Topeka A measure that would allow Kansas University classified staff to leave the state's civil service system was given preliminary approval Wednesday in the House after a vigorous debate.
The House advanced the legislation 73-43 to a final vote, expected today.
Leaders of KU's 1,400 classified workers, which includes janitors, secretaries and maintenance employees, have wanted to leave the civil service system, saying they believe they could get better pay raises from the KU administration.
But numerous attempts were made Wednesday to limit the bill to a pilot project at KU, or allow employees to get back into the civil service system after five years if they weren't satisfied with the change. The amendments were defeated.
State Reps. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, defended the measure as allowing classified workers to opt out of civil service through a vote and approval of the Kansas Board of Regents.
"There is nothing in this bill that requires others to participate if they don't want to," Sloan said.
But several lawmakers said they feared that without civil service protections, employees would be treated unfairly.
"Competition for merit raises destroys cooperation of employees," state Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, D-Wichita, said.
"We're going back to a system of to the victor go the spoils," state Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, said. "People will lose their rights under civil service."