Bills, Bills, and More Bills!

Mar 15, 2018 by

Senate Ed Committee Considers “Education Inspector General”

In case you thought there were not enough folks supervising the K-12 education system, along comes SB 424. This bill would establish the position of “Education Inspector General” in the State Treasurer’s Office. The intent is to have someone conduct continuous audits of education spending.

The proponents – Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, Senator Ty Masterson, the owner of Freedom Bank in Johnson County, and KPI’s Dave Trabert. Masterson was quick to say that this had nothing to do with the kerfuffle over transportation funding that included a letter from Sen. Wagle and Rep. Ryckman to the State Board calling for Dale Dennis to be suspended and an investigation launched. Of course, the bill was introduced after the SBOE stood up for Dennis and the practice used for distributing transportation dollars.

And all this was put aside in Mr. Knudtson’s testimony in which he attacked both the Department and Dennis. Trabert also continued his attacks on the department and calls for millions of dollars to be pulled back from school districts.

Opposing the bill were KASB and State Board Member Jim McNiece.

No action was taken on the bill today.

More Bills Taken Up in Senate Ed

After the hearing was closed on SB 424, Chair Baumgardner turned her attention to HB 2541, a bill that adjusts tuition support for members of the Kansas National Guard. This bill passed the House on a 120-0 vote.

After the hearing, the bill was moved out of committee on a motion of Senator Hensley and placed on the Senate’s consent calendar where non-controversial bills are sent. After three days on the consent calendar, the bill will be passed, skipping the debate process.

Their next action was on HB 2542, another non-controversial bill requested by the Board of Regents that adjusts the fees that KBOR charges to private higher education institutions to cover the costs of regulation.

The bill was passed out of committee and will go to the full Senate.

Baumgardner then brought up Sub for HB 2602, the dyslexia task force bill. Baumgardner announced that she would craft an amendment to change the make-up of the committee to reduce the number of legislators and add teachers, particularly classroom teachers. As Baumgardner put it, “We need more boots on the ground representation on this task force.”

Other Senators had items they wanted to think about on this bill and Baumgardner said they would take it up next week, perhaps mid-week.

Full Senate Defeats So-Called “Campus Free Speech Act”

The Senate took a final action vote today on SB 340, a bill dubbed the “Campus Free Speech Act.” This bill would ban free speech zones on campuses and make all open areas available to anyone for rallies, literature distribution, and demonstrations. It is widely seen as a reaction to colleges that are trying to keep students safe in light of actions taking place congruent with some recent activities around the country.

The bill would allow any student to invite a speaker and the college would be required to allow the speaker. We see this as an opening for extremists on both sides to come to campus and perhaps incite potentially violent acts. One student could invite Richard Spencer, another could invite Louis Farrakhan and the university would not be able to restrict such events.

Many other issues were raised in the debate on the bill and today it was voted down on a 20-20 vote. KNEA opposed the bill.

House Tax Committee Looks at Tobacco Taxes

The House Tax Committee held a hearing today on HB 2231, a bill raising taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. The Cigarette tax would increase by $1.50 per pack.

KNEA testified in favor of the bill. Passage would increase revenue to the state by about $90 million per year but more importantly, the higher cost of cigarettes and tobacco products would discourage youth smoking and tobacco use. Evidence shows that increases in cost also incent smoker to quit. As parents and caregivers make that decision, the health and well-being of their children improves.

Reduced smoking and tobacco usage also reduce overall health costs which impact the cost of health insurance for all Kansans.

 

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How about a two-tiered class system for teachers? House Ed Committee says no thanks.

Feb 19, 2018 by

House Ed Committee Rejects Another “Compromise” on Due Process

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand called a meeting today for the specific purpose of addressing due process. Aurand has repeatedly expressed his opinion that due process restoration cannot pass the Senate and so the House must negotiate against its own position and somehow compromise on the issue.

This year it came in his bill, HB 2483, which would establish two tiers of teachers by restoring due process to those who had earned it prior to repeal in 2014 and provide nothing for any teachers hired since. He had an amendment to the bill that would still restore full due process to those who had earned it but provide a very limited due process (the same as in the 1980’s) for new teachers. The new teachers would have an impossible hill to climb in succeeding in a challenge under the bill as Aurand put in only three conditions under which a hearing officer could rule against the district.

In response to those who oppose a two-tiered system, Aurand also put a provision in the bill that would allow the bargaining agent (usually KNEA) to move all veteran teachers into the limited due process system.

The debate quickly showed that the committee was in no mood to establish a bill that did not restore full due process to all Kansas teachers. They repeatedly said that they did not need the bullying bill and due process bill separated and that the two issues were linked since bullying has to do with bullying of students and staff. Rep. Melissa Rooker pointed out that there are eight statutes providing real due process to students including those brought to the district’s attention for bullying but no such protections for teachers.

As to the argument of the need for the House to compromise their own position to appease the Senate or the Speaker or the Governor, Rep. Ed Trimmer said that if one of those three were to torpedo the bullying bill because they did not want to provide rights to teachers, that decision would be on those people and not the members of the House.

The Aurand amendment failed on a vote of 6 t0 10. The Committee then moved to the underlying motion to pass the original two-tier bill. That motion had been offered by Rep. Sutton. That motion failed on a unanimous voice vote.

At that point, Aurand said he recognized that the issue was done; that he recognized the committee’s position and would not go any further including not offering a standalone bullying bill.

Rep. Diana Dierks noted that the actions of the committee should not be taken as any disrespect for the Chairman but instead reflected a heartfelt desire of the majority to do right by Kansas teachers.

So here is where we are as of tonight.

The full restoration of due process rights for Kansas teachers in included in the bullying bill, HB 2578, which is on the floor but below the debate line meaning it is available for debate and passage but will not be considered tomorrow.

We will be watching for it to come up above the line and working with both Republicans and Democrats to urge its consideration.

House Higher Ed Committee Hears Repeal of In-state Tuition; Will Not Work Bill

The House Higher Education Committee held a continued hearing on HB 2643, a bill repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers (these children would have to have graduated from a Kansas high school, been in the state at least three years, be admitted to college and sign an affidavit promising to apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible to do so). The “savings” from the bill would be used to offset tuition for foster children.

KNEA opposed the bill as did many other organization including KASB.

KNEA would be delighted to support a bill that provides tuition assistance to foster children but not at the expense of other Kansas students. Opposition to the bill was overwhelming while Kris Kobach was the primary proponent.

At the end of the hearing, the Committee Chair, Kevin Jones, announced they would not be working the bill. This means that unless the bill is referred to a timeline exempt committee, it is dead for this year.

Senate Fed & State Goes Crazy

Despite all the good news in the House committees, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee decided to push the ultra-conservative envelope today and passed two alarming bills out of committee.

The first, SCR 1611, calls for a constitutional convention under which the United States Constitution could simply be tossed out and delegates appointed by state politicians could re-write the whole darn thing. While the resolution is specific to what they want to change, there can be no limits put on a constitutional convention.

KNEA opposes SCR 1611.

The Committee also passed out SB 340, the campus free speech act under which colleges in Kansas would have essentially no ability to control rallies and protests on campus. All outdoor areas of campus would be “free speech zones” and if any one student invited a speaker to hold a rally, the college would have no choice but to allow it in whatever outdoor place the speaker wanted. We imagine that Richard Spencer and Louis Farrakhan are both planning their Kansas college tours right now!

Colleges would even be prohibited from stopping events based on other experiences. So, for example, while Spencer’s events create havoc (see Charlottesville, Virginia), a college could not use the safety of students as an excuse to restrict Spencer’s use of the campus. Combine this with a new House bill that would allow 18-year-olds to carry weapons on campus and we can only envision disaster.

KNEA, believing that the safety of students is paramount in determining what events will be permitted on campus, opposes SB 340.

 

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Approaching Turn-around & The Continuing Saga of Due Process

Feb 16, 2018 by

Almost Halfway Home

It’s a pro forma day under the dome which means legislators did a quick check in this morning, then headed for home.

Monday will be the last day for committee hearings with Tuesday marking the lead up to “turn around” – the time by which bills must pass the chamber of origin in order to be debated in the second chamber. The exception is for bills that are in time-line exempt committees. Those committees are House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, and the House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, and Taxation. A bill can also be “saved” by being referred by leadership to an exempt committee.

Both chambers will spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the floor trying to pass whatever bills they have available before they begin the turn around break on Friday. The second half of the session will begin on Wednesday, February 28.

A few legislators will not get Friday off, however. Dr. Lori Taylor who has been hired to conduct the new school finance cost study will be in Topeka to meet with members of the House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance with whom she will discuss the cost study. The study is expected to be delivered on March 15, a full two weeks past the deadline for a school finance the Attorney General requested at the beginning of the session.

As of today, no bills dealing with any part of school finance have advanced.

“Konspiring” with Kobach?

House Higher Education Budget Chairman Kevin Jones (R-Wellsville) surprised everyone (everyone that is except Kris Kobach) by rescheduling a hearing on HB 2643 from next Monday to yesterday. The last-minute change meant that many opponents of the bill had not had the opportunity to sign up as conferees. Kobach seemed to be the one person who knew about the change.

HB 2643 would disallow in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants and use the savings to provide post-secondary tuition relief for foster children. As a reminder in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants are only available to children who have graduated from a Kansas high school, have been in the country for at least three years, and sign an affidavit of their intent to pursue citizenship as soon as they are able.

While KNEA would normally rejoice over a bill to provide tuition assistance to foster children, we cannot support one that also puts post-secondary education out of reach of other young people.

With general outrage of the sudden change of times, Jones decided to continue the hearing on Monday. KNEA will submit testimony at that time.

What Happened with Due Process Yesterday?

Well, nothing. Committee Chair Clay Aurand canceled the scheduled meeting of the House Education Committee and announced that there would be a committee meeting on Monday for the express purpose of dealing with due process.

This gives you the opportunity over the weekend to call and email the members of the House Education Committee and let them know that the real option is to call upon Clay Aurand and Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to let HB 2578 to come up for action on the House floor. It sits available for action at this time.

This bill makes improvements to the statute on school district bullying plans and restores due process to all Kansas teachers. There is no need to pass any other bullying or due process bills out of committee. Let them take up the one that is already on the floor and put both issues to rest in the House of Representatives. Once that is done we can get on with the business of passing a school funding fix that will satisfy the Supreme Court and keep our schools open.

House Education Committee Members (*denotes those who voted YES to pass an amendment to the bullying bill which restores due process for K-12 teachers).  Click to view contact information for each member.

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Vouchers, New Bills, & Changes in Leadership

Feb 5, 2018 by

Rep. Brenda Landwehr

Vouchers disguised as “scholarships?”

The House has a voucher bill, introduced in the Appropriations Committee by Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). This bill called the “Kansas Empowerment Scholarship Act, HB 2609, would allow a parent to sign an agreement with the State Treasurer promising to not enroll a child in the local public school. For this, the state would put 80% of the base aid that would have been spent on the child into a special fund and use that money to reimburse the parent for education expenses at a “participating learning entity.” And yes, that entity could be a homeschool providing the homeschool is registered with the State Department of Education. There would be no accountability measures on “participating learning entities.”

The Senate has a scholarship bill as well, but it’s not a voucher proposal per se. Senate bill 366, the Student Opportunity Scholarship Act, introduced at the request of Sen. Mike Petersen (R-Wichita), provides that if a student in a public high school graduates by September 20 of what would be his/her senior year, then 95% of base aid that would have been sent to the USD for that student will be used as a post-secondary scholarship provided the student is enrolled in a Kansas public post-secondary institution or a private post-secondary institution that is accredited and has a physical presence in Kansas. The other 5% of base aid would go to the school district from which the student graduated.

New Bills Introduced on Last Day for Committee Bill Introductions

Two new bills were introduced in the House K-12 Education Budget Committee today. Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) introduced a bill changing the multiplier in the transportation formula for students living more than 2.5 miles from home. Aurand told the committee this was intended to be in line with a recommendation from Post Audit.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) introduced a new school finance formula bill. We will be anxious to see what’s in this one. It’s the first new finance bill of the session.

Four new bills were introduced in the House Education Committee. Aurand introduced two bills; one dealing with the transfer of territory between districts and the other is a “building finance transparency act.” This bill, according to his explanation deals with letting people know how money goes from the central office to the school and is spent.

Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) introduced a bill on access to ABA therapy for students with autism. This is an issue Schwab fought for last year and in withdrawing it from consideration in the school finance bill last year, he was promised a hearing on the idea in Aurand’s education committee this year.

Finally, Rep. Brett Parker (D-Overland Park) introduced a bill dealing with disclosure on gifts and grants to post-secondary institutions.

None of these bills are available for reading at this time. We expect them in the next few days.

Campbell Out, Patton In

Rep. Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) has resigned his seat in the legislature to take the position of Budget Director in the Colyer administration. Campbell has served as chairman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee. House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) appointed Rep. Fred Patton (R-Topeka) to replace Campbell as chair of the committee. We still do not know who will be taking Campbell’s committee seat.

Campbell was a fair and even-handed committee leader (facilitator, he liked to say) and we would expect Patton to lead in a very similar fashion.

Congratulations to both men. It will be up to precinct committee chairs in Campbell’s district to choose his successor.

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Big Gun Debate; Perhaps a Late Education Meeting

Jun 1, 2017 by

The House this morning did not concur in the Senate changes to HB 2186 (a House judiciary bill turned into a Senate school finance bill) and so a conference committee has now been formed. This action allows the work of putting together what will likely be the last school finance bill of the regular session.

With the Senate embroiled in a gun bill debate, the conference committee plans to meet today. It may be just a preliminary meeting as the House will reconvene at 5:00 to take up the newly passed gun bill.


Now, about that gun bill…

The Senate debated Senate Sub for House Bill 2278 which would allow state hospitals to ban firearms. This issue has been a hot topic all session and wrapped up in it additionally have been attempts also to allow colleges to ban firearms. The Governor and hard right conservatives passed a law a few years ago that opened essentially every public area in the state – colleges, municipal buildings, state hospitals, etc.  – along with “constitutional carry” that allows the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit or training (although both still exist).

The law prohibits state hospitals from disallowing weapons on their premises unless all entrances are secured with metal detectors and security personnel. The cost for such security exceeds $24 million annually.  It wasn’t until the Governor learned of these costs that there was a sudden cry to change the law as it relates to hospitals.   Sadly, the Governor and his NRA allies have no concern whatsoever about the cost to colleges and universities, so adding colleges to the bill protecting hospitals would jeopardize the attempt to help the hospitals.

The bill came to the floor with only the change for hospitals and a plea from Senator McGinn (R-Sedgwick), who was carrying the bill on the floor, to please not add amendments for fear of losing the bill entirely. Supporters of banning guns from colleges agreed to support the bill as-is while noting their desire to take the fight for colleges forward.

Of course, the NRA objected strongly to banning weapons from our state mental hospitals but sensing support for the effort, NRA lobbyists wrote an amendment that would allow guns in the hospital parking lots and reception areas. Further, the NRA amendment would require that, if a hospital wished to ban guns beyond reception, it would have to provide secure gun lockers. Senator Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) offered the NRA amendment and remarkably in her closing remarks actually said, “The NRA chose to allow us” to adopt their amendment.

The Senate rallied behind Senator McGinn and the hospitals and defeated the NRA-written amendment on a vote of 16 to 24.

Senator Masterson (R-Andover) then offered an amendment to allow colleges to ban firearms also noting when questioned, that he would not support such an amendment. This was a cynical offer, intended to get supporters of the colleges to vote against the amendment to protect the underlying bill. Alternatively, Masterson was working from the knowledge that if the amendment were approved, the underlying bill would likely be defeated or vetoed and the NRA would carry the day. The Masterson amendment failed on a vote of 5 to 29.

Senator Alley (R-Arkansas City) offered an amendment to get gun safety programs based on the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” program into Kansas public schools. His amendment was ruled non-germane and so was not considered.

As the debate was winding down, Senator Olson (R-Olathe) made the argument that everyone should be allowed to carry guns anywhere they want whenever they want on the off chance that a bad guy might be there. He made the point that he thought this happened once in his district back in 1985 although he wasn’t entirely sure, but someone had told him. And for the second time, he asserted that these killings only happen in “gun-free” zones because the bad guys wander the streets looking for “no guns” signs.  He also explained that people die in KU Med all the time.

Olson then made a motion to dual refer the bill back to both Ways and Means and Federal and State Affairs, Fed and State Affairs being a more NRA-friendly committee. This tactic is often used to kill a bill. Both committees have to send it back to the floor, and it is sent to one that just won’t act. Olson’s motion failed on a vote of 11 to 27.

Senator Pilcher-Cook offered an amendment to prohibit colleges from adopting any regulations regarding guns or ammunition. They could, she said, put up signs telling students it might not be a good idea to carry ammo into a lab where it could explode. This amendment failed on a voice vote.

The bill was approved on a final action vote and upon final action- done immediately- the bill was passed by a vote of 24 to 16.

KNEA supports a safe learning environment for all students. Part of this is allowing the colleges and universities to make the determination about the carrying of weapons for themselves and in the best interests of their students, staff, and community.

 

 

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Short Days; No Movement on Taxes or School Funding also NRA’s Hired Legislative-guns Fire Back & Agreement Reached on Working After Retirement

May 17, 2017 by

With the completion of the school finance bill (Sub for HB 2410) done Monday evening and a new proposal on taxes (complete repeal of the Brownback tax failure), things seem to have come to a block under the dome.

The school finance bill is ready but as of yet no debate has been set for the floor. And we have yet to see the tax proposal together.

The Senate Select Committee on Education Funding is already studying the House bill, having scheduled briefings on it and announcing today that there would be a hearing beginning tomorrow. So the Senate Committee is not wasting any time and working as if the bill has already passed. The interesting twist in this is that the bill we will be testifying on in the Senate is the one that came out of the House committee and there is a strong possibility that the bill will be changed dramatically in House floor debate. On the positive side, this speeds up the process a little bit.

We are of course wondering why the hold-up and can only speculate. Leadership may be debating whether to deal with taxes or schools first or perhaps they are trying to persuade enough Republicans to support the anemic bill that came out of committee. Whatever it is, we are in a holding pattern for right now so keep checking back here for updates.


Conservatives Block Effort to Give Colleges Control Over Guns

Brownback and his allies in the legislature who owe their allegiance to the National Rifle Association (NRA), passed legislation that allows guns to be carried just about anywhere by anyone at any time. This means that starting on July 1, 2017, anyone can carry a concealed weapon into a hospital including the state mental hospitals or in any building on any college campus. The only way they can be prohibited is if the hospital or college were to secure every entrance with metal detectors and security guards at an enormous cost to the institution.

How bad is it? Brownback, who happily signed the bill into law, suddenly found out what it did and asked the legislature to give him $24 million to secure the state hospitals so that guns could be prohibited. Can you imagine what it would cost to secure the University of Kansas or Kansas State or any of our other post-secondary institutions including community colleges?

Several attempts have been made this year to change the law to allow colleges and hospitals to have control over guns in their facilities and, despite there being overwhelming public support for keeping guns off campus – support from parents, students, faculty, and administration – the NRA has kept a tight control over the Kansas House and Senate.

Yesterday a bill came up in the Senate that would have blocked guns in the hospitals. An attempt by Senator Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills) to change the law for college campuses ran into a buzz-saw of NRA talking points leveled at her by Senator Ty Masterson (R-Andover), Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), and Senator Rob Olson (R-Olathe). Olson maintained that more people are killed by cell phone usage in cars than all other causes of accidental death and noted that killers seek places with a “no guns” sign because they know they will be safe targets. He asserted that law enforcement can’t get to a scene quickly enough and that every law-abiding citizen ought to be able to pull out a handgun and fire back.

Olson then offered a motion to refer the bill back to the Federal and State Affairs Committee (one with a more NRA-friendly membership) but at that point Senator Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) offered a substitute motion to refer it back to the Ways and Means Committee from which it had originally come. Schmidt’s motion prevailed and the bill was sent back to committee.

Without further action, all community colleges, technical colleges, and universities in Kansas will become gun zones on July 1, 2017. Anyone will be permitted to carry a concealed weapon anywhere on campus at any time.  We believe this includes campus daycares and public health clinics operating as part of joint programs with colleges.  No permit will be required; no training will be required.


KPERS & Working After Retirement (W.A.R.)

The Conference Committee on Pensions has come to an agreement to simplify the requirements that address Working after Retirement for KPERS covered positions. The contents of the changes were put into House Substitute for Senate Bill 21.

The bill addresses the many issues that arose after the 2016 set of changes were implemented.

Our position is to simplify the rules governing W.A.R.  Additionally, the rules for W.A.R. must make it possible to put the best possible person in a KPERS covered position.  These changes reflect this position.  Below is a summary published by KPERS and would take effect January 1, 2018 if passed by the Legislature: 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD KPERS SUMMARY

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