Elections Moved; PNA Changed; Stalemate Broken; All in Lead-Up to 4-Day Weekend

May 21, 2015 by

House Approves Bill Moving Local Elections to November

Today the House approved HB 2104, the bill moving local elections including school board elections to November of odd numbered years. The elections would remain non-partisan.

The bill originated as an attempt to put local elections on the same calendar as state and federal elections – November of even numbered years – and to make those races partisan. Candidates for city commissions, school boards and other local offices would have had to file by party and participate in the August primary elections. Senator Mitch Holmes (R-St. John), when announcing the bill early in the session, indicated that it would be a way to wrest power away from the KNEA. Holmes believes that teachers voting in low turn-out races means the union controls the school board. This argument was raised on the House floor today by Rep. Kiegerl (R-Olathe).

The bill now goes to the Governor.

Senate Works School Bill, Attaches PNA Changes

The Senate today debated Senate Sub for HB 2353, a bill that provides for some clean-up of issues in the block grant bill, SB 7.

Clean-up language was needed for some issues over virtual schools (out-of-state students were being funded) as well as changes to a few other funds.

An amendment was offered by Senator Abrams (R-Arkansas City) that would put changes to the professional negotiations act into the bill. Abrams moved to add the bill passed earlier by the Senate that reflects the agreement reached by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA. Under this provision, beginning next year associations and school boards would bargain salaries and hours every year and each side would be able to pick up to three additional items from the current list of negotiable items. All other items could be negotiated by mutual agreement.

The amendment also changes the notice date to March 31 and the impasse date to July 31.

KNEA supports the amendment and the bill. It now goes to the House for a vote to concur or non-concur. The House may not amend the bill further.

Budget Negotiations Ongoing

The budget conference committee (House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means) continues to meet and will be doing so late today.

At an earlier meeting today, the stalemate over funding the gap in the 20 mill property tax levy for schools (see yesterday’s report) may have broken. The new plan is to fund the $17.5 million for FY 2016 and wait to decide on the $13 million for FY 2017 until new revenue numbers come in.

Tax Bill Pulled in Senate

Senate Sub for HB 2109, the tax bill that came out of the Senate Tax Committee and was based on a proposal from Senator Donovan (R-Wichita), had been scheduled for debate today but was pulled at the last minute by leadership. There could be many reasons for this; perhaps there were not enough votes to pass it, perhaps amendments were being drawn up. Word is the bill will be back on the calendar for debate next Wednesday.

The House Tax Committee is expected to continue work next Tuesday in an attempt to craft a bill for their chamber to consider.

Four Day Weekend

Both chambers have adjourned for the holiday weekend and will be returning to Topeka on Tuesday of next week. They won’t be paid for those days for those of you following the overtime spending.

This would be a great weekend to connect with your legislators and urge them to get moving on resolving the state’s revenue crisis and funding our schools.

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Movement on Worker Rights; KPERS Bonding; Local Elections

Mar 31, 2015 by

Senate Commerce Committee passes bill marginalizing public employees

The Senate Commerce Committee this morning held a hearing on and immediately passed HB 2391, a bill which converts state jobs from classified to unclassified status. State agencies would be allowed to change the status of positions whenever a new person is hired or someone is promoted or transfers. Essentially it sets up a system where the agency gradually eliminates classified positions which currently have due process protections. Unclassified employees have no due process protections.

The bill has been sought by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, two organizations that consistently work to undermine public workers.

Senator Holland brought the Committee’s attention to a letter from the United States Department of Labor that suggested passage of this bill along with some others under consideration would put Kansas at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding. Nevertheless, the Committee approved the bill with Senators Holland and Faust-Goudeau recorded as voting NO, and Senator Baumgardner recorded as passing.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration. It has already passed the House.


KPERS bonding bill comes out of conference

The KPERS Conference Committee has reached a deal on the bonding proposal.  House conferees agreed to the Senate’s $1 billion position and only considering changes in contribution rate for FY 2016 & 2017. They would then revert to current law.

The Senators agreed to the House offer but asked for House to run the report first. The conference committee report will be in SB 228.  Before the report can be considered they will need to run an “agree to disagree” first.  That happens when all six conferees do not sign the report. Approval of an “agree to disagree” allows the report to be considered with only four signatures.

Working after retirement has been deferred for the moment because they no longer have a bill in which to put an agreement. The Senate KPERS Committee is discussing working after retirement today.

We will continue to report on working after retirement and other KPERS issues as they happen.


Conference Committee agrees to move local elections

The House and Senate Elections Conference Committee today approved a report moving local elections (cities, counties, school boards) from the spring of odd numbered years to the fall of even numbered years. The report is in HB 2104.

If approved this change would put non-partisan municipal elections on the same ballot as partisan state and federal offices. It would require the local candidates to be at the top of the ballot.

The bill was opposed by school districts, counties, and cities. Proponents argued that it would increase voter turnout for local elections; opponents argued that local candidates and campaigns would be lost in the deluge of political advertising and mail related to state and federal elections. It also has the potential to open up new avenues to campaign funding and coordination by dark money groups.

KNEA joins KASB and other public education advocates in opposing this change.


Editorials and just plain good reporting

The papers have been weighing in on a few controversial legislative actions including action on the proposed repeal of in-state tuition for the children of undocumented aliens. The Salina Journal wondered if the same issue would come up if “they had blonde hair.” Click here to read their editorial which tells the Legislature, “We don’t have the luxury of indulging in institutional racism.”

In a side note, it was reported today that nine members of the House Education Committee have launched an official complaint against Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) for her remarks during the committee debate. In recent years, complaints have been filed against former Speaker Mike O’Neal and Rep. Jim Ward. Nothing came of those hearings.

The Topeka Capital Journal took on Senator Tom Arpke whose proposal to shift 84% of state scholarship money for post-secondary education over to private colleges in an editorial entitled Arpke’s Folly Must be Rejected. The paper takes the position that shifting 84% of state scholarship money to institutions that educate only 17% of Kansas students is just plain wrong. Our thanks to Senator Vicki Schmidt who unsuccessfully attempted to strip Arpke’s measure from the budget bill.

And in positive news, the Capital Journal also reported on the many parents who walked 60 miles from Johnson County to the Capitol to raise awareness of the need to provide adequate and equitable funding for our public schools. Three years ago, Heather Ousley of Game On for Kansas Schools did this walk alone. It has grown dramatically in the last two years. This year she was joined by her husband, State Representative Jarrod Ousley as well as Representative Nancy Lusk and Senator Laura Kelly. Click here to read the story.


Senior KNEA lobbyist schooled by freshman legislator

We were shocked to learn that KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, now in his 17th legislative session in Kansas, has been found to have committed a grave error; an error that was pointed out to him by a freshman legislator in his first session.

Yesterday, Desetti told us to report that there were 39 bills up for debate in the House today. He was incorrect. He should have noticed “the line” – a physical line on the calendar with the words “the line” – that indicates the end of the debate calendar. That line came at the top of the list of bills. And so those 39 bills were not up for debate today.

Our thanks to Rep. Fred Patton who apparently reads what we write!

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