Finch: Concerned about countywide school district proposal

By State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties

Greetings from the Kansas Statehouse. I write to you from the beginning of the second year of our two-year session. This means many of the bills from last year are still alive and capable of being acted on with little notice. In addition, many new bills have already been offered this year. Here is a rundown of a few of them that may be of interest.

HB 2504. I have heard from many of you about this bill which would essentially create one countywide school district for many of Kansas’ 105 counties. I remain concerned about how this theory would work in practice – with four or more school boards running one school district, which one would have oversight of staff and which one would control the purse strings? There are a lot of unanswered questions with this bill and the potential for many negative outcomes for our communities. The bill is currently in the House Education Committee.

SB 316. This bill would move up a property tax lid on city and county governments, which is not set to take effect until 2018. Local elected officials across the state oppose the bill saying the people elect their city and county commissioners to make those decisions. They also say the bill’s provisions that require a local election every time local revenues exceed inflation are not workable with current election and budget laws. Proponents of the bill say they want the public to vote in any year in which property tax exceeds inflation. I tend to believe that government closest to the people is best equipped to make these decisions and whatever we do should work with existing laws, not make costly conflicts. I will be watching this bill closely to see if some common ground emerges. This bill is currently in the Senate Tax Committee.

SB 367. This bill makes wholesale changes to our state’s juvenile justice system. The bill itself is 110 pages long. It comes as a result of a yearlong process that included various stakeholders who are trying to figure out how to have less juvenile offenders in state custody and use more effective means to rehabilitate these young people. There are many wonderful policy ideas in this big bill, but the biggest question is whether we can really count on the powers that be to fund the increased treatment and incarceration alternatives this bill envisions. This bill is currently in the Senate Corrections Committee.

These are a just a few of the more press worthy bills that are being discussed so far this year. This first part of the session is when committees are at their busiest. The committees I serve on are no exception. The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee has already heard and worked many bills. Most have focused on ways to reduce the prison population. However, many of those ideas lack the funding to make them realistic. Judiciary Committee has a number of bills including ones aimed at helping victims of domestic violence. Finally, Utilities has heard about the state’s fiber optic backbone and the possibility of having 100 Gig service for the state’s universities and health care facilities that increasingly depend on the internet to provide world class health care to our citizens.

The pace will be picking up in coming weeks and I encourage everyone to be aware and involved of our most precious democratic process. If I can be of help to you or if you want to share your thoughts with me I welcome your email at [email protected] or your call at 785-296-7655.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas