Rahjes Report - March 12, 2018

Hello from Topeka! Congratulations to the Northern Valley Huskies on their state basketball championship over the weekend.  We are anticipating the arrival of the cost study report on K-12 education as the legislature forms the response to the Kansas Supreme Court on the school funding formula which was ruled unconstitutional last year.  Once the numbers are analyzed, it is the hope the response is delivered back to the court by the March 30 deadline.

Speaking of schools, last week, House Republicans unveiled the Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act, a comprehensive approach to make schools safer for our kids by ensuring coordination with schools and local law enforcement to improve school security infrastructure.  Principally, HB 2773 would do the following:

1.  Coordinate with the Kansas State Board of Education and other agencies to develop statewide standards for safe and secure school buildings. 2. Empower local school districts to coordinate with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies to review and evaluate current building infrastructure policies and procedures. 3. Establish the Safe and Secure Schools Grant Program with funds that can be used for improvements to any facet of the school safety and security plan including infrastructure and training. 4 Provide standardized firearm safety education programs that may be offered by school districts and 5. Appropriate funds to the Department of Education, which will be used for two FTE positions to review and evaluate school safety and security plans.

The provisions of this bill would encourage schools to make improvements, such as reinforced doors, additional security cameras, and training opportunities to enhance the overall security of school grounds.  The Safe and Secure Schools Act will advance communication between local school districts and law enforcement.  A safe and secure learning environment is one of the highest priorities in our state, and this establishes an opportunity for all Kansas school districts.  Additionally, for the purposes of promoting the safety and protection of students via education, the State Board of Education would be required to establish curriculum guidelines for a standardized firearm safety education program.

I serve on the House Taxation Committee and we worked HB 2572, which concerns making economic incentives data more centralized and transparent.  House Sub. for HB 2572 requires that the Department of Commerce collect data from economic development incentive programs that provide more than $50,000 in annual incentives.  This data from multiple years would be stored in a database and would be searchable on the Department’s website.  Specific information would be provided, including names or counties and recipients who receive benefits from various programs, including STAR bonds.  Descriptions and histories of the programs, along with purpose, goals, and qualifications would also be included.  Another component is the program cost and return on investment.  The Committee adopted the Substitute bill amendment and advanced it favorably to the House for its consideration.  On Thursday, the House Committee of the Whole debated the measure.  On Friday, the bill passed the House with a vote of 114-7.

Over the past week, fires have burned across the state, fueled by dangerously dry conditions and strong winds.  Governor Jeff Colyer issued disaster declarations for the following counties: Barber, Clark, Ellis, Greenwood, Harper, Kingman, Logan, Reno, Smith, and Stevens.

The National Guard reported approximately 50 fires were reported to the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka since Monday, burning more than 25,000 acres. Aerial and ground firefighting resources were coordinated by the SEOC through the Kansas Forest Service and Kansas Army National Guard to augment fire suppression efforts by local responders. Soldiers of the Kansas National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation, along with troopers from the Kansas Highway Patrol and personnel from the Kansas Forest Service provided aerial and ground support to local crews battling fires.

The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka is providing support and coordination of state and federal resources as requested by the counties. County emergency managers may continue to report incidents and request state assistance to augment local response and recovery actions through the state’s 24-hour emergency notification line.

A big thank you to the volunteer firefighters and first responders! Please continue to pray for rain.

Oh by the way, I have moved offices in the statehouse.  I am now on the 5th floor at 512-N.  The phone number stays the same. Please feel free to reach out with concerns and questions, I will do my best to respond it a timely manner. My phone number is (785) 296-7463 and email is: ken.rahjes@house.ks.gov, my cell number is (785) 302-8416.   You can also check out kenforkansas.com.

It is my honor to be your representative.