The 2018 Legislative Session has several major issues to address this year, and we are ready to get to work on finding commonsense, bipartisan solutions.
Kansas works better when we work together. We look forward to strengthening the bipartisan coalition that enabled us to make positive changes last year and building on that coalition to continue to work for the good of every Kansan.
2018 Committee Assignments
This session, my committee assignments include
- Financial Institution and Pensions Committee (Ranking Democrat)
- Insurance Committee
- Local Government Committee
- Transportation and Public Safety
In October 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the school finance bill passed during the 2017 session as unconstitutional, giving the legislature a deadline of April 30, 2018 to present a new formula that will satisfy the adequacy and equity portions of the Gannon case.
Some conservative Republicans in the legislature have opposed the Court’s ruling, and will seek a constitutional amendment to restrict the Court’s role in the matter of school finance. The Kansas Constitution directs that “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state” in Article VI.
Every child in Kansas deserves access to a quality education, regardless of where they live. Democrats are ready to get to work immediately on crafting a formula that meets all of the Court’s requirements and ensures our children are provided with every opportunity available.
Governor Brownback – who had previously handed the budget reins to Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer in anticipation of his confirmation by the United States Senate – released his full budget proposal on Wednesday. Budget Director Sean Sullivan presented the proposal to the House Appropriations Committee. The proposal includes $35.5 million in new spending for fiscal year 2018 (FY18) and $290 million in new spending for FY19.
There is nothing in the proposal, however, to suggest how the Governor would pay for the new spending. Sullivan said they are betting on revenue growth and the legislature to come up with how to help pay for the additional spending. Sullivan’s “bottom line” budget document notes that sales tax revenues (in previous years stagnant) have grown 3.6% and that corporate tax revenues (negative for the last several years) have grown 25%.
Brownback Nomination Vote
Governor Brownback – nominated last year by President Trump for an ambassadorship – was re-nominated in 2018 after the U.S. Senate failed to confirm him before the end of 2017. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee re-voted on the first step of his confirmation again last Thursday. The Committee passed the confirmation, and Brownback will now continue through the confirmation process.
Delay in Lansing Corrections Vote
The State Finance Council (which includes the Governor and Republican and Democratic Legislative Leadership) was scheduled to meet for a final vote on the Lansing Correctional Facility project.
The meeting was abruptly canceled ten minutes prior to its start time via a press release sent from Brownback’s office. At the last State Finance Council meeting, the vote was tabled until more information was available.
The Kansas Department of Corrections has awarded a contract for a lease-to-purchase contract to a company called CoreCivic, a for-profit prison company with a dubious reputation nationwide. Two former Brownback top aides have filed as lobbyists for CoreCivic in Kansas. The State Finance Council must approve the contract in order for the project to move forward.
It is uncertain at this time if the vote will occur at the next meeting of the State Finance Council.
Transparency in state government is a thing of the past under the current administration.The Kansas City Star released a series of stories highlighting a disturbing lack of transparency across state agencies and within the administration.
Kansas House Democrats stand poised to hold the administration and state agencies accountable and restore transparency to the Kansas government. It is imperative that the citizens of our state are informed and included in the decisions and issues that affect them. We are committed to full transparency and will be introducing multiple pieces of legislation this session to ensure accountability and honesty in the democratic process.
You can view the Secret Kansas stories here:
- ‘One of the most secretive, dark states’: What is Kansas trying to hide? - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- Editorial: Why hide in the shadows, Kansas? State government is shrouded in secrecy - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- Secrecy inside child welfare system can kill: ‘God help the children of Kansas’ - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- How Kansas lawmakers keep you from finding out what they’re doing — until it’s too late - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- Who benefits from tax breaks in Kansas? You’re not allowed to know - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- When cops kill in Kansas, you probably won’t hear their names or see the video - The Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017
- Editorial: Secret Kansas must yield to transparency, openness - The Kansas City Star, November 19, 2017
Rep. Finney Seeks Students To Serve As Legislative Pages
Rep. Gail Finney urges students Kansas House District 84 who are interested in learning about the legislative process to apply for the 2018 House Page Program. The program is designed for students who are at least 12-years of age that desire a firsthand look at the legislative process. Participating students are excused from class for a day as they tour the Kansas Statehouse and take part in a wide range of activities. The Pages must supply their own transportation to and from the Statehouse in Topeka.
For more information, please review the 2018 House Page program information here or, to apply, call (785) 296-7649.
State of the Judiciary
On Wednesday, the members of both the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court visited the Statehouse for the annual State of the Judiciary. Delivered by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, the address advocated higher pay for those who work within the judicial system.
Nuss said, “Nearly one-third of our employees also need to work jobs outside the judicial branch to make ends meet. This is five times higher than the Kansas average. I am well aware you are still facing many challenges during this legislative session. Maybe some of the biggest ones ever. If things continue on this financial path in the judicial branch, there are serious concerns about our ability to administer the quality of justice that Kansans have come to expect and deserve."
The Supreme Court is requesting $22 million in new money for raising judicial salaries.
Hearing Set for Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill HB 2459 by the Kansas Judicial Council
It's been 24-years since the original Kansas Standard Asset Forfeiture and Seizure Act was passed in 1994. Under this act, a Kansas law enforcement agency is authorized to seize property and cash the agency alleges is involved with certain criminal activity. There has been much discussion nationally of civil asset forfeiture, and a number of states have reformed their forfeiture laws in varying ways over the last few years.
The House Judiciary Committee has set Jan. 24-25 to hear the highly anticipated Civil Asset Forfeiture compromise bill by the Kansas Judicial Council. The committee meets at 3:30 pm in room 112-N.
You can read more about possible legislative fixes to the Kansas Civil Asset Forfeiture Act in my blog post here.
It is My Honor to Serve You in the Kansas Legislature
It is a special honor to serve as your State Representative in the Kansas Legislature. I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.
My office address is Room 451-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach my office at (785) 296-7649 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.
Representative Gail Finney
Kansas House of Representatives
84th House District - Wichita