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College trustees watch legislation in Topeka
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Barton Community College President Dr. Carl Heilman said he’s hoping the Legislature will adopt Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget as it concerns funding for higher education. The governor has proposed to keep state support at last year’s level.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Senate has proposed a 2 percent reduction in state aid, and the House budget calls for a 4 percent cut. One percent represents $80,000 in state aid, Heilman told the BCC Board of Trustees when it met Thursday.
Barton administrators and the Kansas Board of Regents have been watching a number of bills that would impact higher education in the state. Today is the “drop-dead day” for action on most bills in the Senate, while the House has allowed itself two more days, Heilman said.
“There remain some heavy issues for higher education,” Heilman said. Senate Bill 22, which extends the life of the Technical Education Authority that aligns higher education and technical education, is expected to pass. Senate Bill 145, which would have moved the elections for college trustees to November and made them partisan elections, is dead.
The Personal and Family Protection Act that requires public buildings to provide adequate security if they do not allow concealed carry on the premises, may pass, but if it does it will include a “local option” for post-secondary schools, so trustees could vote to exempt the college.
The most troublesome bill that hasn’t gone away could be Senate Bill 45, which limits the lobbying efforts of entities that receive tax dollars. Heilman said the bill is still alive, and it “has legs.”
Mike Johnson, chairman of BCC’s board of trustees, commented on the bill. “There are some legislators that are really upset about the K-12 (funding) lawsuit. That is what is driving this,” he said.
The bill makes it illegal to use any state appropriated money “for publicity or propaganda purposes, for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, electronic communication, radio, television or video presentation designed to support or defeat the enactment of legislation before the state legislature or a local government legislative body or designed to support or defeat any proposed or pending regulation, administrative action, or order issued by any state agency or local government.”
“Legislators are concerned that public entities are using tax dollars for lobbying purposes,” Heilman said. But part of the work of organizations such as the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees is to lobby in Topeka on behalf of community colleges. “This would impair our connectivity to state policy makers and the legislators.”
Heilman said if the college can’t use its KACCT lobbyist to inform legislators on education issues, it might need to use its own personnel and trustees more, which would mean more trips to Topeka. BCC could do that, but other community colleges might not be able to, he speculated.
Johnson, a past KACCT president, said the bill might even go so far as to prohibit the college president from going to Topeka.
Johnson said Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, supports the bill. “He doesn’t seem to think our fears are quite accurate.”