Due Process Moves on House Floor

Feb 21, 2017 by

House Takes Preliminary Vote on Due Process and It Passes!

When Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) cancelled the education committee meeting yesterday, it was done with the intent of ending the possibility that due process rights for Kansas teachers would be restored. Instead, he got the supporters for HB 2179 looking for another way forward. They found that other path this morning.

With the full House on general orders, a bill dealing with dispute arbitration came up for debate, HB 2186. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (R-Prairie Village) offered an amendment that would restore due process rights for Kansas teachers exactly as it was to be done in HB 2179.

Aurand tried to block the amendment by challenging whether the amendment was germane or related to the underlying bill. The rules committee considered the challenge and ruled that the amendment was indeed germane and that debate could continue.

Much of the debate focused on “local control,” the idea of letting every local school board decide whether or not they would choose to grant due process protections to their teachers. While some school districts have done this, a large majority of school boards simply refuse to even bargain the issue. Teachers in districts that have not bargained due process rights, those teachers may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, typically aren’t told the reason for the termination, and have no recourse to a hearing to determine if they were treated justly or capriciously.

One freshman legislator, Trevor Jacobs (R-Fort Scott), called upon Stogsdill to give him proof that any teachers have been fired for having a bad day since 2014. Of course, no one can be certain of the answer since school districts don’t give reasons for termination unless that has been bargained into the contract.

After a long floor debate, the amendment was adopted on a vote of 66 to 59 as moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting AYE.

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Judd-Jenkins, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

Following that vote, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby), decided to get one dig in at teachers and offered an amendment he called “merit pay.” The amendment was not a merit pay amendment but called for the creation of a mandatory state-wide evaluation system for teachers and school administrators. Additionally, it would direct the State Board of Education to set compensation for teachers and administrators.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) challenged the germaneness of this amendment. The rules committee determined that the amendment was not germane and so it was not debated or voted upon.

The bill was then advanced to final action with 68 votes. That final action vote will likely come tomorrow.


Your call to action tonight!

If your Representative voted AYE on the Stogsdill amendment, take the time to let him/her know that you appreciate the support for Kansas teachers. If your Representative voted NO on the amendment, ask him/her to reconsider and vote AYE on final action on HB 2186.

Find a roster of Representatives with a link to their email addresses by clicking here.


Changes to Working After Retirement (WAR) Get Preliminary OK

HB 2268 passed a preliminary vote in the House today by voice vote.  If the bill passes on Final Action in the House it will then proceed to the Senate.

The bill, as amended makes numerous changes to KPERS in relationship to Working After Retirement.

The current rules for Working After Retirement, as applied to newly retired individuals, caps an individual’s annual earnings at $25,000. Once the cap is reached an individual must either quit working or stop receiving KPERS benefits for the rest of the year.

Also, the current rules for certain groups in KPERS exempt them from the $25,000 cap. This includes nurses at certain state institutions, those in KP&F, those in the Judges Retirement System, local government officials and those employed with a participating KPERS employer prior to May 1, 2015.

Additionally the current rules make an exemption for certain types of licensed school district employees from the $25,000 cap. Importantly participating employers who hire retired licenses school employees are required to contribute to KPERS at rates varying up to 30% of the employee’s salary.

The current exemptions for licensed school district employees include those hired for emergency vacancies, special education teachers, and those who are hired under the hard-to-fill provisions of the current law.

HB 2268 combines all the current special exemptions into a single special working after retirement exemption. The bill also continues the existing provisions of the WAR rules regarding a bona fide separation period, employer assurance protocols, maximum period of employment-three years plus a one year extension-and the current contribution to KPERS rates. Retirees working under the current law would continue to be exempt, subject to the time limits in HB 2268.

Additionally starting on July 1, 2017, those who retire at age 62 or older and who are re-employed by a school district would also be exempt from the earnings cap. The district would be required to contribute to KPERS equal to 30% of the retiree’s compensation.

The bill also exempts those who are re-employed by the Board of Regents and covered by the Regents Retirement Plan from the earnings cap. The Regents Retirement Plan is not administered by KPERS.

 

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Conference Committee Actions

Apr 30, 2016 by

CCR SB 63: Repealing the business tax loophole

This bill would repeal the loophole in the tax code supported by Gov. Brownback that allowed more than 330,000 Kansans to pay no income tax at all.

Most of Kansas supports this repeal but this bill proved problematic. While the bill would have repealed the loophole, it was being sold as a solution to the state’s fiscal woes. Unfortunately, it was not. The bill would have provided an estimated $61 million in 2017 and something over $200 million in 2018. Passage of the bill would have given some legislators the opportunity to say they voted to reverse the damage done to the state, we would actually have faced the same disastrous issues we are facing now. This bill would not have funding our schools, fixed our highways, or protected our pensions, universities, and pre-school programs from the Governor’s cuts, sweeps, and delays.

The legislature needs to face up to the fact that “option four” is the only way out of this fiscal mess. Yes, the business income loophole needs to be reversed, but it needs to be done as part of a complete package that reverses the disastrous “march to zero” advocated by Gov. Brownback and his extreme allies in the legislature.

CCR SB 63 was an election year gimmick intended to some who support the Governor’s plan the cover necessary to survive their re-election campaigns. By voting for this bill, they could claim to have “broken with Brownback” to solve the problem while actually doing little to help.

We can guarantee that those who voted yes on this bill will be tagged as “tax raisers” by the radical right elements of the Kansas Chamber, Kansas Policy Institute, and Americans for Prosperity. And yes, they would have done a good deed in making the tax system more fair but they would have done almost nothing to solve the fundamental revenue problems caused by the Governor’s comprehensive and reckless tax cuts passed in 2012 and 2013.

Now that CCR SB 63 has been done away with, let’s hope that the legislature will actually stand up for Kansas and put together a bill supporting option four – reversing the reckless and irresponsible Brownback tax cuts.

No votes are a mixed bag of legislators containing many Democrats and moderate Republicans along with hard right anti-government ideologues. Democrats and Moderates who voted no want to fix the system so that schools, highways, public safety and other vital state services are funded. The hard right wants to continue the “march to zero” and the gutting of those same services.

The report failed on a vote of 45 to 74.

CCR SB 323: The education report

This conference committee was adopted easily. It contains three bills heard in committees and voted on by the legislature.

The first bill, the Jason Flatt Act, requires 1 hour of annual suicide prevention training for school employees,
The second bill establishes a program to track the language development of deaf and hearing impaired students,
The third bill changes the rules for capital improvement state aid, establishing a 6 year rolling average cap on expenditures and allowing the State Board of Education to prioritize projects based on certain criteria.

KNEA supports all three bills. The report was adopted 118 to 0. It now goes to the Senate.

CCR SB 168, KPERS, Working after retirement

This bill does a number of things but those impacting teachers include the following three:

Prohibits pre-arranged working after retirement agreements,
Extends current provisions for three years, until 2020,
Makes certain changes in how to extend employment under the exceptions in current law.

The bill was adopted on a vote of 117 to 1. Only Rep. Jerry Lunn voted now. We imagine this is because he wanted the bill to include his study of retirement “spiking” via deferred compensation. But we’ll let him explain his rationale.

We’re back for the weekend!

Or at least Saturday. The House has now adjourned until 8:30 am tomorrow (yes, that’s Saturday). The Senate has not yet adjourned for the day.

Keep alert tomorrow! Follow us at underthedomeks.org or by using the KNEA app on your smart phone. We may need your help!

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Bathroom Use; CLEP Credit; Equity Bills; In-State Tuition

Mar 17, 2016 by

New Bill Introduction in Senate

Just up this afternoon is a Senate Bill – SB 513 – “creating the student physical privacy act.” Word under the dome is that this bill comes from Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee). It would prohibit a student from using a restroom for a gender other than that identified at the student’s birth.

The bill would prohibit policies allowing transgendered students from using the restroom facilities of the gender with which they identify. Alternative facilities may be made available to transgendered students. The bill would also give a private cause of action against the school if that student should encounter a student of the opposite gender in a facility provided for his/her gender if the school “gave such person of the opposite sex permission to use facilities designated for use by such student’s sex” or the school “failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit such person of the opposite sex from using facilities designated for use by such student’s sex.”

Currently, policy decisions on the use of such facilities are left to the wisdom of locally elected school boards in consultation with teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents.


House Ed Committee Advances CLEP Bill

The House Education Committee today held a hearing on SB 388, requiring the State Board of Regents to adopt a policy on awarding credit hours based on CLEP test results. The bill would standardize the granting of credit for performance on a CLEP examination such that the credits could easily transfer among Kansas higher education institutions.

The bill was passed out of committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.


Working the Equity Bills

The House Appropriations today worked HB 2731, the Ryckman bill dealing with school finance equity in response to the Supreme Court decision. It became clear very quickly that the bill did not have enough support in the Committee to move forward.

Most of the negative comments were directed more to the Court than to the provisions of the bill itself. One legislator even asserted that the Court had no understanding of either school finance or equity.

Reps. Jerry Henry (D-Cummings), Sidney Carlin (D-Manhattan), and Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) tried to impress upon their colleagues that the Court did not choose to weigh in, there was a lawsuit that they were required to hear, that the Court relied on a study commissioned, paid for, and adopted by the Legislature as the only evidence brought forth, and that the demands on schools have grown tremendously over the years and are more costly.

In the end, Ryckman chose not to put the bill to a vote.

In the Senate Ways and Means Committee, SB 512, the Masterson bill dealing with school finance equity was quickly passed out of committee and has been sent on to the full Senate for consideration.

Both bills return to the previous equity formula (before block grants) and sweep the $17 million out of the extraordinary needs fund. The balance of the needed money is new spending in the Ryckman bill and is redistributed from school districts in the Masterson bill.


On the Floors Today

House Bill 2700 was scheduled for debate on the House floor today but was pulled and returned to the Pensions committee. We suspect it will be placed in another bill and sent back for reconsideration. This is likely an effort to put the bill in a position that it can be quickly voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor.

No other bills we are tracking were on the floor for debate today.

As we write this the Senate is still in deep debate on the second bill of nine on their debate calendar today. And the first bill was passed over after a long debate while they wait on another amendment to come forward.

We are waiting for the debate on the fifth bill, HB 2567 which deals with tuition rates for military personnel. It is rumored that there will be an attempt to pass an amendment that would repeal in-state tuition to the children of undocumented workers.

We will report on this tomorrow.

 

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Senate Approves Budget; Looming Deadline; KPERS

Feb 12, 2016 by

Senate Approves Budget; On to Conference

The House approved their version of the budget on Thursday morning, the Senate did so Thursday night.

The House budget includes the delay in payments to KPERS with “promises” to pay the money back next year. On a motion of Rep. Johnson (R-Asaria), the House amended the KPERS provision to require the payback in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate, on the other hand, removed the delay of KPERS funding requiring the state to go ahead and fund KPERS as scheduled.

Both chambers also ignored the Supreme Court decision on school funding equity that came out Thursday morning. The Court decision found SB 7 (block grants) to be unconstitutional in that it does not provide for equity. There had been some thought that votes on the budget would be postponed. A motion to refer the budget back to committee failed on the House floor.

We will now be interested in seeing how the Legislature plans to respond to the Court’s ruling.

The roll call vote on the budget in the Senate (HB 2365) is as follows:

YEA: Abrams, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, Kerschen, King, Knox, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O’Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Smith, Wagle, and Wilborn.

NAY: Baumgardner, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, LaTurner, Longbine, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

McGinn was absent.


The June 30 Deadline Looms!

You’ve been reading that the Supreme Court has given the Legislature until June 30 to address the equity issues in school funding. Yet to be decided is whether or not overall funding is adequate.

The Court clearly said that if the order is not addressed by that date, then schools would be closed because the state would be prohibited from providing funding in an unconstitutional manner.

This order has led to plenty of posturing and chest-pounding on the part of some in the Legislature.

But we are confident that, when the dust settles, the Legislature will get back to work and address the situation. There is still plenty of time between now and June 30 for the Legislature to take the appropriate action and that is our expectation. No one on either side of the aisle and of any ideology really wants schools to close. KNEA, along with all other advocates for the education of Kansas kids will be working in any way we can to keep the process moving forward until a reasonable solution is found.


KPERS Capers

The House Pension Committee has been quite busy the last couple of days. First during Wednesday’s regularly meeting they heard testimony regarding HB 2542 known as the COLA bill. There were 5 proponents and no opponents nor was there any neutral testimony regarding the bill. There was some spirited discussion during the testimony, but in the end we would be surprised if the committee works the bill.  During yesterday’s questions and statements legislators expressed sympathy, but also asserted that there is no money to support such an effort. Given those statements from the legislators yesterday and the ruling against the state by the Supreme Court regarding the equity portion of the Gannon Case which puts the state’s budget in turmoil, we do not believe there is much hope for the bill.

After the regular committee meeting the subcommittee on Working after Retirement (WAR) met. They discussed certain aspects of WAR regulations during a brief meeting. The subcommittee met again today to begin finalizing recommendations to a bill modifying the WAR regulations.

The subcommittee is considering the following WAR recommendations for submission to the House Pensions Committee:

Using one bill to put together HB 2656, HB 2654, and HB 2653 with balloons that address the discussions of the subcommittee. HB 2656 is Rep. Trimmers bill regarding working until 62 at which time a person would be able to choose WAR options that resemble the regulations that recently sunset. HB 2654 addresses nurses and WAR. HB 2653 addresses grandfathering in folks into WAR for 2 more years, grant the hardship cases a 3 year extension rather than a year by year extension. Next they also discussed that the hardship cases not go through the legislative committee for approval.

Consideration of how to implement Representative Edmonds’ request for a signed document declaring that no previous discussions had occurred for a position that a person applies for under WAR regulations. The document would be signed by the employee and in the case of school districts the board president.

 

 

 

 

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Local Control? Working after Retirement. Merit Selection of Justices is Saved!

Feb 4, 2016 by

Chipping away. Is the End of Local Control in Kansas Near?

Kansas legislators love to talk about “local control” but every day they are chipping away at it, considering and often passing legislation giving control of schools, cities, and counties to the Legislature.

Take for example a bill to cap local property taxes, limiting what a municipality can do to provide services to residents. The legislature is saying you can’t raise those taxes even if your residents want to. As the governor and legislature continue their march to zero revenue in the state treasury, they seek to limit a municipality’s ability to make up the difference. No local control

Bills get hearings that would prohibit municipalities from sending someone to lobby the legislature on behalf of the city, county or school district. No local control.

A bill passed that prohibits state tax dollars from being spent on lobbying against expanded access to guns. If a municipal lobbyist comes forward to oppose a bill allowing guns in the city council chambers, they must prove that only local tax dollars paid for those minutes of the lobbyist’s time. No local control.

There was a hearing today on a bill (SB 368) to prohibit cities, counties, and school districts from publishing information on bond issues to be placed before the voters. You can put a bond issue up but you can’t tell the voters about the good you expect to get from it. Of course there are no limits on what Americans for Prosperity of the Kansas Policy Institute can publish about the issue. No local control.

We have mandatory consolidation of school districts (HB 2504) – local boards and voters have nothing to say. There are bills to make school boards limit what instructional materials teachers may use (SB 56). There was even a bill mandating when schools must teach our founding documents (Celebrate Freedom Week). No local control.

The governor and legislative leadership are on a mission to consolidate their control of all levels of government. A constitutional amendment giving the governor control of Supreme Court justices is under consideration today. Dissent is being stifled (see our lead article today). And now they are chipping away at Kansas’ long tradition of local control. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


What’s Really Going On with Working after Retirement Rules?

The House Pensions Subcommittee reviewing the Working after Retirement (WAR) policies met today. The members of the subcommittee are Rep. Stephen Johnson (R-Asaria), Rep. John Edmonds (Great Bend), Rep. Jim Kelly (R-Independence) and Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield). The subcommittee is reviewing the recent changes in the WAR policies in order to “tweak” them to give school districts and other employers a little more flexibility to hire people to work after retirement which is our understanding of the work assigned to the subcommittee.

The subcommittee is reviewing what each potential tweak to the policies might cost the system, what changes need to happen in order to comply with the IRS concerns about prearranged deals for WAR, the hardship category rules, and then how to help employers hire those who need to be hired. It is our belief that the subcommittee is reviewing those category areas in order to make suggestions to simplify the rules and make it easier for employers to hire those who need to be hired to fill the open positions that their entities experience while at the same time limiting the costs to KPERS.

The subcommittee will meet again on Monday at 10 a.m. in a room to be announced.


Kansas House Defeats Constitutional Amendment Giving Control of the Supreme Court to the Governor

In a final action vote today, the Kansas House rejected an attempt to change the Kansas Constitution and return the selection of Supreme Court Justices to the world of politics and ideology.

The genesis of this amendment is the frustration conservation legislators and Governor Brownback have with a court that has called them out for their failure to provide for public education as mandated in the constitution.

Like amendments have been debated since the decision in the Montoy court case more than a decade ago. Constitutional amendments require a super-majority vote in both chambers. The House would require 84 votes to pass the amendment. The vote today was 68 to 54.


Why does Kansas have the merit system for appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court?

Prior to the adoption of a constitutional amendment creating the Supreme Court Nomination Commission, the Kansas governor made appointment to the court. This is the system that Governor Brownback and his allies wish to restore.

The change was due to the perfectly legal but unethical manipulation of the process that took place in 1956-57.

Here it is explained by Kansas Memory on the Kansas State Historical Society website:

Incumbent Governor [Fred] Hall was defeated in the 1956 Republican primary by Warren Shaw, who lost in the general election to George Docking. Then Chief Justice [William] Smith resigned from the Supreme Court due to ill health on December 31, Hall quickly resigned as governor on January 3, 1957, and Lieutenant Governor [John] McCuish became governor for the next eleven days. McCuish immediately appointed Hall to the newly vacated Supreme Court seat. While perfectly legal, this sequence of actions was considered by many to be highly unethical. In response to the “triple play,” the 1957 Kansas legislature passed a resolution for a constitutional amendment concerning the way judges were appointed. The amendment was passed in the 1958 general election. (See the documents by clicking here.)

The Kansas legislature and Kansas voters decided in 1958 to take the selection of justices out of politics and put it in the hands of an independent commission.

The Commission has nine members. The Chair who is an attorney elected by attorneys state-wide and two members from each of the four congressional districts – one attorney selected by attorneys in that district and one non-attorney selected by the governor. These commissioners review all applicants for a position on the court. They weigh the merits of each candidate and the candidate’s qualifications. The commission sends three names to the governor who selects from that list.

This is truly a non-political merit system. Justices are not chosen based on the likelihood they will rule according the governor’s personal ideology. Despite the talk of “special interests” in the House debate, the merit system denies special interest groups a say in the selection of justices. When selection is put in the hands of politicians, those selected are chosen for adherence to a particular ideology. Is the person anti-abortion? Is the person a gun control advocate?

Proponents of the change want you to believe that they are simply following the “federal model.” To an extent this is true. And looking at the federal model should give one pause. If the party of the incumbent president holds a strong majority in the Senate, the president’s nominee sails through. If not, there is open warfare while the political leanings of the nominee are debated and dragged through the mud.

Kansas has a true merit selection process. It is the best way to ensure that Kansas has a Supreme Court that is bound to the law and not to ideology. That means sometimes each of us will be delighted with court decisions and sometimes we’ll be angry. But the court will rule on the law, not the political whim of the day.

 

 

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