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Capitol update: Rooker carries first bill, committee debates private education funding bills
In an effort to keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we are featuring regular update columns from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials in the legislature: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Check back on Mondays to find out what’s been happening the past week in Topeka. Rep. Rooker submits this week’s update:
Greetings from Topeka, where things are busy as the turn-around deadline fast approaches. Turn-around means all bills that must pass their house of origin to continue the legislative process in the opposite chamber. However, before a bill can be considered by the entire chamber, it must first pass out of committee. Therefore, committee meetings have been long and involved as we work the bills before us. Of course, the snow day complicated things a bit. Committee hearings are being held as early as 7 a.m. Monday and Tuesday to make up for lost time.In Vision 20/20, we held a series of hearings in the past week to consider the future path of K-12 education. We heard testimony on virtual learning and the use of technology in the classroom, career and technical education, and reports from a group of superintendents from around the state coupled with a briefing by Diane DeBacker, Kansas Commissioner of Education. Strong support for the Common Core State Standards was expressed by the superintendents. Innovation will be the key to the future, and that will take a financial commitment from the state.
Children and Seniors will hear two bills this week. HB 2233 is the Protective Parent Act and HB 2348 pertains to staffing at adult care facilities. We will hear from proponents, opponents and neutral parties, then have the chance to ask questions before making a decision on whether to pass the bills out of committee.
Education has been working a number of bills and has yet to take action on several major policy changes. HB 2320 Charter Schools, HB 2319 Innovative Districts (essentially charter school districts) and HB 2263 Special Education Scholarships (vouchers) are on the agenda for the next few days. All are attempts to move public tax dollars to private entities that would consider themselves exempt from “government intervention.” I am against these efforts. Charters and innovation are already encouraged and allowed by law in our current system, and the state constitution has a provision that establishes state and local board of education oversight over any schools receiving taxpayer dollars (that pesky Article 6 again).
I carried my first bill on Wednesday! That means I introduced it on the House floor, entertained questions, and then made the motion to adopt. It was HB 2261 which provides local districts a bit more flexibility in how to manage and spend their contingency reserve funds. It passed with an overwhelming voice vote after 20 minutes of debate. Final action, with a roll call vote, will happen when we reconvene. This was an exciting milestone for me.
Things develop quickly as each day unfolds. We will endeavor to keep you updated and appreciate your interest.
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