be singled out for detention under the law.
“Consider how many law-abiding citizens fit into one of these categories that the executive branch has identified as a red flag for domestic terrorism.,” he said. “When we allow the government the power to detain citizens without a trial, there can be no God-given right safe from such a government.”
The bill outlawing indefinite detention is similar to his bill banning airport screeners from touching the private parts of airline passengers as they go through security.
Although experts believe federal law trumps state law under the Constitution, Hildabrand believes federal laws can be voided if they are not carried out in accordance with the Constitution
The state Senate last week began its reassessment of legislative and state court power by hearing testimony from proponents of a bill setting the legislature’s authority to determine school funding.
The bill comes after the recent school finance ruling under the Shawnee Country District Court that said the Kansas Legislature violated its own Constitution by not giving “suitable” financing for education. The judges said the state needs to return to the legally required level of $4,492 per student, which is an increase from the current level of $3,838 per student.
Sen. Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, testified that Article 3 of the Kansas Constitution authorizes the organization of the judicial system. It gives the court power to govern procedures in court districts and gives the judges the power to discipline attorneys, judges, and nonjudicial employees, Abrams said.
“Nowhere does Article 3 give authority to the courts to appropriate money,” Abrams said. “Nor does Article 3 give authority to the courts to determine policy for the state.”
Because it would change the state’s constitution, if passed by the Legislature, the bill would then need to be approved by voters.
Dave Trabert, president of the conservative Kansas Policy Institute, said that according to a recent survey conducted by KPI, 73 percent of Kansans agree that adequate funding of schools should be based on achievement levels while also making efficient use of taxpayer money.
Stevi Wilson contributed to this report.