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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Bad PNA Bill Voted Down in Senate!

Mar 25, 2015 by

Senate votes down Melcher PNA bill

Video Update:

Yesterday we reported that the Senate had approved an amendment by Sen. Jeff Melcher that changed the PNA bill agreed to by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA into a bill that all opposed. The Melcher amendment would have allowed the negotiation of only minimum salaries and prohibited the negotiation of any fair dismissal or due process procedures in non-renewals. Additionally the amendment ended the continuing contract law and fact-finding as part of the negotiation process.

The Senate had earlier pass a PNA bill agreed to by educators on a unanimous vote but yesterday, 20 of those senators reversed course in voting for the Melcher amendment.

The bill – now in HB 2326 – was up for a final action vote on the floor of the Senate this morning. A preliminary count on the vote showed the bill with only 18 votes – three short of the required 21 for passage. A call of the House was put on to force some who had passed to vote.

As those votes were cast, the vote turned to 19 ayes and 21 nos. With the bill losing, other Senators then changed their vote and the bill was defeated on a vote of 13 to 27.

At this point, the bill is considered killed although there is the possibility that someone might try a motion to reconsider the bill. We will be watching for this the rest of today and on Monday.

Voting NO on the bill were:

Bowers, Denning, Donovan, Faust-Goudeau, Fitzgerald, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Holmes, Kelly, Kerschen, King, LaTurner, Longbine, Love, McGinn, O’Donnell, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pettey, Schmidt, Smith, Wagle, Wilborn, and Wolf

Voting YES were:

Abrams, Arpke, Baumgardner, Bruce, Knox, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, and Tyson

Senate Ed Committee Finishes Hearing on Abrams Finance Bill

The Senate Education Committee met over lunch again today to finish the hearing on SB 294, Senator Abrams’ pilot school finance proposal.

Testifying today were Chris Brown of the Tea Party’s Kansans for Liberty, Mark Tallman of KASB, Mark Desetti of KNEA, and Cheryl Semmel of USA/KS. All testified as neutral suggesting that the bill had some interesting ideas but also raised concerns.

KNEA specifically mentioned concerns about the proposed Success Incentive funds. While the plan is to reward school districts whose graduates move into higher education or the workplace in the 24 months following graduation, there is no way currently to gather the data required for making all of these decisions. Additionally, they don’t account for those who choose to take low-wage jobs after graduation to save money for college. The plan will also likely raise very serious concerns for those who already have problems with the sharing of individual student data.

Since the bill is double-referred to both Education and Ways and Means it must be approved by both committees in order to be sent to the floor. It is awfully late in the session for such major legislation to be considered.

We’ll be tracking this bill over the next week.

Legislature to be out until next week

Today is second turn around, the day by which bills must have been voted on by the second chamber in order to go on. Bills that don’t get through the second chamber and are not in an exempt committee will die tonight.

Of course, as all of us learned last April, no bad idea ever dies. Please remain connected and vigilant through the last Legislative day sometime in May!



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Senate reverses on PNA; sides with KPI, KCC instead of Educators

Mar 24, 2015 by

Melcher leads attack on teachers

Senator Jeff Melcher led the attack on teachers in the Senate today, convincing 19 others to abandon the bill the Senate earlier approved 40 to 0 and reflected the agreement among KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS on improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act.

Melcher, who has focused his time in the Senate on stripping public employees of any rights they might enjoy in law, offered an amendment on a PNA bill today that does four things:

  • It ends fact-finding in the bargaining process,
  • It sunsets all current contract provisions on their next expiration date,
  • It bans the negotiation of salary provisions beyond “minimum salaries,” and
  • It prohibits districts and unions from negotiating due process provisions in their contracts.

In his summation on the Senate floor, Melcher told the body that teachers would appreciate this bill because it would free school districts to increase their salaries and set Kansas on the path to terminating 7 to 10% of all teachers. Melcher maintains that firing these teachers will put Kansas top in the world in education.

Voting with Melcher to gut collective bargaining for teachers were:

Abrams, Arpke, Baumgardner, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, King, Knox, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, Smith and Wilborn.

Voting to respect the education community’s agreement on professional negotiations were:

Bowers, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Kerschen, LaTurner, Longbine, McGinn, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pettey, Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

Present but not voting were:

Love and O’Donnell

Coming to the floor this bill had the support of KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS. With the Melcher amendment, all four organizations oppose the bill.

The bill will be subject to a final action vote sometime tomorrow.

It is critical that you contact your Senator TONIGHT by phone and email. Tell them that these attacks on teachers must stop. Vote NO on HB 2326.

Click here to access a Senate roster with office phone numbers and emails.

Debate on payroll deduction and PEERA bill halted

HB 2096 was taken up by the Senate today but after a vote on one amendment, the bill was pulled from debate and set aside on the calendar. It could come up later so keep watching.

As the bill was being debated, an amendment was offered by Sen. Garrett Love that would have stripped out the Baumgardner amendment. That amendment banned payroll deduction for any voluntary contributions – union dues, United Way, car payments to credit unions, etc. Baumgardner had argued if the state needed to get out of the business of helping others collect money, then it should be applied fairly and not only to unions.

The Love amendment failed on a vote of 13 to 19 with 7 Senators present and passing and one absent.

When the amendment failed, the bill was passed over. It could come back tomorrow.

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School Finance Pilot; Payroll Deduction; On the Floor

Mar 23, 2015 by

School Finance Pilot Project     

Senator Steve Abrams (R-Arkansas City) has released a proposed school finance formula pilot project in Senate Bill 249.

Abrams, a former member of the State Board of Education, has long had an interest in the school finance formula and this is his vision moving forward. With the two-year block grant proposal on the Governor’s desk, Abrams is proposing piloting a new formula with the six school district members of the Coalition of Innovative Districts (Hugoton, Blue Valley, Concordia, Marysville, McPherson, and Kansas City).

The Abrams plan would have essentially five components:

  • Enrollment State Aid set at $3820/student based on headcount, not FTE,
  • Poverty State Aid based on each districts poverty as determined by US Census Bureau Data,
  • Sparsity State Aid based on the sparsity of population in the school district,
  • Success Incentive State Aid, based on the performance of school district graduates in the 24 months after graduation, and
  • State Equalization Aid, based not just on assessed valuation per pupil but also factoring in federal adjusted gross income in the district, and home values in the district.

School districts would be able to levy a local property tax which would be known as the Local Portion Levy Budget which would be equalized under the new State Equalization Aid formula.

The bill is based on flat funding as is the case with the Block Grant bill. It continues the current 20 mill state-wide school mill levy for another two years.

Probably the biggest sticking point in the bill is the Success Incentive program which would require the gathering of a significant amount of data on district graduates.

The bill defines student success in the following way:

A successful student is one who, within two years after graduating from high school, has:

  1. Enrolled in a third consecutive semester at a postsecondary educational institution or private or out-of-state postsecondary educational institution;
  2. obtained an industry-recognized credential;
  3. entered basic training in one of the branches of the United States military;
  4. been employed, including self-employment, with an annual income that is not less than 250% of the federal poverty level; or
  5. been employed not less than 30 hours per week and had an individual education program as a child with a disability at the time such student graduated from high school.

Obviously this would require a significant amount of data collection which is not currently being done. Legislators – particularly House members – have shown a reluctance to allow the collection and sharing of student data especially if that data is personally identifiable. There have been a number of bills this year and last to restrict student data collection.

There will be a hearing on this bill in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow. It has been double-referred to both the Education and Ways and Means Committee so it would need to pass both to move to the full Senate.

Senate still has time to ban payroll deduction

House Bill 2096 was not on the Senate floor today. I could be by tomorrow.

This bill strips state and municipal employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and prohibits payroll deduction for things not required by statute or an employee benefits program. The right to payroll deduction for association dues and other voluntary programs would end.

Make sure you contact your Senator and urge him/her to vote NO on HB 2096.

Click here to access the KNEA Legislative contact portal! Click here for a roster of Senators with phone numbers and emails.

Three days “on the floor”

For today, tomorrow and Wednesday, legislators in both chambers will be on the floor – in Committee of the Whole – to clear out the backlog of bills on their calendars. Bills that are not in exempt committees must pass the second chamber by Wednesday in order to move forward.

The Legislature will be out Thursday and Friday, then return on Monday. Friday, April 3 is “drop dead day.” It is the day by which legislation is done with the exception of the final budget and revenue acts.




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CONTACT YOUR SENATOR! VOTE NO ON HB 2096! Common Core Bill Voted Down

Mar 20, 2015 by

HB 2096 – the anti-public service bill – goes to the full Senate next week

Keep contacting those Senators!

The Senate Commerce Committee gutted House Bill 2096 and inserted into it the contents of SB 179, ending the Public Employee Relations Board and enacting severe limitations on collective bargaining rights for state and municipal employees, and Senate Bill 212, prohibiting all public employees from paying association or union dues via payroll deduction.

By putting these two anti-worker bills into the House bill, they successfully stop the House from any ability to have the bills heard in committee or ended. The House can only vote up or down on the bill on a motion to concur in the Senate changes. This end run around the legislative process is commonly known as railroading or ramrodding. It was used to pass the school finance bill that ends the current formula and cuts funding for most school districts.

This bill is the latest in the war on public employees being waged by conservatives in the Legislature. So far they have prohibited public employees from using payroll deduction for PAC contributions, ended fair dismissal rights for teachers, attempted to repeal the professional negotiations act, reclassified state employees to end fair dismissal rights, and now voted to dismantled protections in PEERA (bargaining for state and municipal employees) and ban payroll deduction for dues.

This bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the House. We are almost out of time for consideration so the votes are likely to happen in the next couple days.

Make yourself heard!

Click here for a roster of Senators with phones and emails!

Phone them and leave a message. THEY MUST HEAR FROM KANSANS EVERYWHERE!

Once you have phoned, send an email.

Click here to access the KNEA Legislative email portal!

Talking points you might use:

  • I do not need big government to protect me from my own decisions. I work hard for my pay and I should get to decide for myself how to manage it.
  • HB 2096, as passed out of the Commerce Committee, prohibits me from making voluntary payroll deductions. How can government restrictions on my choices possibly be good policy?
  • Local communities and local governments should be free to make their own decisions about how to manage employee relations and payroll systems. HB 2096 undermines local control.
  • This bill is mean-spirited and unjustifiable. I ask you to stand up for the people who police our streets, fight fires, teach our children, and serve our state and community. VOTE NO on HB 2096.

House Committee Kills Common Core Repeal Bill

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2292, the bill that would have immediately repealed all curriculum standards, end participation in the AP and IB programs and jeopardize Kansas participation in many other programs including the SAT’s National Merit Scholarships.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa) offered an amendment that would let the current standards stand until the State Board developed new ones in 2017 as part of the regular standards review process. The Grosserode amendment would also require that before any new standards were implemented they would need to be approved by both chambers of the Kansas Legislature.

Grosserode’s amendment was rejected by both those who support the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards and those demanding an immediate repeal of the standards.

Subsequent amendments by Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) were similar to the Grosserode amendment but without legislative approval. Those amendments failed as well.

Proponents of standards repeal repeatedly acknowledged that they did not have enough votes in the House for outright repeal tried repeatedly to soften the bill in an attempt to gain support.

After dispatching with the last Bradford amendment, the question was called on the underlying bill. The bill was defeated in committee.

Second turnaround approaches

For the most part, today marks the end of regular committee meetings. Next week, both chambers will be working to clear the backlog of bills that have come out of committee in anticipation of Wednesday, the day by which bills must have be acted upon by the second chamber.

They will likely adjourn on Wednesday leaving a couple of days for conference committees to hammer out differences until the full Legislature returns on March 30. They will be in session from then through potentially April 3, the “drop dead day” for bill consideration.

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