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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Legislators expect a variety of issues in 2014

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  • Water issues in Kansas will be a big issue when the Kansas House takes up the 2014 session in January.
    Water was one of the topics Kansas Rep. Kyle Hoffman, along with Kansas Sen. Mitch Holmes, talked about to the Pratt Community College administration and Board of Trustees during a legislative luncheon at the college on Monday, Dec. 16.
    Also present was Linda Fund, executive director for Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.
    While he didn't go into specifics, Hoffman said the legislature needed a vision for the future of water in the state.
    Education, which accounts for over half the state budget, will again get a lot of attention as the legislature waits to see if the Kansas Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision that the legislature has to fund education based on their own formula.
    Other issues getting attention in the 2014 legislature will be the Environmental Protection Agency encroachment on coal fire plant operation requirements and on wildlife as well. The legislature will work hard to minimize the impact the EPA has on those areas.
    "We'll try to limit the harm that comes from those things," Hoffman said.
    Federal efforts are underway to get the lesser prairie chicken put on the endangered species list and that could impact hunting revenues in Kansas. The lesser prairie chicken is one of 1,000 animal species that could be added to the list.
    Depending on the states economy, Hoffman said he thought the legislature would have to prepare supplements for the 2024 budget. The legislature passed a two year budget last year but the state revenues have not met expectations so some restructuring may have to be done, Hoffman said.
    Getting legislation passed in 2014 will require extra effort because it is an election year. Some legislators are reluctant to pass any legislation that could get them into trouble with their constituents before they head to the polls on Election Day so it may take some extra effort to get legislation passed.
    "We'll have to push some things through," Hoffman said.
    Holmes said the Senate would have most of the same issues on their agenda including the EPA efforts for pollution control on coal plants and the prairie chicken.
    He also anticipates a lot of discussion about vocational training. That is a big priority for the governor, Holmes said.
    Hoffman anticipates a lot of support for community colleges when it comes to funding issues. Retention rates at four-year universities are better when students transfer from a community college than when a student starts higher education at a four-year institution.
    "We need to give more back to community colleges," Hoffman said.
    Funding the funding formula continues to be a problem and needs to be addressed.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Any of those funding formulas would work if they were fully funded," said PCC Vice President for Finance Kent Adams.
    Out district tuition is also a matter that needs to be reviewed as an alternative funding issue along with a state wide mil levy to relieve the funding pressure on PCC that serves a seven county area but only Pratt County carries the tax burden for the college, said Trustee Darrell Shumway.
    Out district tuition currently accounts for $300,000 to $350,000 or about three mils.
    Accountability for transfer of credits is an issue that needs attention, said President Michael Calvert.
    If a student starts out at a community college and meets their needs in just one year and transfers to another college for more training then moves on to a four-year institution it does not reflect the success the student achieved at those institutions and that needs to change, Calvert said.
    Some student athletes at community college transfer to a four-year school at the end of the first semester so they can get acclimated to the bigger school program, said Kurt McAfee, PCC athletic director.
    That is another example of how the current system doesn't accurately show the effectiveness of a community college education.
    The transfer problem needs attention because over half of all four-year college students went to a community college.
    A lot of communication about bounce back is taking place between colleges and four-year schools, Calvert said.
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