Ahead of Friday’s Turnaround deadline, the House debated and passed 35 bills this week, making the total
number of bills sent to the Senate for consideration 71. In the last half of the session, each chamber will
consider only bills passed by the other chamber, with the exception of those bills still in the house of origin that
were exempt from the Turnaround deadline. However, the House’s approval of a bill prior to Turnaround does
not necessarily guarantee the bill will be worked in the Senate. The next major deadline is March 25, which is
the last day for non-exempt bills not in the house of origin to be considered.
Last session’s education finance bill created the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission, which
met during the 2014 interim. The commission was tasked with putting forward to the 2015 Legislature
recommendations for improving K-12 education. This week, the House took up HB 2326, which was based off
the minority report of the commission. HB 2326 would have limited teacher contract negotiations to only salary
and working conditions. It would have also revised the current law that requires unions to negotiate on behalf of
both member and nonmember teachers by opening up negotiations between individual teachers and the school
board. Proponents argued that allowing for individual negotiations would provide more freedom for teachers to
obtain a favorable contract and would give schools more flexibility to hire qualified teachers.
However, during the House floor debate, the bill was amended to strike the original language and to insert the
language found in HB 2257. During the hearing on HB 2326 in the Commerce, Labor and Economic
Development Committee, representatives for the state school boards, teachers unions and state superintendents
spoke in opposition to the bill. They argued that two years ago they agreed to work to reform contract
negotiations and, as a result, they introduced compromise legislation in the form of HB 2257. This compromise
legislation would leave control of negotiations on behalf of both member and nonmember teachers with the
union and would allow negotiators for the union and the school board to each propose five items for
negotiation, in addition to mandatory negotiations on salaries and work hours. 10 total optionally negotiable
items would be down from the 30 optionally negotiable items allowed under current law.
The House passed HB 2326, as amended, on Thursday, February 5th, by a vote of 109-14.
Hiring Preferences for Veterans
On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation that would establish a permissive preference for
veterans in private employment. As a fitting way to honor veterans’ service and sacrifices made, HB 2154
would provide veterans with more employment opportunities. The bill would authorize private employers to
adopt a policy to give a hiring preference to a veteran who meets the requirements of the job and can also
provide the employer with proof of military service and proof of honorable discharge from such military
The objective of HB 2154 is to establish a permissive preference in private employment for veterans returning
from duty overseas by helping them reintegrate into communities and assist in attainment of equal
opportunities. The bill does not make it a requirement but simply encourages employers to give veterans
preference in employment decisions.
The House passed HB 2154 on Wednesday, February 25th by a vote of 121-0.
Military In-State Tuition
This week, the House passed a bill that would save military families tens of thousands of dollars. HB 2228
would grant in-state tuition and fees to active duty military personnel, National Guard personnel, veterans,
military spouses and dependents who are enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution and eligible to
receive educational assistance under federal law granting such assistance to veterans, regardless of their length
of residency in Kansas. Under this legislation, residency would be without concern to the length of time the
person has resided in the state if the individual files a letter of intent that he or she intends to register and reside
in the state of Kansas while enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution and the individual is eligible for
federal educational benefits for veterans. With the short wait to establish residency in the state of Kansas to pay
the lower tuition, the bill would save time and assist with the transition to civilian life, as well as increase
admission Kansas colleges.
HB 2228 is necessary to make Kansas statutes compliant with federal requirements established in the Veterans
Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 for state universities to provide in-state tuition and fees to
certain veterans, spouses and dependents. Under the Choice Act, states that do not comply with the in-state
tuition and fee requirements will lose federal GI Bill funding approval.
The House passed HB 2228 on Thursday, February 26th by a vote of 123-0.
The House on Thursday passed HB 2104 that would update the state’s election law dealing with ballot
vacancies. Current law allows a candidate to have his or her name removed from the ballot by the Secretary of
State if he or she becomes incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office sought. When Secretary of State Kris
Kobach refused to remove the name of the 2014 Democrat nominee for U.S. Senate, Chad Taylor, from the
ballot because he did not state why he was incapable of fulfilling the duties of a U.S. Senator, Mr. Taylor
challenged Secretary Kobach’s decision in the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in Mr. Taylor’s favor because it
found the statute to be unclear, despite legislative intent. The result of this action was to disenfranchise the
Democrat primary voters who voted for Mr. Taylor over the other primary candidate.
HB 2104 would clarify the responsibilities of a candidate and the candidate’s party when filling a vacancy. The
candidate must take action to remove his or herself from the ballot before the primary, and only in cases of
death, would a name be removed after September 1st.The bill would also specify that any office that must be
filled by a candidate’s party, by law, be filled and reported to the secretary of state.
The House adopted HB 2104 on Thursday, February 26th by a vote of 69-54.
This week, the House passed HB 2085, which would remove the sunset on the partnership between the Kansas
Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA). The legislature took action
in 2013 to create this partnership between KDOT and KTA, placing the secretary of KDOT in charge of the
partnership. Designed to provide efficiencies to both systems, the plan originally was passed with skepticism on
how the partnership would affect the state’s transportation system. The House included a sunset in the original
bill to allow the legislature to reexamine the progress of the partnership and ensure that the quality of the system
was not being compromised for the benefit of savings.
KDOT presented to the House the success of the combination of services and the elimination of duplication
between the two systems. As a result of the partnership, $30 million has been returned to the state general fund
without loss of service in either agency. Savings were found in technology and engineering overlaps, which
allowed the department to leverage the performing assets of both. Overhauling of administration saved the most
at almost $15 million by streamlining the board and organizational structure and the legislative, development
and communication functions of the two systems. The turnpike represents 238 miles of the state’s highway
system compared with 9,500 miles under the KDOT system. Revenues from the turnpike continue to service
turnpike roads only as originally agreed to in 2013.
The House adopted HB 2085 on Thursday, February 26th by a vote of 123-0.
DUI Law Update
Last year, a repeat drunk driver struck and permanently disabled Mija Stockman of McPherson. She was a
school teacher driving home when she was hit, altering her life forever. The damage from the accident was
extensive and resulted in Mija needing lifelong nursing care. The man charged with the accident received only
two years in prison because of the severity level of aggravated battery while driving under the influence (DUI).
HB 2115 would count a previous first conviction of DUI as a nonperson felony and previous subsequent DUI
convictions as person felonies for the purpose of criminal history when the current crime of conviction is
aggravated battery while DUI. If this would have been in effect at the time, the driver who hit Mija would have
faced longer prison time because of the DUI convictions he had previous to the aggravated battery while DUI.
Mija’s family was on hand during the debate and passage of the bill.
The House adopted HB 2115 on Thursday, February 26th by a vote of 123-0.