Under the Dome - February 6, 2013
Senate Commerce hearing on HB 2023 continues
Today the proponents of HB 2023, the bill designed, in the words of Kansas Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Eric Stafford, "to get rid of public sector unions," got their time before the Committee.
First up was Senator Greg Smith who repeated his assertions that KNEA and Shawnee Mission NEA bully and badger teachers into joining the union against their will. Smith told the Committee that no one he talked to was willing to come testify to that behavior for fear of losing their jobs or facing the "snide remarks" of their teacher colleagues.
Next was former state representative Eric Carter speaking for the Chamber. Carter declared the bill to be constitution despite the fact that it prohibits unions under the Public Employee/Employer Relations Act (PEERA) which covers all state and municipal employees from participation in any "political activities" regardless of how they collect the money. The bill clearly states:
"It shall be a prohibited practice for a public employee organization to endorse candidates, or spend any of its income,
directly or indirectly, for partisan or political purposes or engage in any kind of activity advocating or opposing the election of candidates for any public office including any income in the form of or derived from any dues, fees, assessments or any other periodic payments, directly or indirectly, to engage in political activities as defined in paragraph (2). [Strike-outs are deleted language in the current law; italics is new language amended into the law; bold is our emphasis added.]
The bold language clearly says that no matter how you collect money for political activities - by check, by bank draft, by credit card, or cash - that money may not be used for political activities. This bill doesn't even PRETEND to protect a public employee's constitutional right to free speech!
Carter was followed by Dan Murray of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Eric Stafford of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and finally former State Board of Education Member Walt Chappell.
Chappell told the Committee that all political and legislative positions taken by KNEA are made by "four or five individuals" with no input from other members and that he has spoken to many, many teachers who can't understand why KNEA supports more money for schools when there is plenty of money to go around if it was just spent more efficiently.
Last up was Dave Trabert of the anti-government, anti-public education Kansas Policy Institute. Trabert claimed to be neutral on the bill but cited a poll KPI had conducted that found little support for withholding of PAC contributions by payroll deduction. KPI used the same pollster that found President Obama to be more popular in Kansas than Sam Brownback. Back when that poll was released there was a general condemnation of the polling company as not particularly competent by the Brownback political machine.
Trabert was asked to name the funding sources of KPI and was asked specifically if the Koch Brothers were funding the operation. Trabert declined to divulge the KPI funders, expressing that they were fearful of the backlash against them - the bullying they would face - if their names became public.
Committee Vice-Chair and Senate President Susan Wagle expressed that she was concerned about whether or not the bill would pass a constitutionality test, focusing in particular on the definition of political activities and the language we talked about earlier. We certainly hope that her concerns will lead to a much closer reading of the bill by Committee members.
Then, contact members of the Committee and ask them to reject HB 2023:
Julia Lynn - Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Wagle - email@example.com
Pat Apple - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Denning - email@example.com
Jay Emler - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Longbine - email@example.com
Jeff Melcher - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Olson - Robert.email@example.com
Mary Pilcher-Cook - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Holland - email@example.com
Oletha Faust-Goudeau - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate Education Committee hears two bills
Hearings were held today on two bills in the Senate Education Committee.
Up first was Senate Bill 22 which would extend the Post-secondary Technical Education Authority through 2017. It is set to sunset in 2014 under current law. The Authority has been working in an advisory capacity to the Board of Regents and Technical and Community Colleges to ensure alignment of programs and credits and that these institutions are meeting the needs of Kansas businesses.
The second bill was Senate Bill 23 which would extend the statewide 20 mill property tax levy for public schools. This tax levy is a primary source of state school funding. Due to constitutional limits on property taxes, it must be renewed every two years. While it would seem non-controversial, it has been used in the past as a "chit" in the back and forth over the state budget. KNEA provided testimony in favor of SB 23.
Tomorrow the Senate Education Committee will take up SB 44, a bill on dyslexia. Dyslexia legislation has become an annual tradition under the dome.
KNEA will be a proponent of the bill while calling for a few minor changes to provide flexibility to schools and parents.
We apologize to Grandma Hoerner for having spelled her name incorrectly in yesterday's edition! As way of apology, the writer assures Grandma Hoerner that we will continue enjoying delicious jams and chutneys made right there in Alma, Kansas.