IBEW 304 TOPEKA, KANSAS


2018 Legislative Wrap Up

 

The just completed 2018 Kansas legislative session was very telling and promising for the plight of working families going forward in Kansas. Remember that we did not see a whole lot of change in 2017. This year, with moderate Republicans being a bit braver and Democrats working diligently on behalf of labor issues, we began to see things inching forward in the right direction. We were able to get some legislation through that supports labor and working families because legislators worked together to find common ground.
Workers Compensation is where this was most noticeable. Make no mistake, there is still much work to be done here. But, progress was made in the death benefits of the Work Comp program that were sorely outdated because of inflation. But here is what the new law of HB 2184 does when an employee dies in the workplace:
- Initial Payment – Increase from $40K to $60K, split between surviving spouse (50%) & dependent     children (50%).
- A child if wholly independent or a full-time college student or enrolled in a vocational institution can receive weekly payments up to the age of 23.
- The maximum benefit increases from $18.5K to $100K.
- The minimum benefit increases from $2,500 to $25,000 for partially dependents.
- The bill increases lump sum benefit to heirs form $25K to $100K, but is adjusted when the employer       provides a life insurance policy for the employee(s).
- The maximum amount paid by the employer for burial expenses increases from $5,000 to $10,000.

Senator Tom Holland, and the Kansas AFL-CIO were instrumental to getting this legislation passed. It is a shame that one of our own members had to lose their son to get this accomplished. Their personal story served as the basis for the testimonial(s) to getting the bill passed. Our hearts go out to them and they are to be commended for the fix in the law that helps others (not them) in the future.

However, we are still stifled by legislators who hold important chairmanships on key committees. Just a few more gains by labor friendly candidates and we have a majority in committee to move forward our positive bills that really help workers, like “choice of physician” when filing for work comp and moving from the 6th AMA Edition to the 4th.

Two very important bills were passed regarding the Transportation industry, where it means so much to decent paying jobs and getting our state’s infrastructure back on the right track, to meeting the future needs of our country’s transportation system. By all accounts from analysis and consulting firms, this is an injection to the local economy. The first bill names the AFL-CIO in statute as a stakeholder to give critical input to a legislative task force that include the elected officials in leadership. The intent of the bill is to evaluate that status of the Kansas Transportation Program and provide a plan to move forward. This is to be compiled in a report and presented to the legislature for each of the coming legislative sessions. The second bill is a budget bill that points to getting 23 T-WORKS projects back up and running. There is no guarantee in this bill, but it leads the administration in that direction, which was hard for the legislature to do during the previous administration.

A couple of runs were taken at trying to fix Teacher Due Process. We fell short because the Senate chamber was unwilling to take up the issue.

Education Funding was the dominating issue this session because the courts are watching to see if the legislature would adequately fund K-12 Education. Some legislators believe they have, while others think differently. This was key to winding up the session because while revenues were and continue to come in above projections, many say that money is spent. There was obviously no appetite by legislators for new taxes and yet they are required to pass a balanced budget. The court may still weigh in on education funding saying it is not enough and this would force a special legislative session this summer.

Tax increases were avoided in the 2018 session but our State will continue to suffer from the long-term effects of tax cuts. How can we discuss serious relief for working families like ending tax on food and expect revenues to cover the expenses? It is simple, we will need new legislative leadership to balance budget and tax issues with everyday wage earners in mind (not big business). If this is done, we will achieve an economy that works for all, not just the wealthy few. We still have an uphill fight with a more in-depth Work Comp bill, Prevailing Wage issues, and Medicaid Expansion. These are all quality of life issues for unions and labor families.

To close, it is election season and there are many candidates running for office. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about voting their pocketbook. We must be engaged and involved in selecting and supporting those who support labor families.

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Sep 22, 2018: Park Clean up
Sep 27, 2018: Executive Board Meeting
Oct 11, 2018: Local Meeting
Oct 11, 2018: Local Meeting
Oct 11, 2018: Local Meeting

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3906 N.W. 16th St.

Topeka, Kansas 66618

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