Government

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Private investigators and some other services that Kansas lawmakers consider “non-essential” may soon be subject to the state sales tax.

The House on Monday passed a bill 78-42 that would impose the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on a relatively short list of currently exempt services.

In addition to private investigation and security services, the list includes plumbing and pool cleaning, towing, non-residential janitorial services, debt collection and pet care excluding veterinary services.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

When Kansas lawmakers started this legislative session in January, most agreed that comity was back, partnerships would be forged and work would get done.

That was then and this is now.

A trio of challenges remain as the Legislature on Sunday passed the 90-day mark in its session: a budget, a tax plan and a school funding formula.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

The 2017 Missouri regular legislative session ended Friday with a lot of tension and a few results. On this week's episode, a team of reporters explore the session's most significant outcomes and biggest political stories. They ask what business went unfinished and predict what comes next.

Matt Hodapp / 89.3 KCUR

Kansas lawmakers had high hopes last week that a Senate tax bill would pass, and they could get on with approving a budget. But, two Democrats joined with a number of Republicans to vote down the legislation. The Democrats said it wouldn't generate enough revenue. On this week’s podcast, KCUR’s Jim McLean and Sam Zeff talk with Republican Rep. Russ Jennings, who says that vote could prolong the session. 

Forty-five bills to Gov. Eric Greitens later, the Missouri General Assembly adjourned Friday having dealt with some high-priority items like right to work, banning cities from raising their minimum wage, complying with a federal ID mandate and making it harder to sue for workplace discrimination.

But other sought-after bills fell by the wayside, including one that would have allowed Missouri to shed its status as the last state in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program and another getting rid of lobbyist gifts to officeholders — something Greitens campaigned on.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill creating a task force that will recommend improvements to the foster care system.

The House Children and Seniors Committee passed the bill in March after collecting testimony from foster parents, law enforcement officials and child welfare advocates. Many of those who testified expressed concerns about social worker caseloads and lack of coordination in the system. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The drama unfolding in the Kansas Statehouse pales in comparison to the intrigue surrounding recent events in the nation’s capital.

But what’s happening — and not happening — in Topeka will determine the extent to which a group of new legislators elected last fall can fulfill the promises they made to voters to stabilize the state budget and adequately fund public schools.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

After several false starts, the Kansas Senate on Wednesday finally took up a tax bill.

But after a brief debate, Democrats and conservative Republicans voted for different reasons to reject it.

Two Democrats joined 16 moderate Republicans in voting for the bill, which failed 18-22.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Costs to secure four state-run hospitals under Kansas’ concealed carry law could run close to $12 million annually, with an additional $1 million needed in the first months, according to a new “action plan” from state officials.

Tim Samoff / Flickr - CC

Water rates in Kansas City, Missouri, have soared over the last several years. The average water bill has gone from $48 in 2009 to more than $100 today. 

That's due, in part, to infrastructure upgrades mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those mandatory upgrades were not accompanied by federal dollars, which means the cost fell to rate payers. 

Updated at 9:22 p.m. ET

The president has fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump campaign and top aides.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Dennis Wright isn’t alone.

He’s one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kansas residents and public officials waiting for the state to solve its money problems so that dozens of highway projects that have been indefinitely delayed can get going again.

“People are incredulous,” Wright says. “Our roads are going to pot. You can drive anywhere in the state and see problems.”

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

This year's legislative session has seen its fair share of political infighting and personal squabbles among legislators. Gov. Eric Greitens has tangled with more than one legislator, and a non-profit established to support his agenda even published a senator's personal cell phone number. Now that the budget is finally on its way to the governor's desk, and with just one week left in the session,the House Minority Floor Leader says she thinks it's time for a reset.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Kansas lawmakers still need to come up with a tax plan, budget and school funding formula before the end of this legislative session. These two senators say they're tired of waiting to vote on it all, but say they'll work as long as needed to pass legislation they think is best for Kansas.

Updated May 30 with news of appeal — Missouri's attorney general will appeal a federal court ruling that struck down parts of the state's limits on campaign finance.

In a statement released Tuesday, Republican Josh Hawley said it was his duty as attorney general to defend the laws and constitution of Missouri. A federal judge earlier this month kept in place donation limits, but threw out a ban on certain committee-to-committee transfers.

Seventy percent of voters approved the amendment in November.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. with Department of Correction comment — Missouri’s state budget for the 2018 fiscal year arrived at Governor Eric Greitens’ desk late Thursday night — several hours ahead of the deadline, despite the recent delays and arguments in the Senate that threatened to derail progress.

The new Republican governor has until June 30 to sign the $27.8 billion spending plan, roughly two-thirds of which involves money from the federal government, and decide how much, if anything, he’ll cut or temporarily withhold.

Major battles were waged earlier in the process over K-12 funding, higher education funding and in-home care. In the bill that’s headed to Greitens, elementary and secondary schools will be fully funded, all of the state’s four-year universities will see a 6.6 percent cut and 8,000 elderly and disabled residents will lose home health care services.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the American Health Care Act, the GOP-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

House Republicans approved the plan by a narrow margin, 217 - 213. The measure goes next to the Senate.

In the waning hours before the vote, Indivisible Kansas City, a local branch of the national movement, organized a protest outside Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder's office in downtown Overland Park, Kansas. 

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas? 

Turns out it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A bill to increase oversight of the Kansas foster care system hit a snag after state officials said its wording could jeopardize millions in federal funding.

The bill would create an interim oversight committee that would study problems in the state’s foster care system and submit a corrective action plan to the Kansas Legislature. The House Committee on Children and Seniors approved the bill in March, but it still must pass the full House and Senate.

Susie Fagan / KCUR 89.3

Kansas lawmakers are back from spring break with nothing but big issues to deal with before the end of the session: taxes, budget and school finance. When will it all get done? Two panels of legislators sat down with us live in the Capitol to work through the issues as we head toward the end of this legislative session.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

City Manager Troy Schulte has sent a letter to the mayor and city council outlining how to spend the first $40 million in general obligation bonds Kansas City voters approved last month.

“We want to get the shovel-ready projects rolling, and we have to tackle the backlog of spot sidewalk repairs,” Schulte said in a statement. “I know council members are also anxious to get going, so this gives them a chance to review the list and provide us with the feedback we need to finalize the plan.”

Here’s what the city manager has proposed:

KCUR 89.3 File Photo

The speed limit on U.S. Route 71 just north of the Grandview Triangle increases this week to 65 miles per hour.

Currently, the posted speed limit from a half mile south of 75th Street to 3-Trails Crossing is 55, but most drivers tend to go faster, says Derek Olson, a district traffic engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

Republican leaders in the Kansas House say it is unlikely they will schedule another vote on Medicaid expansion in the final weeks of the legislative session.

But Democrats say they will attempt to force one.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said lawmakers facing tough votes on the budget, taxes and school finance don’t want to further complicate the final weeks of the session by adding Medicaid expansion to the mix.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James won’t commit to a timeline for hiring the next chief of police.

"The goal isn't to do this fast,” James said at a news conference at police headquarters Monday morning. “The goal is to do it right. If it takes us a year to find the best person, it’ll take us a year. If we can find the best person in 30 days, we’ll do that.

stgermh / Flickr-CC

The Kansas Legislature faces a crucial deadline as it starts its wrap-up session this week: It must have a school funding formula in place by June 30 that passes muster with the state Supreme Court or the justices will shut down public schools.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the Missouri General Assembly heads into the last two weeks of the 2017 legislative session, there’s a lot left on the agenda, and little of it is without controversy: a prescription drug monitoring program, REAL ID, abortion restrictions and final passage of the budget. In this episode, Sen. Caleb Rowden describes what many will see as this session's signature accomplishment--fully funding the foundation formula for K-12 education. He also suggests that it's okay for Republicans, who control most levers of power in the state, to disagree about how best to govern.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

An audit of the Kansas foster care system found the state doesn’t ensure children are placed close to home or receive all services they need.

The Legislature’s independent auditing team presented the third part of its report on the Kansas foster care system Friday to the Legislative Post Audit Committee. The final part of the audit attempted to answer if the state’s two foster care contractors have sufficient resources to provide services and if privatization has improved children’s outcomes and lowered costs.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Some have said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been largely absent from this legislative session, but the power of his veto has loomed large. As we begin to come to the close of this session, KPR's Stephen Koranda reports on the relationship between the Governor and the Legislature.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers signaled Thursday that they could exempt Kansas psychiatric hospitals from a law requiring them to allow concealed handguns.

Gov. Sam Brownback has requested an additional $24 million in spending over the next two budget years on upgrades needed to provide security at state mental health hospitals and facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A Republican leader in the Kansas Senate says he’ll propose a fee on all utility bills in the state to help fund education.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, says his plan calls for a $3 monthly fee on residential electric, gas and water bills in the state. Those with all three utilities would pay $9 more a month. For commercial customers, the monthly fee would be $10 per bill.

The whole package would raise $150 million a year, Denning estimates.

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