On Wednesday, Kansas lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance a bill creating a constitutional amendment. The bill is an attempt to stop school funding litigation in the future.
In October, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled schools were not properly funded and gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to come up with a solution.
The amendment passed out of committee with a 12-10 vote and now goes to the House floor for debate.
“Emotions are high this week. We don’t think it would be prudent to put this before the entire body this week,” explained House Majority Leader Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton.
Currently, the constitution says Kansas must make “suitable” provisions to finance education. The amendment would clarify that only the legislature can determine what “suitable” means.
Passing a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. Lawmakers in both chambers said they don’t believe they have the votes to pass it.
“I think the Senate is a considerable amount number short to pass the constitutional amendment, but I think the House is also,” said State Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia.
“No, there are not the votes to pass this in the House,” said State Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita.
The constitutional amendment brought school funding talks to a halt after Senate leaders said they wouldn’t take up school funding unless the constitutional amendment passed. The leadership’s ultimatum didn’t sit well with other Senators.
“Time is running out and it’s time for us to do our job,” said Senate Minority leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
However, Wednesday evening Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning issued a statement saying:
“We commend the House Judiciary Committee for sending out a constitutional amendment that would ensure budget stability for all areas of government. Speaker Ryckman requested the Senate delay deliberation and debate on school finance to allow him time to pass a constitutional amendment. However, it is unfortunate that he is unwilling to debate the amendment on the House floor, denying Kansans an opportunity to have a say on how their tax dollars are spent. After wasting two days at the Speaker’s request, we will debate the Senate’s school finance plan tomorrow.”
The Senate’s school funding plan adds $274 million to schools over the next five years.
On Tuesday, the House passed a $522 million school funding plan. Governor Colyer said he supported the House’s plan.