Due Process and KPERS Actions

May 6, 2015 by

Senate approves bills on state employee due process, KPERS working after retirement

Both bills we reported on yesterday were adopted on final action votes in the evening.

HB 2391 that essentially phases out due process protections for state employees was adopted on a final action vote of 24 – 16. All amendments were also rejected. KNEA opposed the bill. Those voting NO were: Democrats Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, and Pettey and Republicans Fitzgerald, Holmes, McGinn, Peterson, Schmidt, Tyson, Wilborn, and Wolf.

HB 2095, the bill on working after retirement in a KPERS position was adopted on a vote of 40 – 0.

Both bills will now go to the House where Representatives will have the opportunity to vote to concur or non-concur in the bills but not permitted to amend them.

Committees talk about KPERS privatization

Presentations were made by Prudential and Dimensions, two investment providers, discussed the cost of turning KPERS over to private investment groups.

The presentation indicated that making such a move would be very expensive. There was no discussion on the impact on current retirees or how a transition could be made.

This is an issue we will continue to monitor.

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A Veto Override! Due Process and KPERS debates

May 5, 2015 by

Legislature easily overrides Governor’s veto of Uber

The excitement today was the drama (or lack of drama) over what was expected to be a dramatic moment.

The Legislature had passed SB 117, a bill that established regulation of ride-sharing services such as Uber that have become popular. Uber has been operating in Kansas City and Wichita. Uber had threatened to pull out of Kansas entirely if the Governor did not veto the bill. Brownback did and Uber expanded their services to Lawrence and Manhattan.

Legislators were not happy about the veto. Governor Brownback’s campaign manager was then hired as a lobbyist for Uber. Today, first in the Senate and later in the House, the veto was easily overridden. While in the Senate there was an effort to postpone the vote until later, the House didn’t even debate this issue. The override vote in both chambers was very strong – well beyond the necessary supermajority.

The action might result in Uber coming to the table to negotiate a regulatory system more to their liking. On the other hand, they might just follow through on their threat to leave.

Senator Lynn leads effort to end due process for state employees

The Senate took up House Bill 2391, a bill that ends due process protections for new state employees and essentially phases them out for current state employees. Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) carried the bill on the Senate floor, arguing in support of ending due process which she called, “slow and bureaucratic, painful and expensive, and time-consuming.”

Amendments have been offered to protect employees but all have been rejected. Senator Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita) offered an amendment calling for a gender pay equity study in state service. The debate on her amendment included an unusual question by Senator Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth) as to how many sexes or genders there are. Senator Lynn challenged the amendment as non-germane (unrelated to the underlying topic of the bill) but the Rules Committee determined that it was and so debate continued.

The debate is ongoing as we post this edition of Under the Dome. We will report on the outcome tomorrow.

Working after retirement bill expected to be up today

Senate Sub for HB 2095 is on the Senate debate calendar today – the last in a long list of bills. It is possible that they won’t get to this today. If they do, it might be late. We will report on this bill tomorrow. If it passes, it must still be considered in the House.

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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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Approaching Drop Dead Day

Mar 27, 2015 by

Payroll Deduction, PEERA Bill Now in Ways & Means

House Bill 2096, the bill crafted by the Senate Commerce Committee that contains SB 179 dismantling collective bargaining for state and municipal employees and SB 212 banning the use of payroll deduction by public employees (including school employees) for any voluntary deductions.

There was an attempt on the Senate floor to limit the ban on voluntary deductions to only voluntary deductions for union or association dues. That attempt failed. The bill was then passed over on the floor and later referred by leadership back to the Ways and Means Committee.

The bill now sits in the Committee where it could be worked and sent back to the floor. It is also possible that it will simply stay there and remain available until the end of the 2016 Legislative Session.

We will continue monitoring the bill.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hear Bill on Reclassifying State Employees

House Bill 2391 passed the House and is now in the Senate Commerce Committee. There will be a hearing on this bill on Tuesday of next week.

HB 2391 contains the Governor’s proposal to move more state employees into unclassified positions. Such a move would enable government agencies to more easily terminate employees who would no longer be under the collective bargaining agreement. Critics believe this bill will open up public employees to political decisions including being let go for a lack of support for the administration’s legislative positions.

We will continue to watch this highly controversial bill.

Out of Sight; Out of Mind

Perhaps that’s what Governor Brownback was thinking when he quietly gathered his staunchest legislative allies and signed SB 7, the repeal of the school finance formula, in a closed ceremony.

The signing was not announced and no reporters were permitted access to the event. The signing was announced in a press release later.

Normally, bill signings are treated like real ceremonies where the Governor greets the press and tries to secure positive press reporting. Columnists have speculated that the Governor either did not want to answer difficult questions from the press or be asked about his support for bill opposed by nearly everyone involved in public education. The only support for the bill in hearings came from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Policy Institute, and the Tea Party-aligned Kansans for Liberty.

Conference Committees and Floor Time

Next week it will be mostly conference committees and floor debates as the Legislature works its way towards April 3 – Drop Dead Day. This is the date by which all legislation – with the exception of the big budget and revenue bills – be passed, killed, or deferred until next year.

The Legislature will be on break from April 4 through April 28, returning for the annual “veto session” on April 29.

We, too, will not be posting daily until the return. Look for occasional postings until then.

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