2017 Legislative Update 2

The Kansas Legislature is off to a very fast pace with committee hearings, informational briefings and constituent groups visiting the Statehouse to meet with elected officials about matters before the Kansas Legislature.

This week I introduced a bill, HB 2185, in the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee that would allow local government to require prevailing wage be paid on public projects. Below are comments I provided at a press conference about the proposed legislation:

"Like my colleague, the focus of my legislation is easing the regulations and restrictions of the state over local government units.  We can help ensure that Kansas’ local communities are successful by allowing local government officials the capability to adopt policies that fit the nature of their individual communities, policies that are supported by their citizens.

I’ve introduced a bill that would allow for local governments to establish prevailing wages for public projects. This is a tool that has been used before here in Kansas in both Sedgwick and Wyandotte Counties. Studies prove that public project, paying a prevailing wage, tend to be completed early, under budget, and decreases the cost of the project. Another benefit of prevailing wage is that the money paid to project workers stays within the community, boosting local economies and development."

A special thank you to Stella Manspeaker, Tatum Church and Lily Salazar for serving as Legislative Pages this week. Being a Legislative Page is a great way for students to experience the legislative process first hand and I enjoyed having them spend the day with me.

It is an honor to serve as your state representative.  I both value and need your input on  issues facing state government.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.  My office address is Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612.  You can reach me at (785) 296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me.  Additionally, you can e-mail me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at: www.kslegislature.org

Support for Working Kansans

Wednesday, January 25th, the Kansas House and Senate Democrats held a joint press conference, alongside Kansas’ labor unions, to roll out several pieces of legislation to help reinforce and strengthen the rights and protections for working men and women in Kansas.

Click here to watch the press conference.

The bills introduced are as follows:

Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying is increasingly being recognized as a major workplace issue.  These cases do not usually involve physical violence.  Instead, the majority of cases are instances of a person's work being sabotaged or their work reputation being attacked.  Based on recent studies, 96% of employees experience bullying in the workplace, and 89% report the bullying has continued for more than five years.  The overall goal of this bill is to reduce workplace bullying and protect the State from any potential liability.

Removing and Replacing Prevailing Factor Standard in Work HB 2058
One of the more significant changes that were made to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act in 2013 was the change to a prevailing factor standard when assessing the cause of an employee’s workplace injury.  HB 2058 would repeal the prevailing factor standard and replace it with a substantial factor standard.  Essentially this bill says to be eligible for occupational disability benefits, an employee must prove only that their employment was a substantial factor in causing their disability. 

Changing from AMA 6th Edition to the 4th Edition – HB 2058
Currently, the Kansas Workers Compensation Act requires the use of the American Medical Association guides 6th Edition when assessing the extent of the employee’s injury.  Use of the 6th Edition is widely understood to not appropriately reflect the true extent of an employee’s injuries.  Whereas the 4th Edition of the Guides has been shown to more appropriately reflect the true nature of an employee’s injuries.

Reversing the Damaging Effects of 2013 Work Comp Act - HB 2062
As a whole, the changes to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act made in 2013 have largely been detrimental, if not punitive to injured employees.  The intent of this bill is to remedy many of those more punitive measures.   Including increasing the maximum rates of compensation, changing overly burdensome notice requirements, and limiting the impact of drug testing. 

Paid Time Off – To Be Introduced
Requires employers to offer paid time off to employees. 

Fair Scheduling – To Be Introduced
Removing the prohibition on local government from enacting fair scheduling ordinances.

Choice of Care
Currently, when an employee is injured on the job it is the employer that picks the medical provider and not the employee.  And too often the employer’s choice of provider is based on cost and not appropriate care of the injured employee.  This bill will provide that it is the injured employee who has the choice of their care and not the employer.

Prevailing Wage – HB 2185
This bill will allow local units of government the option to incorporate a prevailing wage requirement on public projects.   Prevailing wage is the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county to the majority of workers, laborers and mechanics. Prevailing wages are established by the Department of Labor & Industries and they are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions.

Teacher Due Process
This Bill simply reinstitutes the due process rights for teachers as they existed prior to the changes made in 2014. 

Concealed Carry Hearing

On Thursday, January 26th, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing over Senate Bill 53. This bill would grant a permanent exemption from the concealed carry laws in public buildings, specifically state-run hospitals and universities. The vote on this bill will happen sometime next week.

This issue took on a whole new meaning when, just prior to the hearing, it was revealed that a Republican House member had stormed out of an Education Committee meeting, accidentally leaving his loaded handgun on the floor of the room. This sort of incident is a prime example as to why legislators want to enact SB 53. 

Here’s a link to the full bill.

Healthcare Bills Passed through the House

It was a relatively light week on the floor, but we did have votes on four healthcare bills. One healthcare bill was formally passed, and the rest passed on a voice vote – final action will occur Monday, January 30th, but all three are expected to pass.

● HB 2025 (final action Monday) An act relating to assistant attorneys general
● HB 2026 (passed Thursday) An act concerning the board of nursing; reinstatement of licenses; fees
● HB 2027 (final action Monday) An act concerning the healing arts; relating to anatomic pathology billing
● HB 2028 (final action Monday) An act concerning the mental health technician’s licensure act

Kansas Day

Sunday, January 29th, is the day we commemorate the anniversary of Kansas becoming a state on January 29th, 1861.

Here’s more information about the history of our state from the Kansas Historical Society.