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Under the Dome - February 5, 2013

Senate Commerce Committee takes up HB 2023

Did I hear that right? The Legislature can control how public employees spend their paychecks?

Yes, we heard that right. In the first day of hearings on HB 2023 in the Senate, Senate President Susan Wagle who serves as Vice-Chair of the committee argued that public employee salaries are not technically the employee's but instead belong to "the taxpayers." Those "taxpayers" in turn must be protected from the decisions that public employees are making about their paychecks.

According to Wagle, the Legislature has a right to control political activities done by public employees because it is wrong to allow persons whose services are paid for with tax dollars from weighing in on political or legislative issues.

Wagle got some pushback from Rebecca Proctor, a labor attorney who testified in opposition to HB 2023. Proctor asked Wagle if she thought her own legislative salary should be controlled by herself or the legislature. Wagle's response (before continuing to insist that other employees pay does not belong to them) was, "That's a good point."

We suppose that, taken to a natural conclusion, the Legislature should then be allowed to restrict public employees to buying only automobiles made in Kansas or only jam from Grandma Horner's.

We are also wondering whether or not Senator Wagle endorses the same idea for companies that make money off of government contracts. For example, Crossland Construction earns a lot of money building public school buildings for which they are paid with tax dollars. Should Crossland Construction be prohibited from contributing to the Kansas Chamber PAC? Crossland gave $203,000 to the Chamber PAC in 2012. How much of that was "taxpayer money?"

Tomorrow the Committee will hear from the proponents whose stated goal is "to get rid of public sector unions." So is this really about protecting your paycheck? Is it really about stopping all that alleged but unsubstantiated bullying by union members? No. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce stated in their presentation in the House that they "need this bill passed to get rid of public sector unions."

We are holding firm along with our friends in other public sector unions, private sector unions and now with the support of some school administrators and Board members. Today, joining KNEA and KOSE in opposing the bill were Superintendents Sharon Zoellner of Louisburg and Ron Ballard of Ark City and Topeka 501 School Board member Patrick Woods.

Read the real truth about HB 2023 by clicking here!

Feel free to weigh in with the Committee members:

Julia Lynn -
Susan Wagle -
Pat Apple -
Jim Denning -
Jay Emler -
Jeff Longbine -
Jeff Melcher -
Rob Olson -
Mary Pilcher-Cook -
Tom Holland -
Oletha Faust-Goudeau -

While you need paycheck protection, it appears that legislators need special job protection!

That's the message behind Senate Bill 119 which appeared today. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Smith (R-Overland Park), would require that when someone leaves a job to serve in the legislature, if that person fails to be re-elected or retires from the legislature, the previous employer is required to restore him/her to the same position he/she had when taking the legislative seat. And they must do this with no reduction in pay, status, or seniority. It also requires that, while the legislative service would just be considered a "leave of absence," the returning legislator must be treated for salary and seniority as if he/she had been in continuous employment during the absence.

Essentially, if a person is elected to serve in the Senate and leaves a job for the four year term, when returning to the job four years later the employer MUST hire him/her back, MUST treat him/her as if there had been no separation giving seniority and salary credit for the leave, and cannot terminate the person without cause for one year. Wow. Pretty sweet deal. This applies to both public and private employers.

Trouble in tax paradise?

Word was the Senate Tax Committee would vote out the Governor's tax bill today but something went awry.

We know that the plan has come in for some heated criticism. The Governor's tax bill from last year has already cost the state all of its ending balance plus about $500 million more, leaving a big hole to be filled for this year alone. Because of that, Brownback proposed what are essentially three tax increases on middle and low income Kansans - making permanent the temporary sales tax increase, eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction, and eliminating the deduction for paid property taxes.

Those three tax increases have run into sharp criticism from legislators who don't want to break their promise on the sales tax and from realtors and home builders who see their industries hurt with the loss of those home deductions.

When the committee met this morning it was noted that the calendar called for a continued hearing on the bill and that meant they could not work or pass it. The Committee was adjourned.

It has of course left some in the statehouse wondering if there might not be the votes in Committee to send the bill out in its current form.

In addition to the tax increases, the bill continues to phase out the state income tax meaning that even if the hole is filled in this year's budget, in out years the hole grows even deeper.

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