Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Statehouse Live: Battle begins in House over public unions

January 30, 2013


State Reps. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, and Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, talk Wednesday after preliminary passage of a bill that unions said would restrict their ability to participate in the political process. Kleeb carried the bill in the House. A final vote is scheduled on the measure is scheduled for Thursday.

State Reps. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, and Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, talk Wednesday after preliminary passage of a bill that unions said would restrict their ability to participate in the political process. Kleeb carried the bill in the House. A final vote is scheduled on the measure is scheduled for Thursday.

— A bill that opponents and supporters agreed would weaken the ability of public employee unions to participate in politics won preliminary approval on Wednesday.

Backed by the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce, House Bill 2023 would prohibit the Kansas National Education Association and state and local government unions from deducting voluntary paycheck donations from members that are used for political advocacy.

The measure advanced on a 66-54 nonrecord vote. A final vote is expected Thursday.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, who opposed the bill, said there may be a chance to defeat the legislation when it comes up for a final vote. Sixty-three votes are needed in the 125-member House to approve a bill.

"I think it will be very close," Davis said.

State Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said the bill was needed to help the "silent majority" of public workers who don't want to join the union but felt they must to avoid pressure. He said government employees have limited income and the bill would give them the opportunity to keep more of their paycheck. "Things are tight out there," he said.

But several opponents said no teacher or government worker has come forward to say they were intimidated into signing the deduction for a small portion of their salary going toward a political action committee.

"No one is coerced to join the union," said state Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, and a 38-year member of the NEA. Trimmer said when he was a teacher, $1.67 each month of his salary would go toward the NEA political action committee.

State Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, said his district is the most unionized in the state and no one there has told him of being "forced or tricked or bullied" into joining the union.

But other bill supporters said the government shouldn't be involved in making deductions from the checks of public employees for the purpose of political activity. Trimmer said the cost of administering the deduction was minimal.

Kleeb maintained that public employees could continue to make personal donations to candidates if they wanted. He noted that in other states that have passed similar laws, membership in the teachers union fell off significantly.

State Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, said if the bill becomes law it will limit constitutional rights of labor organizations.

He told the freshmen legislators, "Your first vote on the first bill of public policy of the 2013 session will be to limit the rights of free speech."

At least two more bills opposed by unions are in the pipeline for consideration. Similar measures had been stopped in recent years in the Senate but the Kansas Chamber and other conservative groups helped flip the Senate into conservative control this session.

Prior to debating the bill, several Republican legislators who supported it said that they heard of teachers being pressured to join the KNEA.

"We've received a lot of stories about that," Kleeb told the House GOP caucus early Wednesday.

State Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, said some teachers join the NEA to avoid being ostracized or intimidated.

But state Rep. Amanda Grosserode, R-Lenexa, said when she taught fifth-grade she didn't join the NEA and felt no pressure. "I have never felt that," Grosserode said.


1 year, 2 months ago

@Trabert Your survey may not be rigged, but it is poorly written in that it is biased in favor of the responses you wanted.

Your questions 3 & 4 indicate the courts "decided" how much school funding should be. This is not the case. The courts said the funding level provided by the State Legislature was unconstitutional, you know this. Your question is designed to elicit a negative response, the response you wanted.

You indicate that "total taxpayer funding" is $12K plus. From where did you get that number? The only thing the State Supreme Court said was that the State's funding per pupil was unconstitutionally low, and said the State needed to fund education at $4492 per pupil. That's a lot less than $12K+.

Both of these questions are biased, hence the remaining questions are suspect also. Disgusting display on your part. Next time ask decent questions, unless you're afraid of the data.

Your survey was conducted of 500 adults. What where the demographics by county and city? if you can't provide that, then your sample is a puposeful sample as you asked those most likely to provide the response you wanted. Include the count as well as the percent.

As always, anything you and the KPI produce is suspect.


JohnBrown 1 year, 2 months ago

What ever happened to 'small government' conservatives?



just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 2 months ago

This is in direct conflict with the Citizens United ruling that allows unions to spend however much money they want for political purposes. Singling out public employee unions is unequal treatment under the law, which is unconstitutional.

If this passes, I expect that lawsuits will be immediately filed and an injunction issued prohibiting enforcement of this law till it makes its way thru the courts. (and the the right wing wackos won't be able to stack the courts with ideologues in time to get the purely ideological ruling they'd like.)


Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

Does freedom of speech come into play here.


rockchalk1977 1 year, 2 months ago

"Union Membership Continues Decline".

With 35.9% of government employees in unions compared to 6.6% of the private sector workforce, more than half of all union members are now in the public sector. That my friends says it all.


Scott Bonnet 1 year, 2 months ago

Hatred of working class people runs rampant in the halls of our capital. If you don't own a company, you are not represented.


sinkorswim 1 year, 2 months ago

I am a teacher. I also CHOOSE to belong to LEA/KNEA/NEA. I have not seen or heard of any staff members being harrassed or coerced into joining against their will. I am quite capable of making responsible decisions and do not need anyone protecting me from the alleged big, bad teacher's union. Please stay out of my paycheck. It's none of your business.


whosrunningthisplace 1 year, 2 months ago

Strange isn't it? Money is speech according to the corporate fascist types running this state, and many other states. Well, that is until it applies to those with the few dollars. Then, well, those dollars need to be restricted, or just plain eliminated. This is just one more symptom of what I believe to be a Theocratic Governor's takeover of a state for his own inner desire to establish his faith as "law." If it means catering to those with most of the wealth, 'cough-Koch' to keep the theocracy propped up. If most of those that vote for these "johnny one notes" and "corporate pimps" realize that, maybe there will once again be a "free state of Kansas!"


Brad Greenwood 1 year, 2 months ago

Paycheck protection from whom? Once I earn my money, it's mine to do with as I please... regardless of what a smattering of automated poll takers think. If I want to have my employer (regardless if it's the state or a private business) deduct money for dues, charitable donations, etc... it's my business. And I have yet to see one shred of evidence that supports these legislator's claims that the NEA is "coercing" people to join. And no one who joins has to pay through payroll deduction, it's just the most convenient option for most people.


Dave Trabert 1 year, 2 months ago

Paycheck protection is controversial in the state capitol, but elsewhere there is very broad support. Our (Kansas Policy Institute) public opinion poll conducted over the weekend included a question on this issue. 12% of respondents say retain the current system. 39% said withhold only regular dues (which is what the current legislation would do) and 30% said withhold no dues.

Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals...all come to the same conclusion. Among self-identified Democrats, 17% say withhold all dues, 45% say regular dues only and 19% say withhold no dues.

Even union members (not just gov't unions...all union employees) agree. 14% say withhold all dues, 53% say regular dues only and 23% say withhold no dues. Among government employees, 19% say keep the current system, 42% say regular dues only and 17% say withhold no dues.

The poll was conducted by SurveyUSA with +- 4.5% margin of error. Full results, questionnaire and methodology available at


Claudean McKellips 1 year, 2 months ago

Working hard to move my money away from those businesses that belong to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. No sense subsidizing the loss of our own good, middle class jobs. Shop local.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

ALEC Private Schools

Corporate Education Reformers Plot Next Steps at Secretive Meeting

ALEC Education "Academy" Launches on Island Resort by Dustin Beilke

Today, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation will head out to an "island" resort on the coast of Florida to a unique "education academy" sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There will be no students or teachers. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise.

What is ALEC Scoring on Its Education "Report Card?" Little is known about the agenda of the ALEC education meeting taking place at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. The meeting is not open to the public and recently even the press has been kicked out of meetings and barred from attendance. So to understand the ALEC agenda with regard to education, it is important to examine ALEC's education "scorecard."

Imagine getting a report card from your teacher and finding out that you were graded not on how well you understood the course material or scored on the tests and assignments, but rather on to what extent you agreed with your teacher's strange public policy positions. That is the best way to understand the American Legislative Exchange Council's 17th Report Card on American Education released last week.

The report card's authors are Matthew Lardner, formerly of the Goldwater Institute, and Dan Lips, currently of the Goldwater Institute and formerly of the Heritage Foundation. They give every state's public schools an overall grade based on how they rate in 14 categories. Homeschooling, alternative teacher certification, charter schools, private school choice, and virtual learning make up 7 of the 14 categories. Of the other seven categories, two rate the states' academic standards and the other five have mostly to do with the way states retain "effective" teachers and fire "ineffective" ones.

ALEC's education bills encompass more than 20 years of effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding....


Hooligan_016 1 year, 2 months ago

Somewhat unrelated ... but what is happening with the new judicial selection discussion/vote today?


jhawkinsf 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm all for private sector unions, if that's what the people want. Not so much public sector unions.

In the private sector, unions and companies develop an adversarial relationship, not too dissimilar to that which is the legal system. Strong advocates for both argue their respective positions, with justice being the desired and hoped for outcome. However, in the public sector, that adversarial relationship has become distorted, as politicians receive financial benefits from unions. There is no "the company" when it comes to public sector jobs so there is no strong advocate for the company's position. It would be as if only the defense or only the prosecution was allowed to present it's case. At a minimum, there is the appearance of a conflict of interest.


Agnostick 1 year, 2 months ago

Please provide a published, verified example of any public employee being forced to join a union, and/or pay dues to a union.

I issue this challenge to anyone reading this, but particularly to Cant_have_it_both_ways, who has a long history of posting wild, unsubstantiated claims without veracity.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 2 months ago

"We've received a lot of stories about that,"

And I'll bet that none of those supposedly telling all of these stories will be called to testify, nor will those accused of putting all this pressure on be allowed to give their version of what happened, likely because it wasn't much more than handing someone a brochure that stated the benefits to teachers of maintaining an effective union.


cellogrl 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm a teacher and a union member and I was never pressured to join. Union membership is voluntary. Why so they feel the need to protect us from ourselves? They don't. They don't like that we aren't silent on issues that affect us and/or our students.


Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

Kansas chamber of commerce needs to stay out of politics.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.