Kansas School Reform Panels Continues Meeting
September 19, 2014

(AP) – A new commission looking for efficiencies within Kansas’ public school system has school consolidation and teacher pay proposals on the agenda as its two-day meeting continues.

The K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission was scheduled to hear a report Friday on why districts carry over unspent money for use in future years. Commissioner member Mike O’Neal says he wants to know why districts’ unspent balances are climbing.

Commissioners also are considering a host of cost-saving proposals. One calls for offering incentives for district to merge or cooperate. Another proposal would change the traditional teacher salary schedule, which ties pay to education and years of experience, to a salary range that takes into account experience and area of expertise.

Kansas Chamber to Lay Out 2014 Agenda Tuesday
January 7, 2014

(AP) – Leaders of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are preparing to outline their agenda for the 2014 legislative session and give an assessment of the state’s business climate.

Chamber president and CEO Mike O’Neal scheduled a briefing Tuesday on what the organization’s members hope lawmakers will accomplish in their annual session, which begins Jan. 13.

O’Neal is a former Republican House speaker from Hutchinson.

In recent years, the chamber has been influential in helping Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-controlled Legislature push through cuts in the state’s income tax rates. O’Neal was speaker in 2012 when the first reductions were approved.

Critics of the cuts say they are too deep and will lead to reduced state services.

“Significant Population Shifts” at Root of Kansas Redistricting, Judges Mull Through Maps and Motives
May 29, 2012

A three judge panel in federal court heard about how dramatic growth in the Kansas City area, and equally dramatic drops in the population of southeast and western Kansas posed problems for lawmakers in redrawing the political lines of the state. In the end, snarled by statehouse politics, lawmakers could not finish the job. The three judges took over the task today.
“Frankly, we shouldn’t have to be in court, but the legislature didn’t take care of thief business”, say Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis at the hearing.
The judges learned that the Kansas City metro, Johnson County in particular, saw a 7% increase in population the last census. At the same time the population in western Kansas dropped 7%. In southeast Kansas the drop was 9%.
Those swings prompted proposed
maps that had the west Kansas First District sweeping from the Missouri line to the Colorado border. There was much talk about proposed changes to the metro’s 3rd District. One map had the third contracting to the west, but picking up portions Of Miami County. Miami had once been part of the KS-3.
Another option had part of Leavenworth County joining the KS-3. House Speaker Mike O’ Neal says the Johnson County area is growing so fast it may have it’s own congressional district in 10 years.
O’Neal offered a plan in the legislature that would have separated Johnson County from Wyandotte County. That was shot down quickly.
The judges also heard about the political stand off that landed the case in federal court.
Traditionally, Kansas House members draw it’s chamber map and the Senate approves it. The same is true with the Senate map On the House side. That did not happen this session.
Democrat Davis, the House Minority Leader, said the House Republican Leadership “meddled” in the Senate plan.
The Chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Johnson County Sen Tim Owns says they had a plan that the Senate approved. The House, however, refused it.
Davis’ own political situation is part if the Redistricting controversy. His own district was redrawn to accept a primary challenge by House Member Greg Smith.
He also spoke of A Republican Redistricting proposal he called “as gerrymandered as you can get”.
He said one GOP state Senate map was aimed alley at ousting top Democrats. Owens is a Republican.
The hearing produced some odd moments. First of all, the desks in front of the bar were filled with more than 30 lawyers. Each representing one if the parties of the case.
House Speaker O’Neal, an attorney, represented himself. At one time, after making his points of law before the judges, he then walked over to the witness chair and took a seat. That was because he was about to be “cross examined” by other attorneys on the case. The three judges will have to work quickly to settle the lines.
The deadline for candidate filing in all Kansas races is less than two weeks away.

Brownback on Tax Cut Deal
May 12, 2012

KC Star:
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday the package of tax cuts that legislators have sent him isn’t the exact plan he wanted in order to stimulate the economy, but it is one that would create growth.

The Republican governor also said that to make the series of reductions in individual income taxes and elimination of some taxes for an estimated 191,000 businesses work, Kansas will need to constrain its spending in future years.

“I’m excited we’re going to get fundamental tax reform for the state of Kansan,” Brownback said. “I’m looking forward to either signing this bill or if something is worked through the Legislature that’s different from this.”

New projections from legislative staff estimate that the tax plan could result in deficits of nearly $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2018.

Brownback said economic models show the plan will create jobs and grow the state economy sooner than the compromise proposal. The approved plan is based on 4 percent annual revenue growth, but Legislative Research Department projections indicate the state would start showing revenue deficits of $242 million in 2014, requiring belt-tightening by state government.

“The rule in government is you will either spend the money to grow the economy or grow the government. We’re going to be able to handle this,” he said.

Kansas Lawmakers Continue to Jostle Over Maps
May 11, 2012

Topeka Capital Journal:
The Senate redistricting committee Thursday offered pointed rebuttal to House colleagues by approving three new maps redrawing political boundaries of the state’s 40 districts for senators.
The three Senate maps endorsed by the committee followed the House’s move to advance a map determining composition of Senate districts ahead of the 2012 elections. The House adopted Thursday fresh versions of maps for the House, Senate and Kansas State Board of Education.
Historically, the House and Senate took the lead in drafting their own district maps. Both chambers this session have rejected maps drawn by the rival chamber.
Consideration of the new Senate map, redrawn every decade based on changes documented in the U.S. census, has been complicated by efforts of Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republican allies in the House and Senate to craft political boundaries undermining the future of moderate senators.
Much of the Senate leadership, including Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, has joined with Democrats to resist redistricting maps that would make it easier for GOP conservatives to win in the August primary.
Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican and chairman of the Senate mapping committee, said the three Senate maps produced by the panel excluded all conservative Republican challengers to incumbent GOP members of the Senate.
“The challengers are out,” Owens said. “I think they’re good options — reasonable options.”
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican and chairman of the House redistricting committee, said he couldn’t support a Senate map drawn with “arrogance” to dispose of challengers.