Taxes, Due Process, & Tempers that Flare; Just Another Day Under the Dome

Feb 15, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • KNEA supports House tax bill believing there is room for improvement, but it is a good first step.
  • The bill repeals the LLC income tax loophole beginning with tax year 2017, ends the glide path to zero income taxes, and sets three income tax brackets at 2.70 percent, 5.25 percent, and 5.45 percent.
  • This was our first chance to see how the moderate Republicans and Democrats would cooperate and they did not disappoint.
  • Fallout continues from yesterday’s House Education Committee hearing on due process.
  • Aurand’s announcement that he did not plan to work the bill at all angered not only the proponents who testified in the hearing but also the majority of committee members who are ready and willing to pass the bill.
  • Leaders from KNEA (bill proponent) and KASB (bill opponent) met to discuss concerns and look for a path forward.
  • Chairman Aurand has scheduled a committee meeting for Monday afternoon for the purpose of “considering bills already heard.” There are only three bills that this could apply to and one of them is HB 2179.
  • We urge our members and friends to continue to let Chairman Aurand know that this bill needs a fair hearing and a vote. You can email Chairman Aurand at clay.aurand@house.ks.gov.
  • SEE FULL POST FOR SPECIAL EDITORIAL REGARDING PARTISAN RANCOR UNDER THE DOME.  THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT READ FOR ALL PUBLIC EDUCATION ADVOCATES.

House Advances Tax Bill Reversing Much of Brownback’s Policy

It was a surprise this morning when the full House voted to advance House Sub for HB 2178, the tax bill crafted in the committee last week. It only took a few minutes and there was not debate at all; no amendments offered.

This is quite unusual since tax bills generally generate a vigorous debate and more than their fair share of amendments.

KNEA supports this bill. We do believe it could be improved but it is a good first step in the move to reverse the reckless and irresponsible tax cuts of 2012-13.

The bill repeals the LLC income tax loophole beginning with tax year 2017, ends the glide path to zero income taxes, and sets three income tax brackets at 2.70 percent, 5.25 percent, and 5.45 percent.

This was our first chance to see how the moderate Republicans and Democrats would cooperate and they did not disappoint. 46 Republicans and 37 Democrats vote for the bill while 36 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted NO. The bill was advanced to final action on a vote of 83 to 39.

We’ll see tomorrow how the final action vote goes!

Here’s how they voted (Democrats in bold italics):

Voting AYE were Alcala, Alford, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Blex, Brim, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Dove, Elliott, Eplee, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lakin, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mason, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, A. Smith, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore.

Voting NO were Arnberger, Aurand, Awerkamp, Barker, Burroughs, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, Delperdang, Ellis, Esau, Finch, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hodge, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Landwehr, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whipple, Whitmer, and Williams.

DeGraaf, Kiegerl, and Mastroni were absent.


What’s Happening with Due Process?

After yesterday’s frustrating hearing, Democrats and moderate Republicans who support teacher due process rights immediately began regrouping to find a way bring the bill, HB 2179, back for a vote.

There were some moments of difficulty – Republicans were frustrated by the attempt to force an immediate vote and Democrats angry that one man, Clay Aurand, could simply close down the committee to stop any further discussion. Aurand’s announcement that he did not plan to work the bill at all angered not only the proponents who testified in the hearing but also the majority of committee members who are ready and willing to pass the bill.

KNEA & AFTKS leaders called their KASB counterparts and invited them to come to KNEA at noon today to talk about what issues KASB had with due process for teachers. That meeting happened and it became clear that some issues could probably be easily resolved but KNEA continues to insist that due process is defined by a binding third-party review.

Prior to 1992 when hearings were held before a three-officer panel but the panel’s decision was advisory to the Board of Education, boards simply ignored the hearing panel’s decision even when that decision was unanimous. It was this that made the legislature create the binding decision that was part of the process from 1992 until repeal in 2014.

We know that today moderate Republican committee members have met with Aurand, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti met with Aurand, and KASB representatives also met with Aurand. Aurand has scheduled a committee meeting for Monday afternoon for the purpose of “considering bills already heard.” There are only three bills that this could apply to and one of them is HB 2179.

KNEA and AFT want the bill to be worked and passed out of committee. We have committed to working with KASB, KSSA, and USA to try to find common ground but we are not interested in setting the issue aside for another year or years while teachers continue to be non-renewed with no ability short of suing a school district to challenge the decision.

We urge our members and friends to continue to let Chairman Aurand know that this bill needs a fair hearing and a vote. You can email Chairman Aurand at clay.aurand@house.ks.gov.

And by the way, Rep. Willie Dove said in committee that no teacher ever told him that they wanted due process protections. You can let him know that you are a teacher that does by emailing him at willie.dove@house.ks.gov.


[EDITORIAL] When Tempers Flare 

Sometimes, under the dome, people get a tad cheesed off. We know we do! When that happens things can be said that might be regrettable later and much of that is expressed in hyper-partisanship.

Such has been the case over the last couple of days. Things are heating up in the capitol and tempers do flare.

We are counting on a bipartisan coalition of level-headed, common sense Kansas legislators to get Kansas through this current fiscal crisis and put us back on a path to prosperity. We at KNEA also look to those legislators to restore respect and honor to the educators of Kansas.

Today, in the vote on House Sub for HB 2178, we saw what can happen when partisan wrangling is set aside for the good of Kansas. And we need more of that, not less.

That’s why we are frustrated to see messages on social media that attack Democrats for not being more “in your face” with Republicans or attack moderate Republicans for not automatically supporting every idea that comes from a Democrat.

We believe that if the due process bill gets a vote in the House – both in Committee and on the floor – it will pass. We are confident of this because of the list of co-sponsors and because of conversations we have had with members of both parties who are not signed on as co-sponsors.

We also know that those two groups, working together, can save Kansas.

The problem we face today is not the Democrats. It is not the moderate Republicans. It is leadership that puts their own ideological agenda ahead of the wishes of the legislative majority. A perfect example is Aurand’s unilateral decision to not work HB 2179 when the majority of his committee clearly wants to. This was done in the past when the speaker of the House refused to allow a bill to come to the floor for debate. We have yet to see this happen with Speaker Ryckman but it is a possibility.

KNEA has many friends in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party. We are confident that those friends will stand up for teachers. If they don’t; if they vote for bills that do not support schools and educators, then we will challenge them. If they vote against bills that would help our schools or support our teachers, then we will challenge them.

But until then, we will work with all of them, Democrat and Republican, to ensure success for our students, our schools, and our educators. And as the votes come in, you will know who supports public schools and public school educators, and who doesn’t. Because we will tell you.

Until then, continue to support our friends. Let them know that you are following the actions of this legislature and that you fully expect them to honor the commitments they made in their campaigns to support our schools. We stand ready to embrace those who value our schools. Democrat or Republican.

 

 

read more

Taxes, Cuts, and Revenue

Feb 8, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Senate unveils two-pronged strategy to restore a portion of state revenue.
  • Tax bill SB 147 does not solve shortfall and fails to address long-term problems.
  • SB 27 is a bill to cut funding to K-12 and Regents institutions to grab another chunk of revenue to fill the Governor’s revenue hole.
  • Full senate to convene on Thursday to debate both bills.
  • Rise Up Kansas plan gets committee hearing today.
  • KNEA joined 13 proponents from various organizations to support the bill.
  • 5 groups opposed the bill including Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Policy Institute and Kansas Chamber of Commerce among others.

 

The Senate has crafted a two-pronged plan, approved by Senate President Susan Wagle, that includes a tax bill which seeks to increase revenue (SB 147) and a bill which cuts funding to K-12 education and higher ed Regents institutions (SB 27).

The tax bill (SB 147) would raise approximately $280 million in new revenue. Unfortunately, the Brownback-created revenue hole is so deep, this plan is far short of what is needed to reverse the tax cuts of 2012 and 2013. Additionally, SB 147 is not a comprehensive, long-term solution.

The funding-cut bill would reduce spending in FY 2017 by $154 million. Most of the reduction would come after taking $128 million from K-12 education with another $23 million from Regents institutions. Overall, this plan cuts K-12 education by 5%, higher education by 3%, and the Schools for the Deaf and Blind by 1%.

The leadership of the Senate plans to convene the full Senate at 8:00 am on Thursday and work both bills.

We oppose the tax bill because it does not fully address the disaster brought on by the Brownback cuts. Passing this plan, even coupled with cuts, would require the legislature to address continuing shortfalls going forward with more tax increase votes likely. We support a comprehensive tax plan that restores funding such that vital state services can be adequately funded.

We also oppose the draconian cuts to K-12 education and higher education. When the Governor is challenging higher education institutions to provide a $15,000 undergraduate degree, it is counterproductive to cut state funding for our colleges and universities. As for the K-12 cuts, any cuts run counter to common sense as we await the decision on adequacy by the Kansas Supreme Court.

We are pleased to see that the House Taxation Committee appears to be on a more rational path, examining a proposal to raise enough money to restore fiscal stability to Kansas.

We urge the Senate to amend the tax bill to include a comprehensive solution or send SB147 back to Committee. While the tax bill is a move in the right direction, it falls far short of what is necessary to put Kansas back on sound financial footing. We urge the senate to vote no on SB 27, the “cuts bill.”

We believe that both chambers need to develop comprehensive tax policy bills that provide for the restoration of funding necessary for vital state services. We do not wish to be in a position to consider still more cuts and more tax increases indefinitely into the future.


Rise Up Plan Gets Hearing!

The Rise Up tax reform plan supported by KNEA, Kansas Action for Children (KAC), AFT/KOSE, the Kansas Contractors Association, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG) and others got its day in Committee today.

The first proponent of the plan was Duane Goosen, the former budget director for Governors Graves, Sebelius, and Parkinson. Other proponents included KCEG Executive Director Heidi Holliday, Wesley McCain of Healthy Communities Wyandotte, KAC President Annie McKay, Christina Ostmeyer of Kansas Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, Scott Englemeyer of the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs, Rob Gilligan of KASB, Bob Totten of the Kansas Contractors Association, Reverend Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan of the Kansas Interfaith Alliance, KNEA’s Mark Desetti, AFT/KOSE Executive Director Rebecca Proctor, Ashley Jones-Wisner of Healthy Kids Kansas, and Scott Anderson of Hamm Companies (highway construction firm).

Opponents kicked off their arguments with Dave Trabert, anti-government zealot with the Kansas Policy Institute, Jeff Glendening with Americans for Prosperity, Tom Palace with Independent Petroleum Marketers, Tom Whitaker of Kansas Motorcarriers Association (opposing only motor fuel tax increase), Eric Stafford of Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

One neutral conferee from Kansas Association of Counties.

13 proponents to 5 opponents (where 1 opponent only opposes the motor fuel tax).

read more

Guns Win; DeVos Moves Ahead Thanks to Pat Roberts

Jan 31, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Gun bill SB 53 allowing colleges to prohibit firearms on campus FAILS to move out of Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs despite hearing from hundreds of proponents including parent groups, students, educators, law enforcement, and others.
  • HB 2074 (identical bill) hearing in House Committee on Federal and State Affairs tomorrow morning, KNEA and dozens of proponents expected to testify in favor.
  • If House bill advances, Senate will have opportunity to reconsider and side with citizen majority rather than NRA lobbyists.
  • U.S. Senator Pat Roberts votes in lock-step with party to move anti-public education zealot on to full Senate vote for confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education.
  • DeVos’s fitness for the post continues to be questioned as new allegations surface that she plagiarized responses on her committee questionnaire.
  • Call Senator Jerry Moran and encourage him to vote against Betsy Devos confirmation:  Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

Senate Committee Backs NRA, Turn Backs on Students & Faculty

This morning the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs voted to reject Senate Bill 53 which would have allowed colleges to decide for themselves whether or not to allow guns on campus.

Testimony before the committee had been overwhelmingly in favor of the bill with students and faculty joined by parent groups and other education groups but still a majority of committee members bowed to the NRA.

A House Bill with the same content, HB 2074, will get a hearing in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee tomorrow. Should that bill go through the House, the Senate will have a chance to reconsider.

In the meantime, you can communicate your frustration with the continued dominance of the NRA despite public support for the bill. If the bill does not pass, then come July 1, 2017, colleges will no longer be able to prohibit the carrying of firearms on campus unless they can provide metal detectors and security staff at every building entrance on campus. As a side note, the legislature will provide no funds at all to pay for the installation of metal detectors or the ongoing cost of security staff.

Members of the Senate Federal and State Committee are: Republicans Jacob LaTurner, Bud Estes, Bruce Givens, Jeff Longbine, Ty Masterson, Rob Olson, and Caryn Tyson and Democrats Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Lynn Rogers. You can find their email addresses and phone numbers by clicking here.

The vote was a voice vote so we cannot tell you exactly how each Senator voted. As best we could tell there were three votes in favor of the bill. Senator Jeff Longbine was not at the committee meeting having been called to a Senate leadership meeting on tax policy.


US Senator Pat Roberts Votes to Approve Anti-Public Education Zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Washington Post

In the United States Senate today, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 12 to 11 to advance Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for Consideration. All 12 Republicans – including Kansas Senator Pat Roberts – voted YES on DeVos while all 11 Democrats voted NO.

The DeVos nomination now goes before the full Senate where Kansas Senator Jerry Moran will have his chance to vote.

It’s time to let Moran know what you think. Call his offices and urge him to vote NO on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. She is unqualified – in her hearing she was unable to identify IDEA as special education and suggested that schools needed guns to fight off grizzly bear attacks – and she has a long history of working to destroy public education in Michigan.  Just today, new questions about Devos’s fitness for service have arisen as some of her responses given during her confirmation proceedings appear to be plagiarized. 

Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

 

 

read more

Pro Worker Bills Unveiled (Due Process Included)

Jan 26, 2017 by

House and Senate Democrats today hosted a press conference and stated clearly their intent to help working and middle-class Kansans by unveiling several bills designed to do just that.  In his opening remarks, House Minority Leader, Jim Ward acknowledged that these bills incur no additional cost to the state.  This is very important in light of the push to pass a sensible, fair and comprehensive tax plan.  CLICK HERE for more on the RISE UP KANSAS tax proposal.

One bill, to be co-sponsored by Representatives Crum and Stogsdill, seeks the restoration of due process rights for K-12 teachers.  Due process protection affords teachers the right to advocate for their students without the fear of unfair reprisal while helping to attract great teachers to Kansas.  The press conference was attended by dozens of working Kansans and labor organization members and representatives in a showing of support and solidarity.  Like all bills, these have many steps to go through on their way to becoming law, but this is certainly an encouraging step.

CLICK HERE to read press coverage of today’s announcement.

CLICK HERE to view the press conference as it happened live.

We will have more coverage of late committee hearings in tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome.

read more

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Nov 9, 2016 by

protected-area-network-knowledge-management-framework-needs-assessment-and-assets-inventory-58-638Well, some may have a Dickensian view of the general election results – with Hillary Clinton widely expected to win, it was certainly a shock to see that she did not. For many Americans, this election on the national level will likely be their “worst of times.”

But at KNEA, we are focusing on what the 2016 election means for public education. And here in Kansas, our legislative races look more like the best of times. At least for those of us who advocate for children, schools, and teachers.

In the House of Representatives, the Democrats finished the job that Moderates began in the August primaries. The Democratic caucus has gone from 28 to 40 members. The minority party is now a third of the Kansas House. For Democrats, this means more members on every committee and a bigger voice in floor debates.

Combined with moderate Republican victories, this creates a pro-public education block of as many as 75 votes. For a long time we’ve been counting noses wondering how to get to 63 and often we came up on the losing side. This new coalition gives us hope that things will turn around dramatically in the House.

In the Senate, Democrats only gained one seat but combined with the many moderate Republican victories, there is now a path to 21 votes – a path that hasn’t been there in four years.

The people of Kansas, regardless of party affiliation have let it be known that they are done with the Brownback “experiment” and want to go in a new direction. That direction includes funding our schools and taking care of our children and families.

Kansans also rejected the governor’s attempt to politicize our Supreme Court. While the governor and his allies tried to paint the retention election as a matter of the death penalty and abortion, Kansans know it was really about tossing justices who have consistently ruled in favor of public schools. Kansans saw through the vicious mail and television campaign and voted to retain all five justices.

This vote ensures that our courts will stay free of political and ideological tampering. Kansas will continue to benefit from a Supreme Court that rises above politics and holds the state true to the constitution.  Justice should never be for sale.

We will be examining the results of this election and will be providing a more detailed analysis once we’ve had the chance to really dig deep. As for the impact of the national election, NEA will be doing the same. We will pass on their analysis to our members as it becomes available.

In the meantime, our members and their allies – administrators, school board members, and parents – deserve a well-earned rest. All that time making calls, knocking on doors, and turning out voters has paid off for our schools. All of you did a great job taking political action to heart and fighting for our future. Toast yourselves, pat yourselves on the back, eat a decadent dessert. You’ve earned it!

read more

Oral Arguments in Due Process Case Heard before the Kansas Supreme Court

Sep 13, 2016 by

justicecenter

Kansas Justice Center Lobby

Hundreds of KNEA members and other public education supporters spent a long weekend in the statehouse in the spring of 2014. The Kansas Legislature was engaged in resolving a nearly $150 million shortfall in school funding as part of the Supreme Court finding in the Ganon case. In the weeks and months preceding that April weekend, many policies relating to education were the subject of hearings in legislative committees. One that had no hearing at all was the elimination of statutory due process rights for non-probationary Pre-K–12 teachers.

Using the “must-pass” school funding bill as a vehicle, anti-public education legislators led by Salina Republican Tom Arpke introduced several policy provisions, including repealing the due process provision. Notably, Arpke was recently ousted from his seat along with several other anti-public education lawmakers as Kansas citizens have become fed up with their attacks on public education, the growing revenue crisis, and the erosion of public services. It wouldn’t be until the early morning hours of that April weekend that enough arms were twisted and just enough votes were garnered to pass the funding bill with the policy provisions attached. 

Today, the Kansas National Education Association, with support from the National Education Association, brought forth an argument before the Supreme Court of Kansas to determine whether the procedure used in 2014 was unconstitutional. Under the Kansas Constitution, bills introduced by the legislature must be “single-subject” in nature. “Log-rolling” policies that are unrelated to the single purpose of a bill violates the constitution. As National Education Association Attorney Jason Walta argued before the justices this morning, the elimination of due process was “smuggled into” House Bill 2506. 

KNEA continues to defend its members, who earned due process rights prior to the implementation of HB 2506. KNEA contends that non-probationary educators who earned the right to a due process hearing as part of Kansas statute cannot have those rights stripped retroactively as a result of HB 2506. Effectively, those rights are the property of the individuals who earned them.   

There is no timetable for the Supreme Court to issue its decision in this case. KNEA will continue to aggressively advocate for the rights of its members. Keep an eye on our “Under the Dome” website and our member publication “Kansas EdTalk” for more on this case as it develops. 

read more