- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Johnson County lawmaker has defended a proposal to require annual votes on the status of local teachers unions, an idea criticized by Kansas’ main union as a distraction from more important matters.

The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/21ZGdQj ) reports that the bill would require yearly votes to be held on whether teachers want their local union to continue representing them.

Republican state Sen. Jeff Melcher says the goal is to give each year’s new incoming teachers a voice so that the unions will better understand what their members really want.

“I would expect they think they may not be as popular as they want people to believe,” he said. “This will let them know whether they are supported or whether they’re not.”

Most local teachers unions in Kansas are affiliated with the Kansas National Education Association and the National Education Association.

Kansas National Education Association spokesman Marcus Baltzell said the bill does nothing to address pressing issues such as a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling on increasing funding for certain school districts that have relatively weak local tax bases.

“The only thing this does is, it’s Jeff Melcher’s way of grinding an ax and causing chaos in a way that doesn’t need to happen,” he said.

The Senate’s Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday morning. If the proposal becomes law, the Kansas Department of Labor would hold more than 300 elections across the state each year on local unions. A union would retain its negotiating status if more than half of the local teachers and certain other employees cast votes on an annual basis and do so in favor of the union.

The Division of Budget filed a financial summary estimating the measure would cost about $340,000 for staff, rent, supplies and equipment related to the elections.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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