The 2017 legislative session is off to a relatively fast start, with almost 300 bills introduced in the first three weeks. Two major topics involve higher education — the budget and campus carry — and both had relatively active weeks in the Statehouse.
With $350 million needed to end FY17 in the black, budget committees began work to try to solve this issue. The House Higher Education Budget Committee heard a budget overview from Chancellor Gray-Little on January 23, and the rest of the universities will present their reports this week. On Thursday, January 26, the nine-person budget committee voted NOT to reduce KU’s budget any further in FY17. The committee chair, Rep. Kevin Jones of Wellsville, will now present the recommendations to the full House Appropriations Committee. This is the first step in the budget process, and I believe we are in the best position we can be. KU will present its FY18 and FY19 budgets in the coming weeks.
The Senate’s budget process is off to a slower start, having just named the three-person Senate Higher Educations Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Ed Berger of Hutchinson. KU will present its budget to this committee in the next few weeks.
This week also included the first hearing on one of the three bills regarding the campus carry issue. The Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs held a hearing on SB 53, which seeks to extend the exemptions for higher education institutions and hospitals. The hearing was lively, including testimony from more than 40 proponents and about four opponents. The bill was not voted on during the hearing, but we expect a vote sometime the week of January 30. The House Committee on Federal and State Affairs will conduct a hearing on its bill, HB 2074, on Wednesday, February 1. Much like the budget process, this is the first step in a long process of making and amending laws.
We are also monitoring several smaller pieces of legislation that affect the university. There is much more to come in the next few weeks.
Director of State Relations
University of Kansas