Much like how the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (that is currently stalled in Congress) is the foundation for democracy, the amendments proposed to the Kansas Constitution to change how Kansas Supreme Court justices are chosen would dramatically impact the checks and balances in our state government.

We provided some information about two Senate Concurrent Resolutions (SCR) that passed out of committee and are expected to be heard by the full Senate in an Under The Dome last week. SCR 1621 and 1622 would eliminate the non-partisan Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission and make the election of justices partisan. Yet another proposal to amend the Kansas Constitution, SCR 1620, would enact or amend any law creating any new state tax or increasing the rate of existing state income tax, sales tax, compensating use tax, other excise tax, property tax, estate or inheritance tax or a tax in the nature of such taxes – beginning July 1, 2023.

All these SCRs would have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both the Kansas House and Senate and then be approved by a simple majority of Kansas voters in an August primary to become reality.

Earlier this week, Marcus Baltzell, KNEA Director of Communications, moderated a discussion with KNEA leadership and staff to take a deeper dive into the implications of SCR 1621, 1622, and 1620 – including the impact these amendments would have on school finance if approved by Kansas voters. You can listen to panelists Sherri Schwanz, KNEA President; Kevin Riemann, KNEA Executive Director, Kimberly Streit-Vogelsberg, KNEA General Counsel, Lauren Tice Miller, KNEA Director of Government Relations and Elections and Tim Graham, KNEA Director of Government Relations and Coalitions by clicking on the video above.

So-Called “Workers’ Rights” bill rears head once again

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee took up Senate Bill 511 this week in an annual attempt to weaken unions, most notably weaken the membership in KNEA.

If enacted into law, SB 511 would essentially do the following:

  • Provide a mechanism by which contributions to professional employee organizations and to public employee organizations, that are deducted from the employee’s wages, could be stopped upon receipt of a written or emailed request from the employee.
  • Boards of education and public employers would be required to notify their employees of their right to resign from and stop all financial obligations to the professional employees’ organization or public employees’ organization. Authorizations for deductions from employees of professional employees’ organizations would be required to be on a form approved by the Kansas Secretary of Labor and cannot exceed one year.
  • Authorizations for deductions from public employees’ wages would be required to be on a form approved by the Public Employees Relations Board and could not exceed one year.

This all may sound reasonable and innocuous. HOWEVER, this is another example of anti-union forces that are proposing a solution in search of a problem.

Testimony by proponents cites “numerous” cases where teachers are “trapped” and forced to pay dues and participate in the union. This is false at many angles. Kansas is a “right to work” state. This means Kansas has laws that guarantee that no one is forced to join a union to work.

Additionally, Kansas NEA is clear that our members’ participation in the union is 100% voluntary. We continue to oppose this legislation, just as we have all the other times some iteration of this proposal has been considered in the Statehouse.

In the end, the groups and legislators who are pushing these proposals have a simple agenda to weaken unions in the name of management by pretending to be pro-worker and using anecdotal scare tactics. We will be watching SB 511 closely.