Topeka A measure that would allow Kansas University classified staff to leave the state's civil service system won preliminary approval Wednesday in the Kansas Senate.
There was little debate on Senate Bill 74 before it was advanced to a final vote today.
Kathy Jansen, president of the KU Classified Senate, said she was optimistic that the bill would be approved this year by the Legislature.
"We have complete administrative support, and, quite frankly, that's who the House members and the senators listen to," Jansen said.
The idea has been bubbling for several years at KU, which has about 1,400 classified employees, including secretaries, janitors and maintenance workers.
Under the current civil service system, classified employees receive pay raises that are approved by the Legislature for all state employees.
Because state employee pay raises have been relatively small in recent years, KU Classified Senate officials have argued that workers would get better pay increases if their raises were handled by the school administration.
Under the bill before the Senate, state universities could convert classified positions into unclassified positions.
The workers would continue to receive state health, vacation and retirement benefits. Any conversion would have to be approved by a vote of affected classified employees and approval from the Kansas Board of Regents.
Several senators argued that the bill would give universities more flexibility in determining pay raises, and even handing out merit increases.
The Kansas Association of Public Employees has opposed the bill, saying it could lead to supervisors giving raises out of favoritism.