Half Time at the Kansas Legislature

Feb 23, 2017 by

What happens to all those Bills?

The Kansas Legislature wrapped up its first half today and won’t resume their work until Monday, March 6.

Under the rules, any bill that has not passed its chamber of origin is now dead and cannot be considered as a stand-alone bill again this year. The exception to this is any bill that was introduced in a time-line exempt committee The House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, Taxation are all exempt committees. An exempt bill is defined as “those sponsored by, referred to or acted upon by an exempt committee.”

When a bill from a non-exempt committee is referred to an exempt committee, it is then a time-line exempt bill. While the K-12 Education Budget Committee is not an exempt committee, the four school finance bills were referred to exempt Appropriations Committee. This is referred to as “blessing” the bill.

We will be reviewing all bills of interest to see which are still viable.

Of course, no idea is ever dead and bills that are not in exempt committees or blessed can certainly re-emerge as amendments to other bills.


Issues this Week Demonstrate a Strong Coalition of Democrats and Moderate Republicans Willing to Stand up for Good Policy

For all the social media rants about whether Moderate Republicans will put Kansas ahead of party or whether Democrats will cooperate with Moderates to advance good policy; what has been clearly demonstrated this week is that both Moderates and Democrats are honoring their commitments to work with each other to advance policies beneficial to Kansas.

The best examples of this were the votes on the tax bill (HB 2178), the motion to override the veto of the tax bill, and the successful effort to pass Medicaid expansion.

HB 2178 passed the House on a vote of 76 – 48 and Senate on a vote of 22 – 18. The override vote passed the House 85 – 40. While the override failed in the Senate, Moderates and Democrats delivered 24 votes in favor of the override to 16 opposed.

The Medicaid expansion effort in the House found similar margins passing with 81 votes. And more importantly, five amendments offered by Conservative Republicans as poison pills went down to defeat; one by 68 votes, three by 74 votes, and the fifth by 72 votes. These were what we might call “postcard votes” – those expected to lose but likely to end up on campaign postcards later.

These votes demonstrate, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Democrats and Moderate Republicans are working from a position of mutual respect and remarkable cooperation. They are united in their determination to put Kansas back on a path to stability and prosperity.

We applaud them!


Why Not Visit Them When They Are Back Home?

With the legislature on the turnaround break until March 6, they will undoubtedly be attending forums and town hall meetings. We urge all who are interested in the actions of this legislature to take the time to attend an event and use the time to thank those who stood up for Kansas and take to task those who have maintained their allegiance to Governor Brownback’s failed policies.

 

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House Fights for Kansans; Senate Bows to Brownback

Feb 22, 2017 by

House Stands Up for Kansas, Overrides Tax Veto

The excitement under the dome this morning was a motion to override the Governor’s veto of HB 2178, the tax reform bill that ends Brownback’s disastrous tax policies first enacted in 2012. The bill represents the first effort to reverse course and restore stability and prosperity to Kansas.

We are exceedingly proud of the strong bipartisan majority who worked to first create the bill and then to override the veto.

Voting to override the veto were Alcala, Alford, Aurand, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Eplee, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans in bold italic.)

Voting NO on the override were (all Republicans) Representatives Arnberger, Awerkamp, Barker, Blex, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Delperdang, Dove, Ellis, Esau, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Lakin, Landwehr, Mason, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Resman, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, A. Smith, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Weber, Whitmer, and Williams.


16 Senators Fail Kansans

Sadly, the Senate had other ideas. Senate leadership (President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning) joined the Brownback allies in blocking the override of the Governor’s veto of HB 2178. Their refusal to join their House colleagues in overriding the veto means that we are back to square one where the majority of legislators try to pass responsible tax reform, the Governor vetoes it while clinging to his delusional confidence in a plan that has done nothing but bankrupt the state.

Brownback will veto any bill that challenges his delusion. His plan is to rob KPERS and Highways and early childhood education programs; his plan is to do nothing and continue in the belief that some magic will occur to save him. And sadly his allies continue to give him anything he wants.

Until the Senate stands up to Brownback, there is little hope that Kansas can get back on the track to stability and prosperity.

The motion to override the veto failed on a vote of 24-16. Those 16 who voted to support the Governor’s program (all Republicans) dismantling Kansas services were: Alley, Baumgardner, Denning, Estes, Fitzgerald, LaTurner, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Suellentrop, Tyson, Wagle, and Wilborn.


House Passes Due Process Restoration; Sends it to the Senate

The House this morning to approve HB 2186, the arbitration bill that includes the Stogsdill amendment restoring due process for Kansas teachers. The amendment inserted the contents of HB 2179 into HB 2186. The bill passed on a vote of 72-53. The vote is as follows:

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

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Due Process Moves on House Floor

Feb 21, 2017 by

House Takes Preliminary Vote on Due Process and It Passes!

When Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) cancelled the education committee meeting yesterday, it was done with the intent of ending the possibility that due process rights for Kansas teachers would be restored. Instead, he got the supporters for HB 2179 looking for another way forward. They found that other path this morning.

With the full House on general orders, a bill dealing with dispute arbitration came up for debate, HB 2186. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (R-Prairie Village) offered an amendment that would restore due process rights for Kansas teachers exactly as it was to be done in HB 2179.

Aurand tried to block the amendment by challenging whether the amendment was germane or related to the underlying bill. The rules committee considered the challenge and ruled that the amendment was indeed germane and that debate could continue.

Much of the debate focused on “local control,” the idea of letting every local school board decide whether or not they would choose to grant due process protections to their teachers. While some school districts have done this, a large majority of school boards simply refuse to even bargain the issue. Teachers in districts that have not bargained due process rights, those teachers may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, typically aren’t told the reason for the termination, and have no recourse to a hearing to determine if they were treated justly or capriciously.

One freshman legislator, Trevor Jacobs (R-Fort Scott), called upon Stogsdill to give him proof that any teachers have been fired for having a bad day since 2014. Of course, no one can be certain of the answer since school districts don’t give reasons for termination unless that has been bargained into the contract.

After a long floor debate, the amendment was adopted on a vote of 66 to 59 as moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting AYE.

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Judd-Jenkins, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

Following that vote, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby), decided to get one dig in at teachers and offered an amendment he called “merit pay.” The amendment was not a merit pay amendment but called for the creation of a mandatory state-wide evaluation system for teachers and school administrators. Additionally, it would direct the State Board of Education to set compensation for teachers and administrators.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) challenged the germaneness of this amendment. The rules committee determined that the amendment was not germane and so it was not debated or voted upon.

The bill was then advanced to final action with 68 votes. That final action vote will likely come tomorrow.


Your call to action tonight!

If your Representative voted AYE on the Stogsdill amendment, take the time to let him/her know that you appreciate the support for Kansas teachers. If your Representative voted NO on the amendment, ask him/her to reconsider and vote AYE on final action on HB 2186.

Find a roster of Representatives with a link to their email addresses by clicking here.


Changes to Working After Retirement (WAR) Get Preliminary OK

HB 2268 passed a preliminary vote in the House today by voice vote.  If the bill passes on Final Action in the House it will then proceed to the Senate.

The bill, as amended makes numerous changes to KPERS in relationship to Working After Retirement.

The current rules for Working After Retirement, as applied to newly retired individuals, caps an individual’s annual earnings at $25,000. Once the cap is reached an individual must either quit working or stop receiving KPERS benefits for the rest of the year.

Also, the current rules for certain groups in KPERS exempt them from the $25,000 cap. This includes nurses at certain state institutions, those in KP&F, those in the Judges Retirement System, local government officials and those employed with a participating KPERS employer prior to May 1, 2015.

Additionally the current rules make an exemption for certain types of licensed school district employees from the $25,000 cap. Importantly participating employers who hire retired licenses school employees are required to contribute to KPERS at rates varying up to 30% of the employee’s salary.

The current exemptions for licensed school district employees include those hired for emergency vacancies, special education teachers, and those who are hired under the hard-to-fill provisions of the current law.

HB 2268 combines all the current special exemptions into a single special working after retirement exemption. The bill also continues the existing provisions of the WAR rules regarding a bona fide separation period, employer assurance protocols, maximum period of employment-three years plus a one year extension-and the current contribution to KPERS rates. Retirees working under the current law would continue to be exempt, subject to the time limits in HB 2268.

Additionally starting on July 1, 2017, those who retire at age 62 or older and who are re-employed by a school district would also be exempt from the earnings cap. The district would be required to contribute to KPERS equal to 30% of the retiree’s compensation.

The bill also exempts those who are re-employed by the Board of Regents and covered by the Regents Retirement Plan from the earnings cap. The Regents Retirement Plan is not administered by KPERS.

 

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A Day for Obstructionism

Feb 20, 2017 by

Aurand Stops Due Process Bill. Again.

House Ed Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand

We came into the office today ready for the 3:30 pm meeting of the House Education Committee when Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) had scheduled time for working on bills. We were anxious to see if supporters of Kansas public school teachers on the committee would finally get to vote on HB 2179, the bill restoring due process protections for teachers in Kansas.

Up to this point Chairman Aurand has used every trick at his disposal (or so we thought) to bottle the bill up in his effort to kill it and yet not me counted for voting against it. But it wasn’t long before we realized that Aurand had one more trick – in announcements at the end of this morning’s full House session, he simply announced that the committee meeting for today was canceled. He was determined that the bill would never come to a vote. Today was the last day for committee meetings and any bill not passed by Thursday of this week is dead for the session.

Aurand is trying to convince folks that he’s a good guy just hoping that KNEA and KASB can come to some sort of “compromise” on due process.  But it isn’t lost on anyone that Representative Aurand is a sitting school board member in a district without due process rights. Aurand has declared before his committee that it was never his intent to work this bill, regardless of the committee’s will to do so.  KNEA and KASB can come to compromise on some issues in the due process statute. We can find compromises that speed up the process and reduce costs, for example. But we remain and will continue to remain in opposition over the issue of whether or not a due process hearing decision is binding on the school board.

From its beginnings in the 1950’s until 1991, due process hearings ended in a decision that was advisory to the board. School boards back then did not accept any advisory opinion that went against the district and supported the teacher. That’s why in 1991, the legislature voted to change the system to a binding decision. After all, what’s the purpose of the hearing if the board can unilaterally ignore the ruling? That’s NOT due process.

Aurand’s insistence that we “compromise” on this is actually an insistence that we simply give up and agree that boards of education are infallible.

Aurand’s actions are reminiscent of the actions taken by former speaker Ray Merrick and his anti-teacher allies who crammed the repeal of due process into a must-pass finance bill at 4:00 in the morning without any opportunity for public discussion or debate. Like Aurand, who knows his committee supports the bill, Merrick knew he did not have enough anti-teacher votes to pass the repeal unless it was attached to something critical. Merrick found a way around the will of the legislature. Aurand is doing the same using his power as a committee chairman without regard to the will of the majority on his own committee.


Barker and Hawkins Stop Medicaid Expansion

Today was also the day on which we expected the Medicaid expansion bill, HB 2064, to be passed out of committee.

Yet once again, the committee chair used his power to get the committee to essentially kill the bill.

In this case, Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) argued that Medicaid expansion would be too expensive and should wait until the Supreme Court weighed in on the Gannon school finance lawsuit. If the Court called for $500 million more for schools, then there would be no money for Medicaid expansion. Brownback has asserted that expansion would cost the state about $100 million over two years. Of course, it would also bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Kansas.

Barker made a motion to table the bill until April. It had a vote of 8 to 8 which normally kills a motion unless the Chair of the Committee chooses to break the tie. In this case, Committee Chairman Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), an opponent of expansion, voted for the motion.

What this means is that the committee can’t reconsider the bill until April but, since Thursday is the last day for bills to come out of the chamber or origin, the motion actually has the effect of killing the bill for this session.

Looks like this might be the hallmark of the 2017 legislative session. A new legislature, a majority of whom support Medicaid expansion and public school teachers and campaigned on changing the dialogue in Topeka are being denied the chance to vote on core issues because of the leaders who were installed as committee chairs.

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House Trying to Solve Things; Senate Kills a Tax Plan; IMPORTANT ACTION NEEDED TOMORROW

Feb 16, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • The House today voted 76-48 on final action to pass Sub for HB 2178, the tax bill that adds a third income tax bracket, adjusts rates, repeals the LLC loophole, and ends the glide path to zero. KNEA supports this bill.
  • After finishing with Sub for HB 2178, the House went on general orders to debate new bills.
  • The Senate, having earlier this session abandoned a scheduled debate on a tax plan forwarded to the full body by the Assessment and Taxation Committee, today took up SB 188, an alternative tax plan put forth by the Senate Democrats.
  • On a roll call vote to advance the bill to final action, the bill failed 10-38.
  • Tomorrow’s Under the Dome will include several ways for you to express your commitment to Kansas students while encouraging House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand to permit his committee to vote on HB 2179 restoring due process rights for K-12 teachers.
  • We need you and those in your community to watch for tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome and be prepared to share the information and to TAKE ACTION.

House in a Mood to Fix Things

The House today voted 76-48 on final action to pass Sub for HB 2178, the tax bill that adds a third income tax bracket, adjusts rates, repeals the LLC loophole, and ends the glide path to zero. KNEA supports this bill. It represents the first vote of the full chamber to dismantle the reckless and irresponsible Brownback tax policies adopted in 2012-13.

Six legislators who voted YES yesterday switched to NO today. They are Alcala, Clark, Dove, Good, Mason, and Rahjes. Mastroni and DeGraaf, who were absent yesterday, voted NO. And Resman who replaced Kiegerl on his retirement yesterday also voted NO.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

After finishing with Sub for HB 2178, the House went on general orders to debate new bills. First up was HB 2161 which would liquidate the pooled money investment portfolio. This is a way to get Kansas out of the 2017 budget hole without cutting state services including education. If adopted it would generate over $300 million but would require a $45 million per year expenditure to pay it back.

If coupled with a serious tax reform bill, it is a solution to the crisis we face at the moment. Kansas gets the money it needs to fill the hole in FY 2017 by passing HB 2161 but must also pass a tax bill that generates enough revenue to fill the holes in FY 2018 and 2019 and include funds to repay this money.

This is the path that the House is on now with the passage of the tax bill and possible passage of HB 2161. The bill was advanced to final action on a voice vote today; the final action vote will take place tomorrow.


Senate Debates a New Tax Bill

The Senate, having earlier this session abandoned a scheduled debate on a tax plan forwarded to the full body by the Assessment and Taxation Committee, today took up SB 188, an alternative tax plan put forth by the Senate Democrats.

This bill would have ended the glide path to zero income taxes, added a third income tax bracket and adjusted rates, repealed the LLC loophole, and reinstated previously repealed or reduced income tax deductions.

Like Sub for HB 2178, this was a good step toward getting Kansas back on the road to prosperity and KNEA supported the bill.

On a roll call vote to advance the bill to final action, the bill failed 10-38.

This likely tees up a floor debate on Sub for HB 2178. It is expected that this bill will be referred directly to the committee of the whole (sent to the floor) for debate.


IMPORTANT ACTION NEEDED TOMORROW:

On Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand will have an opportunity to honor the legislative process and allow his committee to vote on HB 2179 reinstating due process rights for K-12 teachers.  Tomorrow’s Under the Dome will include several ways for you to express your commitment to Kansas students while encouraging Chairman Aurand to permit his committee to vote on this bill.

Legislators elected to serve the citizens of Kansas deserve the opportunity to do so and should not be disallowed from participating in a fair democratic process at the will and whim of the Chairman (see “Sham Hearing on Due Process”).  We need you and those in your community to watch for tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome and be prepared to share the information and to TAKE ACTION.

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