KS AFL-CIO LEGISLATIVE UPDATE AT TURNAROUND

2021 Legislative Update at Turnaround                                                                 March 4, 2021

The 2021 State Legislative Session is nearing the half-way point known as Turnaround. The Senate is finished, and the House is very close to the spring break. The Turnaround deadline means that if bills have not been passed by one chamber, they are dead and will not be considered by the other chamber. However, there are exceptions and committees which are exempt from this rule. We’ll be watching to see if those dangerous bills get shuffled over to exempt committees.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Employment Security and the Kansas Department of Labor is at the forefront of everybody’s mind right now. If you have not had your job be affected by the Pandemic, then consider yourself lucky. Workers from all sectors have been touched by this in some way and there simply was no way Kansas could adequately respond after the Kansas Department of Labor had been gutted by the Brownback administration. Numerous pieces of legislation are aimed at addressing the UI operations at KDOL. We knew there would be a bill and we were hopeful for a compromise. They would finally HAVE to talk about Unemployment and possibly Work Comp. Our initial support for HB 2196 was based on this premise of let the talks begin. We subsequently opposed the sister bill in the Senate (SB 177) knowing both bills would need a lot of work. The House version advanced but negotiations didn’t help the bill to make it dramatically better. It will continue to be a work in progress as the Senate receives it. There is just far too much bad in the bill. Labor agrees fixing the fraud has to be a priority. Legislators will struggle with solving fraud, while trying to help people who are in need. Our opportunity to help folks still remains in front of us and the opportunity for lawmakers to help constituents remains in front of them. One fix in the favor of workers was an amendment to not suspend benefit eligibility for the 5 years currently in place. This is reduced to 2 years. The 26 weeks of UI eligibility will end however, and this is unacceptable. They need to get it right! They still can make it right by making the 26 weeks permanent in the Senate. Both bills are referred to as the UI Modernization and Improvement bill(s). Your Talking Points: Fix the Fraud and Identity Theft. Second, leave benefits alone by making 26 weeks of eligibility the permanent standard. Third, a state-wide unemployment rate is a poor way to gauge job availability and thus, base benefits on. Fourth, now is not the time to reduce the funding obligation by giving employers UI tax cuts. These times are a perfect example of why employers should maintain their contributions to the UI Trust Fund. Last, we have new leadership at KDOL, and we believe we have to let the new Secretary and agency be given the time to get the work done. Already drastic improvements have been made to the system to curb identity theft/fraud.

As in the past few years, another JANUS type bill was introduced. While aimed at Kansas’ Teachers, this also effects public employee unions. HB 2354 did not make it out of committee this year, but nothing ever dies under the dome! They want to keep this threat out there hanging over our head. The bill treats unions differently when it comes to public employee payroll deductions and is meant to break unions in the public sector. Supporters of the bill claim it is necessary for Kansas to pass legislation because of the years old JANUS court decision. However, this carries no rationale for many reasons. The bill restricts participation in the union and the personal choice (right) of association. We might also add that Kansas is a right to work state. Be ready Sisters and Brothers to take action if we need your help to contact legislators. Thank you to those who have already contacted your elected officials.

Worker’s Compensation – Our Permanent Total Disability (SB 164) is set to have an informational hearing next week in the Senate Commerce Committee. All other Work Comp bills face an uphill climb, but amendments are another way for issues to be addressed. Some COVID related bills could provide the opportunity for Work Comp to enter in those discussions by amendment.

Medicaid Expansion (or KAN-CARE) remains a priority for the governor’s administration. This obviously would take bi-partisan support and Governor Laura Kelly has done her part to show how practical it is to “marry” two issues in medicinal marijuana and health care together. Labor supports the proposal, and Kansas is one of only 12 states to not get expansion passed. It’s about jobs and economic development! Our state is losing billions of dollars and counting. Yet, an amendment attempt on another Health Care bill in the Senate could only garner 12 votes along party lines.

Public Education is facing so many challenges right now due to COVID and it looks as though the legislature wants to pile on stuff to make it worse. Certain groups are seizing this opportunity to pursue an agenda for vouchers. Funding is what is at stake where private schools shave off some of that funding backed with some real flawed rationale. Every workplace is adapting to COVID where some good will come out of technology. Watch this bill (HB 2119) because the folks with an agenda have forgotten, public education is at the heart of our children’s future. Still, another bill would circumvent local school boards’ decision to hold in-person school instruction. Yet, another local-control infringement by state lawmakers when it is convenient for their cause.

Payday Loan Reform legislation was introduced in both House and Senate chambers. The House bill got a hearing in the Financial Institutions and Rural Dev. Committee. Negotiations continue to take place with people on both sides of the bill and while anything is possible, an interim committee study may be with where this is headed. It is HB 2189 and recall that this is nothing more than legalized loan sharking. So many working people fall into this trap and cycle of exorbitant interest rates. We do not wish to put the payday loan industry out of business, but only to create some regulation and reasonable limits. There is also a bill in the Senate chamber.

A bill that deals with Occupational Licensure and Certifications is especially important to the trades and the teachers. The bill number for this year is HB 2066 and it has been heavily “reworked” since it died in 2020. It is touted for its ability to help address a skill shortage (pre-pandemic) and mitigate all the young talent leaving the state. It passed one chamber last year. We are working with the ranking minority leader of the House Commerce Committee to make this bill better by adding years of experience to requirements for consideration by the governing board and restrictions closer to its original intent (military service members & spouses). It passed the House, and the Senate is expected to take it up after Turnaround. We must ensure that anyone coming into this state has surpassed or matched our state’s standards for credentialing. The language is “similar scope of practice” is an improvement in the bill, but more could be done so working Kansans are on an even playing field.

A bill in the House Elections Committee (HB 2054) had Voter Suppression written all over it. This issue caught our attention and with the help of Dems and community partners working behind the scenes, we were able to keep this bill from passing out of committee. The bill handed down stiff felony charges, criminalizing election work that merely amounted to collecting any more than five advance vote ballots. This would have been a slap in the face to Kansans doing the work to help people get their vote counted.

Massive bills on Unemployment, Education, another tax break for the rich bill (A la the Brownback experiment) and the overreach to limit the governor’s ability to manage the state through the Pandemic / Vaccinations means governor’s vetoes. Then the real fight will be in veto override attempts. For more information, see our Bill Tracker here, but remember it is not a complete list of legislation we are following.

2021 KS AFL-CIO

STATE LEGISLATIVE BILL TRACKER

Worker’s Comp:

HSE – HB 2016 – Rep. Carmichael; Prevailing Factor Standard; SUPPORT

HSE – HB 2017 – Rep. Carmichael Horseplay; SUPPORT

SEN – SB 164 – Perm. Total Disability Cap Increase; SUPPORT

HSE – HB 2040 – Disqualification & Drug(s) Presumption Level; SUPPORT

HSE – HB 2311 – Perm. Total Disability Cap Increase; SUPPORT

HSE  - HB 2312 – Choice of Health Care Provider (Physician); SUPPORT

Unemployment (UI):

HSE – HB 2195 – UI; Fraud, Refunding and Crediting

HSE – HB 2196 – UI Modernization & Improvement; Employer Rates & Shared Work; OPPOSE

SEN – SB 177 – UI Modernization & Improvement; Employer Rates & Shared Work; OPPOSE

SEN – SB 162 – Bd of Review Expansion & Sunset

SEN – SB 163 – Disqualification; Recovery, Illness & Injury

Union Busting Legislation

HSE – HB 2354 – Providing public employees & professional employees certain rights with respect to withholding of public employee organization & professional employee organization dues. (Reference the Janus Case); OPPOSE

HSE – HB 2411 – Allows for Local School Boards to select which Union to choose for bargaining rights and entering into negotiations; OPPOSE

Minimum Wage:

HSE - HB 2018 – Minimum Wage Increase (Rep. Coleman)

HSE – HB 2033 – Minimum Wage Increase over 6 Yrs.; Rep. Xu, Haswood, Parker, Vaughn and Woodard; SUPPORT

Licensure:

HSE - HB 2066 – Rep. Croft & Others; NEUTRAL

SEN – SB 10 – Sen Hildebrand & Others; Right to Earn a Living; OPPOSE

Payday Loan Reform:

HB 2189 & SB 218 – Legalized loan sharking that preys upon struggling Wkg people; The

bill would establish regulations; Caps on Int rates, Borrowed Amt, Payments & time to pay back; SUPPORT

Other bills:

SEN - SB 22 – Tax bill; Has a lot more bad than good right now. Has passed the Senate; The Governor sees a compromise in the future.

SEN – SB 167 – Classifying certain public utility motor vehicles as emergency vehicles w/out county commission designations; SUPPORT

SEN – SB 220 – Increasing the penalty for battery committed against a utility worker; SUPPORT

HSE – HB 2054 – Advance Ballots; Limitations on persons returning advance ballots and establishing criminal felony penalties related thereto; OPPOSE

SEN – SB 224 - Railroads; Establishing a maximum train length allowed to be operated in KS; Provides for penalties for violations; SUPPORT

*NOTES:

*Much work to be done on UI; Medicaid Expansion & the Marijuana paired up by the Governor remain a priority. Also, there are a number of bills on Occupational Licensure, Workforce Development / Training that we are monitoring. Last, Public Education is under attack with voucher legislation proposed.

**HB 2196 – UI Modernization & Improvement garnered our initial support, however there is just too much “bad” in the bill to look past and the groups (Big Business & Lawmakers) that brought it do not have good intentions for working families. Unemployment and Fraud remain important issues that we want to see debated /addressed. But, we need fair legislation with workers in mind.