Topeka — State civil servants pressed their case to be able to seek elective office without being forced to resign their positions.
Kansas University classified employee Mike Auchard compares himself and co-workers to a prisoner.
Auchard, president of KU's Classified Senate, told a House committee today that state law prohibited all 1,716 civil service workers at KU from seeking elective office without first resigning.
"Classified employees and convicted felons are the only two groups denied these rights," he said.
He said the law conveyed that all classified employees couldn't be trusted to put the welfare of the state above personal interests.
"The irony of this is that we are employed by the very state that doesn't trust us," he said. "The effect of this law is to deny us our right to participate in the democratic process."
The House Governmental Organization and Elections Committee today heard testimony but took no action on House Bill 2088, which would repeal the prohibition. No one testified against the bill.
One committee member, Rep. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said many states didn't allow classified employees to run for state office. The practice reduces the chance of conflicts of interest, he said.
"The compelling need appears national in scope," he said.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, sponsored the bill with 17 legislators. He said a double standard existed among KU employees.
Under current law, an unclassified employee, such as a faculty member or an administrator, may run for public office. Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, is an unclassified employee at KU. She's permitted to take a leave of absence during the legislative session.
Any classified worker interested in running for Ballard's seat in the House would have to quit his or her job.
"I believe this is a fairness issue," Sloan said. "The state does not discriminate against candidates on the basis of gender, age, skin pigmentation or physical condition. It is wrong to discriminate against a class of people because their employer is the people of Kansas."
The bill would influence 29,000 classified employees, he said. That is more than the population in 88 Kansas counties.
Neva Entrikin, Lawrence, offered the committee her personal insight into the law.
She quit her job at KU in June 1992 to file for the Kansas House. If she hadn't resigned, she could have been charged with a misdemeanor. Two other KU employees -- Ballard and Forrest Swall -- also became candidates.
Ballard and Swall, both Democrats, won seats in the House and retained their KU jobs. Entrikin, a Republican, lost her bid for the House, and was left unemployed.
"The state of Kansas should be logical, consistent and fair in the way it treats all of its public employees," Entrikin said.