Newsletter - January 20, 2020
Dr. Ken Trzaska President of Seward County Community College and I visited about reciprocity agreements between Seward County and other State Universities and state funding for SCCC. We also discussed pathways to get education degrees, business degrees, social work degrees and other degrees cost effectively in our community.
I had lunch with USD 480 School Board Member Stewart Cauble. Stewart works for Seaboard Farms and is participating in the KARL, Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program this year. We had a great conversation about economic development, education funding and workers compensation.
My office assistant this year is Alicia Madison. She can be reached by dialing my office number at 785-296-7466. We still have some page slots available for February and March. The Page program
is designed for students in middle school, junior high or the first years of high school and the student must be at least 12 years old. Working as a page in the Kansas Legislature is an excellent way to learn more about the legislative process.
State of the State
The Governor delivered the State of the State Address on Wednesday. The address was short of specifics but many of the policies were revealed in more detail in the 2021 Budget Directors overview
. Unfortunately, the budget only works if the governor’s KPERS reamortization proposal that includes short term “savings” at the expense of accruing debt totaling $4.4 billion
is passed. A similar plan was voted down by the House last year and was denounced by the governor herself in 2017 when she served in the Senate. For the second straight year we have a proposed budget that only works based up making future Kansans pay for the mistakes of the past.
In response to this proposal, KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy provided the following information:
- Under the governor’s proposal, the amortization period would be extended to 25 years (adds 10 years to current amortization) for unfunded actuarial liability (KPERS State/School). This requires adding $4.4 billion in additional payments.
- Reamortization is projected to delay KPERS reaching the 80% funded ratio by seven years (2036, not 2029)
- Reamortization requires a payment of $268.4 million at end of current FY for prior missed KPERS State/School employer contributions. The Legislature previously authorized payments over 20 years for those missed contributions.
- Paying KPERS obligations early does not improve the actuarial funding of KPERS, but does get the payment to KPERS more quickly for investment.
At the expense of $4.4 billion
in debt, the governor’s proposal “frees up” additional SGF funds to prop up her budget:
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Executive Reorganization Order (ERO)
On January 8, the governor announced plans
to combine three agencies into the Department of Human Services (KDHS). The KDHS would be comprised of the current Department for Children and Families (DCF), Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), and the juvenile services division from the Department of Corrections. The governor has chosen current DCF and KDADS Secretary Laura Howard to lead the new agency. The governor must submit the ERO within the first 30 days of the session. House and Senate Rules require that an ERO be assigned to a committee. The committee has 15 calendar days to act, if disapproving the ERO. Both with the committee and the floor, an ERO, the same as a statute, may be amended or repealed. If no action is taken by either the House or Senate after 60 days, the ERO becomes effective on July 1. To date, the ERO has not been introduced. The Legislature needs to see more information on this plan before moving forward.
Civil Discourse Training
Friday, I attended the “Building Trust through Civil Discourse” workshop, which aims to improve civil discourse and find common ground among state legislators around the country. We left the workshop with an action plan we created tailored to the Kansas legislature. Part of the action plan includes a “Word of the Week” program for the legislature based upon a Program USD 480 had in the mid 1990’s.
During the workshop, we built our skills in civil discourse, shared our personal journeys, identified areas of common interest, and enhanced relationships across party lines. It was an energizing day where we agreed to work together to improve a culture where discourse and collaboration typify public policy development.
Rep. Steven Johnson (R) Assaria said, “Civility means embracing rather than demeaning differing points of view. It does not automatically equal compromise or change how often we get our way. Civility is built on respect, understanding and requires active listening.
Lawmakers representing eight different states from both political parties facilitated the discussions, including Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman (R) whose wife Jana Harris Hickman played basketball at SCCC. Gerald Harris, her father, served as Dean of Students at SCCC.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Please reach out to me any time I can assist you with a state agency concern. I do ask that you send the request to me by email. This ensures that I get the information correctly to the agency we are working with. You can reach me when I’m in Topeka by email Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org
, by phone (785) 296-7466, or by mail at 300 SW 10th
Avenue, 274-W, Topeka, KS 66612. My office at the Capitol is 274W, second floor west wing.