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 2016 Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

No. 7  February 19, 2016

In This Issue
Public Education Funding
Conservation Easements
Ks. CREP
Natural Resource Bills
Nutrition Labeling
Local Food & FArm TAsk Force Extended
Federal Farm & Food: President's Budget & Sustainable Ag
How to Receive Policy Watch
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates


The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

In 2015, KRC is partnering with the Kansas Natural Resources Council,Audubon of Kansas, and Ks. Association of Regional Development Organizations to provide this report to their members.  We thank them for their support and assistance.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst

To Support 
Policy Watch

Policy Watch Sponsors
  The Kansas Rural Center
promotes the health of the land and its people through research, education and advocacy that advance an ecologically sound, economically viable,  and socially just agriculture. For more information about KRC go to
The Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC)
promotes environmentally responsible practices and sustainable natural resource policies to ensure the quality and abundance of these resources for future generations. For more information about our organization and programs, or how to become a member, please visit
knrc.weebly.com  To be removed from the KNRC Policy Watch list, please contact  Sharon Ashworth at sharon.knrc@gmail.com.


Audubon of Kansas (AOK) is a statewide non-profit organization  established to promote appreciation and stewardship of Kansas' natural ecosystems, with special emphasis on conservation of prairies, birds, other wildlife, and habitat.For more information about our organization and our programs, or how to become a member, please visit http://www.audubonofkansas.org
 to be removed from the AOK Policy Watch list, please contact Monica Goss at monica.goss@audubonofkansas.org


Kansas Association of Regional Development Organizations, Inc. (KARDO) is a statewide, non-profit organization established to improve the ability of both organizations and individuals engaged in regional planning and development to service the needs of all parts of Kansas in an effective and efficient manner.  For more information about our organization and programs, and to become a member or donate, please visit http://kardo.ncrpc.org .  To be removed from the KARDO Policy Watch list, contact John Cyr at jcyr@nckcn.com .


Legislative Timeline Shortened
                                           
  by Paul Johnson
   
    The 2016 Kansas Legislative leaders are rushing to finish this session. First adjournment set for February 26 is now February 22 or 23. The Legislature will be off till March 2. The plan for second adjournment has now been moved up a week to March 25 to begin the veto session break. The Kansas Legislature will reconvene on April 27 for the start of the veto session. April 27 will mark the 69 th day of the session.

    On April 20, the consensus revenue experts will meet to develop new revenue projections for the next 30 months. These new revenue projections must be used to finish off the 2016 State budget that ends on June 30 and to finalize the 2017 State budget. 

    Given what happens with actual monthly revenues in February and March plus lower oil/natural gas severance taxes, it is very likely that the April 20 revenue projections will be lower, forcing more difficult budget reductions. This political process seems very broken. 

   The 2015 Kansas Legislature passed a two year budget for 2016 and 2017 so budget committees and subcommittees would have and could have had extra time this session to debate the revenue mess in Kansas, the options to expand Medicaid without the need for new state funding, and start crafting a new school funding formula.  But most of this debate has been blocked by the leadership. There is not a plan B to rectify the 'self-inflicted' revenue mess if the consensus revenue estimates are lowered. 

More "Lipstick" Budget Balancing

   House Substitute for SB 161 - the budget bill for 2016 and 2017 - has passed both the House and Senate and awaits the Governor's signature. As our state mental hospitals continue to struggle, $2 million in state general funds (SGF) was added to address understaffing and recertification issues at Osawatomie State Hospital. $1 million in SGF was added to address understaffing issues at Larned State Hospital for 2016. 

   Right now the State of Kansas budget will have less than $10 million in the ending balance on June 30. Since the balance will be below $100 million, the Governor will have 'enhanced' allotment authority to selectively reduce state programs or transfer special revenue funds into the SGF. It seems certain the Governor will forego state contributions into the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) before June 30 but must repay these contributions by September 30 with 8% interest. Language was added to prohibit the privatization of Larned or Osawatomie State Hospitals without specific authorization by the Legislature. The Kansas Supreme Court ruling to add $70 million to rectify equity funding issues in the school funding formula was ignored in this budget bill.

    For the 2017 budget, $30 million in SGF contributions to KPERS death and disability was deleted. The transfer of $42 million in Children's Initiative Funds to the SGF was negated. The Children's Cabinet will technically control these funds although the Governor may adjust the funds. $7.2 million of the $42 million will come from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, which will require the use of these TANF funds to be means tested. $2.5 million in SGF is added to fund a 2.5% salary increase in Corrections for adult and juvenile corrections officers. (There is no salary increase for any other state employee. This has been the case since 2009.)

   Again for 2017, the State's ending balances are below $100 million so the Governor will have the same enhanced allotment authority to reduce SGF expenditures or transfer money from special revenue funds (such as the Highway Fund) to the SGF. While the Kansas Legislature could have re-balanced the revenue picture with fairer income taxes and had the time for such a debate, it is easier to slip out of town and let a lame duck Governor continue to denigrate public services.

   In summary,  the Kansas Supreme Court order to rectify equity funding issues in the school funding formula was ignored for the 2017 budget. Larned and Osawatomie State Hospitals cannot be privatized without specific authorization by the Legislature. This budget bill did allocate $50,000 for legal costs for the Kansas Legislature in regards to school funding issues before the Kansas Supreme Court. A constitutional showdown may be in the offing.

 
How to Contact Your Legislator

Kansas House of Representatives,
 Click Here

For House  Committees,        Click  Here

Kansas Senate
   Click  Here
             
For Senate Committees, Click  Here


 
  Public Education Funding Debate Has Begun
   
    One debate has begun on creating a new school funding formula. 
House Bill 2596 moves funding from a student based formula to a classroom based funding formula. This proposal could be fully debated next year before the Kansas Legislature. If passed, it would be piloted in 2018 in at least one school district in each of the four Congressional districts. If successful and workable, this classroom based funding formula would go statewide by 2019. The Kansas Legislative Post Audit would determine what qualifies as basic classroom instructional costs. 

   HB 2596 is a broad framework with many details - such as the true cost to educate at-risk students or special needs students - to be determined. What constitutes a classroom and instruction will have to be clearly delineated in statute. School superintendents and school board representatives have been working on developing a new school funding formula for the past year. Meanwhile the debate over tax credits for low-income students attending private schools - 
House Bill 2457 - could well be debated on the House floor on Monday. This bill was introduced in the House Federal and State Affairs committee so it is exempt from any time deadline to be passed.   
 
Conservation Easements Dramatically Changed
  

   Senate Bill 425 allows boards of county commissioners to regulate granting of conservation easements on property located within such counties. A conservation easement may be created, conveyed, recorded, assigned, released, modified, terminated, or otherwise altered or affected in the same manner as other easements. Conservation easements would cease to be perpetual since they could be altered or terminated. 

   Perpetual conservation easements protect important natural resources, prime farmland, tall grass prairies, wildlife habitat, and important water resources for future generations. These easements assist farm families with estate and succession planning providing beginning farmers an opportunity to purchase agricultural land at a discounted price. This bill authorizes county commissions to interfere with voluntary agreements between private landowners and private conservation organizations or government agencies, who are currently authorized by law to accept and administer conservation easements. 

   One hearing was held last Thursday on SB 425 where proponents were given 45 minutes of the hour to state their support but the 20 opponents in the room were told to come back some time in the future. 
Ks. Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to be Debated  
   
   Senate Bill 330 has now passed from the Senate Natural Resources committee and will be debated on the Senate floor next week. The Kansas Department of Agriculture division of conservation shall administer the conservation reserve enhancement program (CREP) on behalf of the of the state of Kansas pursuant to agreements with the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of implementing beneficial water quality and water quantity projects concerning targeted watersheds to be enrolled in CREP. 

   All CREPs in Kansas shall not exceed 40,000 acres. No more than 25% of the acreage in CREP may be in any one county. Only partial field enrollments shall be accepted into a CREP established for water quality purposes. The Kansas Department of Agriculture will submit an annual CREP report documenting the acreage, total water rights retired, other water measurements and the economic impact.
 
More Natural Resource Bills
     
   Senate Substitute for House Bill 2059 creates an application requirement and fee to appropriate water that otherwise leaves the state. This bill would set the stage to appropriate water from the Missouri River. This bill passed the Senate Natural Resources committee but created great concerns over the cost and impact on negotiating with downstream states. This bill has now been placed back in the Senate Natural Resources committee for further debate.

Senate Bill 384 changes and narrows the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. While this bill has had its hearing in the Senate Natural Resources committee, it was not worked by the committee this last week, but will probably be worked in committee in March.

State Nutrition Labeling Bill Passes Out of Committee

    House Bill 2595 reserves regulation of nutrition labeling for food menu items in restaurants and vending machines to the legislature while bypassing local governments. 
HB 2595  was debated and passed by the Commerce, Labor and Economic Development committee with amendments that narrowed its scope. 

   Additional amendments within the next couple of weeks are anticipated as the bill moves to the House to be debated.   Amendments will be posed to the bill website.

    The original bill preempted local efforts to address food based disparities and to make the healthy choice the easy choice in settings such as restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines.  There was concern the bill could also negatively affect momentum around local food systems.

Local Food and Farm Task Force Passes Senate
 
   Senate Bill 314 extends the 'local food and farm' task force through July 2017. This task force will submit a report to the 2017 Kansas Legislature. SB 314 passed the Senate on a vote of 38 to 1. 

   The 2015 Local Food and Farm Task Force Report to the Kansas Legislature can be accessed at this site: http://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/agricultural-marketing-advocacy-and-outreach-team/local-food-and-farm-task-force
 
Water, Energy, Land and Food Forum 
     at the Capitol March 17


Join KRC along with partners and people from all over Kansas 
March 17th  when we will gather at the Kansas State House to learn about and advocate for water, energy, land, & food policy in Kansas. 
 
The Legislative Day will begin at 10 a.m.   There will be a Climate Prayer vigil from 9 to 10 a.m. that everyone is welcome to attend.
 
The agenda for the day includes the following:  
  • 10:00-11:30   Advocacy Overview (Visitor's Center Auditorium)
  • 10:00-4:00     Solutions Showcase (1st Floor Rotunda)  
  • 11:30-1:00     Speakers & Local Foods Lunch (1st Floor Rotunda, North Wing)
  • 2:00-3:00       Cookies & Conservation Conversation (1st Floor Rotunda)
  • 1:00 - 4:00     Meetings with legislators 
Please RSVP if you plan to join for lunch:   http://tinyurl.com/WELF2016  


Federal Farm & Food Policy News:
  President's 2017 Budget & Sustainable Agriculture

     February 10, 2016  From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)


The President's final budget proposal to Congress potentially has major implications for all aspects of our food and agriculture systems-everything from conservation to rural development, nutrition and food safety. While White House budget proposals are routinely characterized in the press as "dead on arrival" on Capitol Hill, that obscures the fact that at the level of individual government programs, the requested funding levels often have a big impact on congressional action. In turn, changes to program budgets can dramatically influence the performance and availability of sustainable agriculture programs.
   On Tuesday, February 9 the Administration released its budget request for fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which includes significant proposed changes to the budgets of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those proposals will be considered by Congress this spring and summer as they work through the process of adopting appropriations bills for FY17.
   In general, NSAC views this budget request as good news for sustainable agriculture, as detailed in the sections below. Quite a few of our funding level proposals to the Administration last summer have found their way into the budget proposal.
   Overall, the President's budget is requesting $25.5 billion in discretionary funding for USDA, down from the $27.2 billion actual funding level in the current fiscal year. For FDA, the President's budget proposes $5.1 billion in total resources, a 4 percent increase over FY16 levels. This includes an increase of $26 million to support food safety, including for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. It also, however, includes proposed user fees that Congress will almost certainly reject.
   A full review of the budget proposals, highlighting NSAC priorities, follows.
Kansas Legislature Website
  While we will provide information on calendars and upcoming hearings on some bills and issues, this information on committees, weekly calendars and schedules, bills, etc.  is directly available at the website below:

http://www.kslegislature.org/li/

The calendar of deadlines for the session  can also be found here.
How to Ensure You Receive Weekly Policy E-Updates
Contributors to KRC of $60 or more are automatically on the Policy Watch list, if they provide an e-mail address; or you can subscribe just for the Updates for $25.    KRC will send complimentary copies to non-contributors for several issues.   To get information on how to support Policy Watch,, click   HERE.

In 2016, KRC is partnering with the Kansas Natural Resource Council , 
Audubon of Kansas, and Kansas Association of Regional Development Organizations (KARDO) to send Policy Watch to their members. We thank them for their support. 

 If you are receiving Policy Watch because you are an AOK member, to be removed you need to contact Monica Goss at monica.goss@audubonofkansas.org.  To be removed as a KNRC member, contact Sharon Ashworth at sharon.knrc@gmail.com. To be removed as a KARDO member, you need to contact John Cyr at  jcyr@nckcn.com 

 If you would are on KRC's mailing list, and would like to opt out of receiving KRC Weekly Updates, please contact Joanna Voigt at  
About Policy Watch
The Kansas Rural Center
4021 SW 10th Ave. #337
Topeka, Ks. 66604

866-579-5469
www.kansasruralcenter.org
 
   If you have any questions about Policy Watch, contact Mary Fund, editor at mfund@kansasruralcenter.org, or contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@centurylink.net

 

   To learn more about the Kansas Rural Center, please visit our website at