"I will tell the people what's going on at the statehouse. I'm going to treat the capitol as a borderline crime scene. ... If businesses don't have to pay taxes, the burden should not be on those trying to feed themselves." - The Valley Falls Vindicator & Oskaloosa Independent, March 3, 2016.

Across Kansas the top 1% are looting and on-the-loose, pitting us against each other. Communities in Jefferson County need to democratically prepare themselves for food and energy autonomy.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ann Mah's "Neighborhood News", Jan. 27, 2017

Neighborhood News from Ann Mah
Dear Michael Caddell, 
Hard to believe the Legislature has been in session three weeks already. It seems as though the committees are moving faster this year. That's good, because they have a lot of heavy lifting to do. 
In This Issue
Quick Links
Budget update
Both the House and Senate are at work trying to close the nearly $350 million gap we have to close by June 30. Appropriations committees are looking at the spending side, and tax committees are looking at the revenue side. It is too early to know what new taxes either house might consider seriously, but I expect that to firm up next week. However, there does seem to be some agreement to roll back the so-called "LLC loophole". Not so much agreement on whether there should be a third, higher income tax rate added back for the wealthiest Kansans.

The good news is that there seems to be a consensus that they will not settle for a one-time fix. While it may be tough to fix our problem for fiscal year 2017, there will be a long-term fix in place for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 that balances revenues and expenditures. I find it refreshing that some of these new legislators seem willing to make the tough decisions and are focused on that rather than getting re-elected.

The Senate Republicans seem to be serious about an across-the-board cut that will impact public K-12 schools. They seem to be leaning toward finding some one-time money (i.e., cashing in some idle funds in our investment pool) plus spending cuts. They seem to think that public schools can spend down their cash reserves and get by.

I think legislators should make up their minds whether public schools should be run like businesses or not. Industry standards say that public entities like schools should have about a 15% cash reserve. In Kansas they may need more considering that the state has failed to make its payments on time and reserve funds are needed to fill the gaps the state created with its block grants. To now require them to spend down cash reserves (that are non-existent in some districts) is unrealistic and unwise.
School choice
There was a rally for "school choice" this week at the Capitol. Governor Brownback said he would like to expand school choice in Kansas, where parents could send their children to private schools and use public money to pay for it. 

The Kansas Constitution provides for a free public education for all Kansas children. It forbids for religious sects to control education funds. To get around that, the Legislature created the Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program. Under the program, corporations can make a donation to a Certified Scholarship Granting Organization. That Organization works with low-income students from low-performing public schools who want to go to private schools. Students can receive up to $8000 per year. The schools must be "non-public", and could also be a home school. There are no accountability requirements for the receiving schools and they do not have to be accredited. Because they are using donations from corporations and not money from the education budget to pay for it, the scholarships are technically not in violation of the Constitution.

Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego) said he was going to introduce a bill to expand the tax credits to any donor, not just corporations. In the past, he has also supported expanding the scholarships to any public school student and schools that are not low-performing. When we see his bill, I'll send the details.

I do not support spending public dollars on private schools. Some say that this "competition" will improve public school performance. I'm not sure how draining limited resources away from public schools helps them. And having worked for a Fortune 500 company for over 20 years, I can tell you that the goal of competition is to eliminate the competition. Not a good deal for our public schools. We simply need to focus on fixing low-performing schools and making sure every student succeeds.
Democrats introduce labor bills
The House and Senate Democratic caucuses introduced a number of bills to support working Kansans. Proposals include keeping jobs in Kansas, stopping unscrupulous hiring practices, addressing workplace bullying, restoring teacher due process rights and public employees' civil service rights, and improving worker's compensation, among others. Looks like a number of these bills will get hearings this session as they have no cost to the state.
Concealed carry bill
Perhaps the most-watched hearing this week was for SB 53, about concealed carry on college campuses and some other public buildings (like mental health care centers and medical facilities).  Short of a change in law, these facilities must allow concealed carry starting July 1. Note that there is no longer a requirement for training for concealed carry in Kansas. The hearing was held in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.  The chairman said he expects to work the bill in committee on Thursday, Feb. 2. It looks to be a close vote, so if you have a position on this bill, you might want to contact a committee member before next Thursday. Here is a link to the list of committee members: Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee
KDOT issues
The Secretary of KDOT reported this week on the status of highways in Kansas. He said that in Fiscal Year 2018, beginning July 1, only $28 million would be spent to resurface 235 miles of roads and only $16 million more would be spent on preservation projects. This is a result of sweeping more than $500 million out of the state highway fund to cover shortfalls in the state general fund. In the last five years we spent an average of $157 million a year resurfacing over 1400 miles of roads.
KDOT is also delaying 10 modernization projects and 13 expansion projects that were scheduled over the next two years. 
Community Calendar
If you have community events coming up, let me know.  This email goes to nearly 3000 homes in Shawnee, Osage, and Douglas counties. I'd love to help you get the word out!  Just remember to send your activities ahead of time.     
  • Saturday, Jan. 28: Berryton Kiwanis Ham & Bean Feed at Berryton United Methodist Church from 4-7 pm. Vegetable beef soup also served with cornbread, relishes, drink. Dessert auction. 
  • Sunday, Jan. 29: 36th Annual Shawnee County Democratic Party Bean Feed fundraiser.  $5 at the door. 4-7 pm at the IBEW Local 304 Union Hall at 3906 NW 16th Street. 
  • Sunday, Jan. 29: Rise Up Kansas town hall in Junction City at the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library, 230 W 7th St at 2:30 pm
  • Saturday, Feb. 4: First Saturday Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast from 7 to 10 am at the Overbrook American Legion. 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1: Tecumseh Community Dinner at the Tecumseh United Methodist Church from 4:30 to 6 pm. Ham and beans, vegetable soup, relish plate, cornbread, drink and dessert. Free will donation. 
  • Sunday, Feb. 5: Souper Bowl Sunday luncheon at the Perry United Methodist Church at noon. Broccoli Cheese soup, chicken noodle soup, potato soup and chili. Desserts. Free will donation. Carryout available. 
  • Thursday, Feb. 9: Jefferson County Democrats meet at the county courthouse at 6 pm. (new time). For info call Larry Bigham at 785-246-3736.
  • Saturday, Feb. 11: Scranton Lions Pancake Breakfast from 7 am to 11 am at the Scranton Hulsopple Community Center. Pancakes, biscuits & gravy, eggs, drinks. Free-will donations accepted. 
  • Saturday, Feb. 11: Osage County Community Center Valentine's Gala. 6:30 to 9:30 pm.  $10 per person. Dance to EZ Pieces. 
  • Saturday, Feb. 11: Daddy-Daughter dance at the Carbondale ELM building from 6-8 pm. $15 per dad-daughter, with $5 for each additional daughter. Dress up, dance, refreshments, and special party favor. For tickets call Lois at 785-665-7893 or Mary at 785-836-7887.
  • Saturday, Feb. 11: Overbrook Rotary Club Pancake & Sausage Breakfast at the United Methodist Church from 7 am to noon. Tickets available at the door. 
  • Monday, Feb. 13: Perry Senior Citizens Valentine's Day party at the Perry Community Center. Covered dish luncheon at noon. Bring a covered dish to share and $1 and your table service. Music by Ron and Dick. 
  • Saturday, Feb. 18: Gospel concert at Berryton United Methodist Church with The Lesters from St. Louis, MO. Two performances at 3 pm and 7 pm. Love offering for the performers. Concessions available.
  • Saturday, Feb. 18: Free Fiber Arts workshop at Our Savior's Lutheran Church sponsored by the Lutheran Fine Arts Council of Topeka. 9 am to noon. Workshops on weaving, quilt art, needlework, soft-sculpture dolls and felting/tapestry. RSVP to JoLana Pinon at jolanapinon@gmail.com
  • Wednesday, Feb. 22: Community dinner at Berryton United Methodist Church. Pulled pork sandwiches, cheesy potatoes, baked beands, homemade dessert. From 5-7 pm.  Free will donation.
  • Saturday, Feb. 25: Tecumseh Kiwanis Club pancake feed at the Tecumseh United Methodist Church from 7 am to noon. Tickets $5. 6 and under free. Pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee, and orange juice. Silent auction items. 
  • Saturday, Feb. 25: Perry Pride ribbon cutting to celebrate the mural at the Perry Post Office and recognition as a Community of Excellence. 9:30 am
  • Tuesday, Feb. 28: Fat Tuesday pancake feed at Berryton United Methodist Church from 5-7 pm. Freewill donation.
  • Saturday, March 4: Free children's theater workshop at Topeka Civic Theater sponsored by the Lutheran Fine Arts Council of Topeka. Children grades 2-8. Limited to 40 children. To RSVP, write to Ann Mah at annmah@att.net
  • Wednesday, March 29: Community dinner at Berryton United Methodist Church from 5-7 pm. Meatloaf, cheesy potatoes, vegetable, salad and dessert. Free will donation.
  • Kansas Prairie Pickers meet to jam the fourth Sunday of each month from 1 to 5 pmat the Auburn Community Center. Free music. No jam in December. 
  • Storytime at the Auburn Community Library starts up for the fall again on Sept. 8 and continues on Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 pm.
  • Tuesday's Table at Overbrook United Methodist Church. Weekly lunch meal free to the public at noon on Tuesdays. 
  • CARE meets monthly on the second Thursday at the KNEA building, second floor, at 2 pm. For retired teachers or Kansans interested in advocating for education. For info: Larry Brayton at larrydene@cox.net
  • Enjoy BUNCO at the Carbondale Community Building once a month on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.  Call 785-836-7478 for details about dates, prizes, treats, etc. 
  • The Berryton Pickers are at Berryton Baptist Church the first Saturday of the month from 7 to 9 pm.  Bring snacks and have some fun!
  • Country and ballroom dancing at Croco Hall on Thursday nights from 6 to 9 pm.  For information call Edwina Hamersky at 379-9538.
  •  First Saturday of the month community breakfast buffet at Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church.  7:30 to 10 am.  Free will offering.