Statehouse Roundup: Five things you may have missed but need to know


Good morning everyone:

A busy day Monday at the Capitol, highlighted by revelations that Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination to the Kansas Court of Appeals — Jeffry Jack — had a proclivity to go off on Twitter about President Donald Trump and other conservatives he didn’t like.

He referred to one sitting state senator as a “POS” and made a disparaging remark about the political ambitions of Senate President Susan Wagle. He also wouldn’t hesitate to use a certain four-letter word when he became sufficiently outraged.

Wagle came out against the nomination, signaling it’s in trouble. The governor’s office is looking into the matter. Meanwhile, the Truth Caucus also has come out against Jack’s nomination.

“We stand in strong opposition to the nomination of Jeffry Jack for the Kansas Court of Appeals,” said Republican state Sen. Ty Masterson, chairman of the coalition of conservative lawmakers.
“He has shown a lack of temperament and sharp partisan rhetoric in a long history of demagogic statements on social media that draw into serious question his ability to serve as a judge,” Masterson said in a statement.

All that said, here’s a roundup of the biggest stories from Monday that you may have missed but need to know.

Public employee unions play defense

A new piece of legislation in the Senate would allow public employees to immediately end paycheck withholdings of union dues upon written request. It also requires public employers to notify employees of their right to end payment of union dues.

Supporters of the bill say some unions force public employees to continue paying union dues for a period even after deciding to drop out of a union. They say that conflicts with a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that said nonunion workers can’t be required to pay fees to public-employee unions.

Opponents of the bill say Kansas is a right-to-work state and that public employees already make a conscious decision about joining a union. No one, they said, is coerced to join a union. They say the bill would prevent labor unions from managing their membership practices. The ultimate goal, they said, is to weaken the collective voice of union membership.

Employees can always drop their membership in a timely fashion, or organize fellow employees to decertify the union, if they become dissatisfied with the union, opponents of the bill said.

Here’s coverage of Monday’s hearing from the Capital-Journal via the Leavenworth Times.

Landwehr vs. MainStream Coalition

Republican state Rep. Brenda Landwehr fought back against charges that House Republicans were throwing together a “haphazard” school finance bill that tells school districts how to spend their money.

Brandi Fisher, executive director of the MainStream Coalition, told lawmakers that the House bill — very different from one passed by the Senate — muddles the school finance debate and was introduced during spring break vacation, when many were away.

Landwehr didn’t back off during a hearing of the K-12 Education Budget Committee. She  called Fisher’s remarks offensive. She said it was disrespectful to say lawmakers didn’t put a lot of work into the House bill just because Fisher disagrees with the legislation. Here’s the coverage from the Capital-Journal.

KCC appointment

Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday named the former executive director of the Kansas Corporation Commission to a seat on the panel.

Kelly nominated Susan Duffy to the KCC. She now serves as the general manager at the Topeka Metropolitan Transit Agency.

Duffy’s  experience in state government includes work for the Kansas Legislative Research Department, the Kansas State Historical Society, the Kansas Department of Revenue, and the Division of the Budget.

Duffy would join the KCC at a time when there is a battle raging over the state’s rising electricity rates. The Legislature is now considering a bill that would order a $1 million study of the state’s electric rates. The bill has already passed the Senate.

Duffy must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Committee signs off on Lorenz nomination

The confirmation for Interim Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz probably couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time.

Less than 24 hours after a rogue tweet appeared on an agency Twitter account criticizing the president, Lorenz appeared before the Senate Transportation Committee for a confirmation hearing.

She received praise from the committee for dealing with the issue quickly and decisively. Lorenz also said she would recuse herself from any contract negotiations with her former employer, Burns & McDonnell, a Kansas City engineering firm that does a substantial amount of transportation work.

The committee approved Lorenz’s appointment and sent it to the full Senate. The chamber is set to take it up Tuesday.

Lorenz is generally well regarded in transportation circles.

She’s been involved in a number of transportation projects across the state and country, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 transportation initiative.

From 2003 to 2011, Lorenz worked as the director of public affairs at the Kansas transportation department, where she was part of the team that put together the last 10-year, $8.2 billion transportation plan.

More recently, Lorenz worked as a facilitator for the Kansas transportation task force that was charged with developing a new multiyear transportation plan.

Pompeo’s Kansas visit

Lots of coverage about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s return to Kansas on Monday.

Appearing at the Road to Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Overland Park, Pompeo said he plans to stay with the Trump administration until “he tweets me out.”

Here’s coverage from KCUR, CNN, Fox 4 Kansas City, KSHB, ABC, and the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle.