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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Resolutions and Reports; Conference Committee Time!

Apr 28, 2016 by

A Day for Resolutions

This is the time in the legislative year when there is plenty of down time as conference committees meet to work out differences in bills and then rush those reports back and forth for floor votes. That means there is time for honoring folks and today was no exception.

In the House this morning we listened with interest to resolutions honoring championship high school sports teams. We love high school sports. Our own children participated in high school wrestling, baseball, track, soccer, cross country, bowling and golf – activities that taught them teamwork, cooperation, sportsmanship and many more of the “soft skills” so talked about by legislators and educators today. Of course it is not lost on us that the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees have introduced a school finance bill that would prohibit the expenditure of any state education aid on athletics. Honoring the teams while considering banning the funding seems a tad…what’s the word we’re looking for?

There was also a resolution honoring the University of Kansas for 150 years of excellence the reading of which was concluded with legislators calling out “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” Pretty soon they’ll begin conversations about the recommendation by Governor Brownback that millions of dollars in cuts to our universities continue for another year to shore up the budget collapse brought on by his reckless tax policy.

Oh well, we can only hope that the resolutions honoring our student athletes and excellent universities that they adopted today will give them pause as they consider legislation to ban athletic funding, mortgage our preschool funding, and cut our universities.


A Day for Conference Committee Reports

This afternoon, the Senate adopted an education conference committee report dealing with post-secondary education. The report, CCR 2622, holds four items:

  • The degree prospectus program under which institutions would provide prospective students with data on graduation rates and performance,
  • The CLEP provision that standardizes the use of CLEP examines for earning college credit,
  • The performance based funding incentives for career and technical education, and
  • Adjustments to some fees charged by the Board of Regents.

This conference committee report must now go to the House for consideration. That may happen later this evening. Click here to read the conference committee report.


How do conference committees work?

Conference committees are established to work out differences in the versions of bills passed by both chambers. Since each chamber has the opportunity to amend and vote on every bill, if the same bill comes out of the second chamber in a form different from what was passed by the first chamber, a conference committee negotiates a compromise bill.

Conference committees are made up of three Senators and three Representatives. Usually they are the Chair, Vice-Chair, and Ranking Minority Member of the committees that worked the bill.

If the conference committee report (CCR) is in a House bill (See CCR 2622 mentioned earlier), then it must be adopted by the Senate before returning to the House. Likewise, if it is in a Senate Bill, it goes first to the House for approval.

To be voted on by the chamber, all six members of the conference committee must sign the bill unless they “agree to disagree.” Often the minority party members will not sign a report due to some poison pill being inserted into the report. If a report comes with only four signatures, the full chambers must adopt a motion to “agree to disagree” after which the report needs only four signatures for a vote.

If the motion to agree to disagree is not adopted, the report goes back to the conference committee where it can be re-negotiated to get the six signatures.

Yes, the whole back and forth and voting to agree to disagree reminds us of a Bob Hope quote in the film The Lemon Drop Kid (based on a story by Manhattan, Kansas native Damon Runyon): “I swore on a plate of black eyed peas and candied yams…it’s messy, but it’s binding.” The whole conference committee process to an outsider may appear messy…but it’s binding.

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Due Process Battle Moves Out of Committee

Feb 18, 2016 by

Why are we doing this?

KNEA Higher Ed Board Member Deborah Williams and colleagues talk with Rep. Hedke

KNEA Higher Ed Board Member Deborah Williams (center) and colleagues talk with Rep. Hedke

Representative Jarrod Ousley from Johnson County summed up today’s House Education Committee hearing with one simple question, “why are we doing this?”  Referencing 38 emails from constituents opposing HB 2531 with only 2 emails in support of the bill, Representative Ousley also asked, “are we doing the people’s work here?”  HB 2531 seeks to eliminate due process provisions for Community and Technical College educators currently in state statute.

During discussion on the merits of the bill, Representatives Lusk, Trimmer, Winn and Ousley each offered varying objections.  Representative Nancy Lusk cited research as well as recent news reports indicating that passage of the bill could adversely affect the ability to recruit educators particularly in areas were shortages already exist.  Representative Ed Trimmer, clarified the difference between tenure a term often misused to describe a “job for life” and due process which simply offers non-probationary professionals the ability to request an impartial hearing in the event that they believe they were dismissed unfairly.  Further, Representative Trimmer cautioned his fellow committee members about supporting the bill on the basis of local control. Representative Trimmer pointed out that committee members supporting HB 2531 have been among the strongest proponents of a number of other bills that “have nothing to do with local control” but in fact undermine it.  Committee member Representative John Bradford’s school consolidation bill comes to mind.

Representative Valdenia Winn from Kansas City, Kansas who also happens to be a Kansas City Kansas Community College faculty member of many years gave an impassioned address to the committee.  Recounting a time when her own job was unfairly threatened by a vindictive administration who sought to penalize her for having been elected to the legislature when they favored her opponent, Representative Winn’s due process protection was vital.  Still, committee proponents suggested that the traditional business model of at-will employment works for industry so why not for education? Hint: think people not widgets. Representative Dennis Hedke from Wichita asked Representative Winn if she was fearful that boards of trustees or college administrators might end protections within faculty contracts, to which Representative Winn replied emphatically “yes!”

Shortly after this exchange, Representative Highland stated that the room was needed for another meeting and summarily ended the discussion with a call to vote on a motion to pass the bill out of committee.  The vote was 11-6 in favor of passing the bill out.  Representatives Lusk, Ousely, Boldra, Trimmer, Winn and Smith voted in opposition to the bill.  Next the bill moves on to the floor of the House of Representatives where more debate will undoubtedly occur.

What can you do right now?

  1. First, you must voice to your representatives that you are tired of attacks on public education and the continuing disrespect of professional educators and that this bill should be OPPOSED.  This is best done face to face followed by a phone call and finally a personal email.  Contact your representative tomorrow, this weekend, and again on Monday until you’ve made your point clear.  CLICK HERE to find your representative and contact them.
  2. Organize with the faculty at your institution.  Bring others into advocacy and formulate some clear points on why due process is important protection for you to work as agents of opportunity and as advocates for your students, your profession and your community.  CLICK HERE to listen to what others have to say about the vital support that community and technical colleges provide for their communities and students.  Use these points to connect to your own story and share it with your representatives (See #1).
  3. GET & STAY ENGAGED!  KNEA offers a variety of communication points, but one in particular offers you one-click access to them all.  The KNEA mobile app includes access to Under The Dome, KS EdTalk, Action Alerts, Twitter, Facebook, Bill Tracker, and the KS Legislative Calendar.  Use the app to stay connected and ready to take action.  Encourage others to download and use it as well.  It’s FREE!

Download for iOS CLICK HERE

Download for Android CLICK HERE

 

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