Aurand Stops Due Process Bill. Again.

House Ed Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand

We came into the office today ready for the 3:30 pm meeting of the House Education Committee when Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) had scheduled time for working on bills. We were anxious to see if supporters of Kansas public school teachers on the committee would finally get to vote on HB 2179, the bill restoring due process protections for teachers in Kansas.

Up to this point Chairman Aurand has used every trick at his disposal (or so we thought) to bottle the bill up in his effort to kill it and yet not me counted for voting against it. But it wasn’t long before we realized that Aurand had one more trick – in announcements at the end of this morning’s full House session, he simply announced that the committee meeting for today was canceled. He was determined that the bill would never come to a vote. Today was the last day for committee meetings and any bill not passed by Thursday of this week is dead for the session.

Aurand is trying to convince folks that he’s a good guy just hoping that KNEA and KASB can come to some sort of “compromise” on due process.  But it isn’t lost on anyone that Representative Aurand is a sitting school board member in a district without due process rights. Aurand has declared before his committee that it was never his intent to work this bill, regardless of the committee’s will to do so.  KNEA and KASB can come to compromise on some issues in the due process statute. We can find compromises that speed up the process and reduce costs, for example. But we remain and will continue to remain in opposition over the issue of whether or not a due process hearing decision is binding on the school board.

From its beginnings in the 1950’s until 1991, due process hearings ended in a decision that was advisory to the board. School boards back then did not accept any advisory opinion that went against the district and supported the teacher. That’s why in 1991, the legislature voted to change the system to a binding decision. After all, what’s the purpose of the hearing if the board can unilaterally ignore the ruling? That’s NOT due process.

Aurand’s insistence that we “compromise” on this is actually an insistence that we simply give up and agree that boards of education are infallible.

Aurand’s actions are reminiscent of the actions taken by former speaker Ray Merrick and his anti-teacher allies who crammed the repeal of due process into a must-pass finance bill at 4:00 in the morning without any opportunity for public discussion or debate. Like Aurand, who knows his committee supports the bill, Merrick knew he did not have enough anti-teacher votes to pass the repeal unless it was attached to something critical. Merrick found a way around the will of the legislature. Aurand is doing the same using his power as a committee chairman without regard to the will of the majority on his own committee.

Barker and Hawkins Stop Medicaid Expansion

Today was also the day on which we expected the Medicaid expansion bill, HB 2064, to be passed out of committee.

Yet once again, the committee chair used his power to get the committee to essentially kill the bill.

In this case, Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) argued that Medicaid expansion would be too expensive and should wait until the Supreme Court weighed in on the Gannon school finance lawsuit. If the Court called for $500 million more for schools, then there would be no money for Medicaid expansion. Brownback has asserted that expansion would cost the state about $100 million over two years. Of course, it would also bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Kansas.

Barker made a motion to table the bill until April. It had a vote of 8 to 8 which normally kills a motion unless the Chair of the Committee chooses to break the tie. In this case, Committee Chairman Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), an opponent of expansion, voted for the motion.

What this means is that the committee can’t reconsider the bill until April but, since Thursday is the last day for bills to come out of the chamber or origin, the motion actually has the effect of killing the bill for this session.

Looks like this might be the hallmark of the 2017 legislative session. A new legislature, a majority of whom support Medicaid expansion and public school teachers and campaigned on changing the dialogue in Topeka are being denied the chance to vote on core issues because of the leaders who were installed as committee chairs.