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On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, reporters dissect what we've seen so far and what we can expect as the Kansas Legislative session heads to a close. 

Guests:

KHI News Service file photo

The Kansas House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.

A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.

Jim Hansen
Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

Since Wednesday, when Missouri Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, cast one of the deciding votes against the “religious shield” proposal, he’s been called a hero by some and a traitor by others.

On the whole, though, he said reaction has been positive.

“I had a lot of colleagues come up and congratulate me and say it took real courage,” Hansen told host Brian Ellison Friday on the Statehouse Blend podcast. “Different people have come up, and one told me it’s the most courage he’s seen in the building in the last 20 years. So I felt real good about it.”

File photo

An effort to roll back a controversial business tax exemption is among the budget-balancing proposals that lawmakers will take up in the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Several key Republicans, including many self-described conservatives who voted for Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts in 2012, are openly supporting bills to either reduce or eliminate the exemption as legislators return Wednesday to the Statehouse to wrap up the session.

Missouri's use of deadly force law would become more in line with federal standards under a bill being weighed by a House committee.

Current state law does not specify that a police officer has to believe a fleeing suspect is dangerous to use deadly force. Senate Bill 661, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, would change the standard to more closely align with the national standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

A leader of the Missouri House Democrats says a controversial constitutional amendment to protect "religious freedom" may not have the votes to get out of committee.

Last week, the House Emerging Issues Committee delayed a vote on the "religious shield" measure, SJR 39. Supporters say the proposal, if approved by the General Assembly and the voters, would protect business owners and clergy from penalties if they decline to participate in same-sex weddings on religious grounds. 

The fate of a tax to build a new Johnson County courthouse and coroner’s building will be determined by voters, following a vote by county leaders on Thursday.

The Johnson County Commission approved a November ballot measure that would increase the  sales tax by a quarter of a cent to fund construction of the buildings.

The tax would generate $201 million total, $182 million of which would fund the courthouse and $19 million the coroner’s building. The tax would sunset after 10 years. 

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Estimates for Kansas tax collections were ratcheted down sharply Wednesday. The state’s projected revenues dropped by a quarter billion dollars over the next year-and-a-half. That leaves Kansas with a budget deficit, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing plans for erasing the shortfall.

Kansas will need to find $140 million in the current fiscal year to get out of the red. Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will need another $151 million in cuts or new revenue. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, laid out three options for filling the hole.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A handful of university economists and state officials will meet Wednesday behind closed doors in Topeka to revise their estimate of how much tax revenue Kansas will collect over the next year. 

It’s a process the state has used since the late 1970s for budgeting purposes. But a string of missed estimates in recent years has made it controversial.

Neerav Bhatt / Flickr--CC

Google got permission from the Kansas City Council Thursday to venture into high-speed wireless, building on the success of its Kansas City, Missouri, fiber optic network.

The Internet giant asked council members for permission to mount antennas on city-owned light poles to see if it could bounce connectivity off of them.

Though the ordinance ultimately passed, there was heated discussion about whether Google has kept its promises so far in Kansas City.

Councilman Dan Fowler doesn’t think so.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast to discuss how the legislature could reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budgets. 

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

A Democratic leader in the Missouri House is praising the version of the state budget approved by the Senate last week, especially its restoration of most of the $8.7 million cut from the University of Missouri system in the House version.

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR's Statehosue Blend podcast and told host Brian Ellison that she thinks the Senate's version of the $27.2 billion budget is more fair than the one passed by her House colleagues weeks before

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The unfolding lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, has put tap water in the spotlight.

Unlike Flint, Kansas City has few lead pipes. But it has its share of aging infrastructure.

“Well, our first sewer dates back to the Civil War,” says Terry Leeds, director of KC Water Services. “Our oldest water mains that we think we have in service date back to 1874 in the City Market.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City voters have again renewed the 1 percent earnings tax.

Unofficial results had the earnings tax passing with 77 percent of the vote. All precincts in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties were reporting as of 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“By the vote tonight, the business community and the citizens have said the quality of life in this city is what we want it to be, and we want to keep making it stronger,” said Mayor Sly James at a watch party in the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Board Room at Union Station.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Before the Kansas Legislature went on spring break last month, a Senate committee pushed forward a bill that would expand the grounds for impeachment of Supreme Court justices. The controversial legislation says that justices could be impeached for "attempting to usurp the the power of the legislative or judicial branch of government."

About 180 small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri, would be eligible for SBA “micro-loans” averaging $10,000 each under a plan approved by a city council committee on Wednesday. 

Economic Development chair Scott Taylor says the first phase of the program has already loaned out $2.3 million.

Taylor says almost 53 percent of the loans have been to businesses east of Troost and the repayment rate has been a high 95 percent.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Statehouse is relatively quiet these days. Only the arrival of the occasional busload of school children disturbs the calm.

That will change when lawmakers return April 27 to face what is expected to be more bad news about the budget.

Legislative leaders are hoping to finish their wrap-up session in a matter of days. But many involved in the process say that could be wishful thinking given a lack of consensus on how to balance the state budget in the face of continuing revenue shortfalls.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Rep. John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR 89.3's Statehouse Blend podcast to discuss what to expect as the legislature returns from spring break this week.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Against the backdrop of a city-wide campaign to keep Kansas City’s 1 percent earnings tax, Mayor Sly James delivered his fifth State of the City address Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.

He highlighted Kansas City’s accomplishments in recent years, ending with a clip from the Royals' championship parade downtown last fall.

“Like our World Series Champion Royals, we’ve got momentum, and we’re keeping the line moving,” James said in his speech. “We’re able to do so in part because of leaders who made tough decisions a generation or more ago.”

Courtesy of City of Kansas City, Missouri

“This was a relatively pleasant budget process,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James of the months leading up to Thursday's City Council approval of a $1.5 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  Then his council colleagues laughed as he added, “We actually had money.  That always makes it a little easier.”

The new spending plan includes funding for 2 percent raises for city employees who have been hit by wage freezes in several recent years.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Rep. John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) said the General Assembly may have a difficult time making progress on significant legislation this session.

City Hall
City of Kansas City

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a $1.5 billion budget on Thursday that kicks off a $10 million two-year plan to tear down about 800 abandoned houses, increases spending on basic services by 5 percent and allows for 2 percent raises for city employees.

The same day the council approved a union contract granting firefighters 2.6 percent raises. The agreement reduces a potential wage freeze in case emergency medical services revenue does not increase by 6 percent from two years to one.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss the Legislature's burden in coming up with a new school funding plan.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas lawmakers have introduced a new school funding plan that tries to fund school districts more evenly without costing any of them money. Previous plans had redistributed money and left some districts with less overall funding.

Lawmakers are trying to find a way to reduce disparities between school districts following a Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The bill would redistribute state funding and tap an existing extraordinary needs fund.

Republican Sen. Ty Masterson says stakeholders made it clear that no district should lose money.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Road contractors in Kansas are worried about their future business after the state Department of Transportation announced it was delaying the bids on some April resurfacing projects.

Kansas Contractors Association Vice President Bob Totten says some of his members began to hear about the delays on Monday from KDOT officials. While the projects don't officially go out for bid until next month, contractors typically hear about the projects 45 days before bidding to help them craft the bid or even decide if they want to bid on the project, says Totten.

KCCG, Channel 2

A development incentive plan Mayor Sly James calls the Shared Success Fund faced its first criticism in a city council committee Wednesday.

The mayor wants to tap into the developer-incentive system to set aside money the city could use to help support other developments in areas with low incomes, high unemployment and a lack of new construction. 

James says the vast majority of the area that would qualify is the east-central area of Kansas City south of the river.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Attempts by Kansas lawmakers to find a finance solution that would equitably fund schools have thus far failed in the Legislature.

Kansas Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss the Legislature's burden in coming up with a new school funding plan.

Eric Greitens found himself fending off questions about a controversial donor at Thursday's Missouri Republican gubernatorial debate in Columbia, the first one this year to be televised.

Both Catherine Hanaway and Peter Kinder called on Greitens to return a $1 million campaign contribution from Michael Goguen. The California venture capitalist is being sued by a woman who accuses him of holding her as a sex slave for 13 years.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Republicans on a Kansas House committee shot down a school funding proposal Thursday. The plan would have added and redistributed money to reduce funding disparities between school districts. The Kansas Supreme Court says lawmakers must address disparities by this summer or schools could be closed.

Several Republican lawmakers criticized the bill for going back to an old system for equalization. Rep. Marc Rhoades says that formula can’t fix funding disparities.

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