Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles about last Saturday’s Legislative Coffee at Hoisington.
HOISINGTON -- Members of the Hoisington USD 431 Board of Education and Great Bend Farm Bureau were among those with questions or comments for Sen. Mitch Holmes and Rep. John Edmonds, Saturday at the Legislative Coffee in Hoisington.
The Rev. Steven Little, president of the Hoisington School Board, voiced concerns about several bills:
• HB 2003 amends the school funding formula, counting 10 percent of the local option budget as part of the state-level aid. Although school districts would supposedly then be reimbursed, Little said, “in no case has the Legislature ever paid the money that the budget said they would pay.”
• SB 44 requires school districts to screen students for dyslexia and to provide treatment. “This is an unfunded mandate,” Little said.
• SB 103 redefines “at risk” students, removing free lunches as one of the indicators. “One out of every three children will face hunger uncertainty,” Little said. He added that when schools don’t offer breakfast or summer lunches, there are children who don’t eat, and he said studies show math scores of children increased 17 percent if they had breakfast.
• SB 169, known as “Read to Success.” “It’s like the ‘I love mother and apple pie’ bill,” Little said. “Who could be against it?” Actually, there’s a lot not to like, he said, describing SB 169 as “a well-meaning but wrong-headed approach.” The bill states that by 2016 schools won’t promote a pupil from grade 3 to grade 4 if the pupil can’t read. It allows for exceptions.
Edmonds said he doesn’t know what HB 2003’s future is in the house, and Holmes said he hasn’t seen any of the three bills Little mentioned.
Little also said he doesn’t like the state decision not to accept the expansion of Medicaid offered by the federal government.
“Every week I deal with people who can’t afford medicine, dentistry,” Little said. Although he has his own doubts about parts of “Obamacare,” he continued, “the Supreme Court has said it’s the law of the land. ... Why would we refuse to take the money that could clearly help our poorest citizens?”
Holmes said the federal government only pays for the service for the first three years. “It’s a bait,” he said. “It’s like smoking – it’s easier to never start than to stop.” Holmes added, “We need to look for other possibilities. My first-off impression is, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
Dean Stospkopf, who is also on the Hoisington school board, said he doesn’t care for a bill that would make local school board elections partisan elections. Edmonds said the idea has some merit: “If you’ve got a ‘D’ or an ‘R” behind your name, people know something of what you’re about.”
Jerry Morgenstern with Barton County Farm Bureau said that group is encouraging farmers to contact lawmakers via e-mail. Both Edmonds and Holmes said “snail mail” is a more effective way to reach them, due to the volume of junk e-mail they receive.
Morgenstern said Farm Bureau has concerns about:
• An abundant supply of clean, safe water
• Feral hogs – “If we ever get them in Cheyenne Bottoms, we’ll have a real problem.”
• The Corporate Farm Act – It’s obsolete and should be replaced, he said. Holmes said he hasn’t had a chance to weigh the issues. “I look forward on seeing more information on that subject.”
• Real vs. personal property tax – Farm machinery should not be reclassified a real property, he said. Edmonds said farm machinery is treated as personal property.
Brian Wilborn, a Hoisington City Councilman and president of the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce, asked the legislators about term limits. Edmonds said he could argue both sides, but he’s mostly against term limits because longevity in office can equal political clout – something rural Kansas needs. They both said voters can always impose “term limits” by not reelecting someone.
Barton County Commissioner Don Cates told the lawmakers, “at the county we’re very concerned about the fixtures bill.”
“You should be,” Edmonds said. Earlier in the meeting, Edmonds said a bill has been introduced that would redefine commercial and industrial machinery and equipment, making “trade fixtures” and permanently attached “fixed fixtures” property tax-exempt.
Cates said commissioners are also concerned about a bill which would abolish the oil and gas valuation depletion trust fund. This fund makes it possible for the county to maintain a low mill levy, he said. “The bill would sweep away the $900,000 we have.”
“I share your concern about that,” Edmonds said, adding, “All counties impacted are in this half of the state.”