Government

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.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback kicked off the Kansas legislative session by drawing lines in the sand on taxes, spending and Medicaid expansion, and he has defended those positions with his veto pen.

The question when lawmakers return Monday to Topeka is whether those vetoes will hold up.

Sam Warlick / National League of Cities

Earlier this month Kansas City, Missouri, residents raised their own property taxes for 20 years in part to help pay for federally-required improvements to public buildings under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Updated 9 p.m. April 26 with budget moving forward — Missouri’s $27.8 billion budget for next fiscal year passed the Senate on Wednesday night, 9 days before the constitutional deadline.

It’s back in the hands of the state House, and both chambers have to appoint negotiators to hammer out a final version. The budget must be to Greitens by 6 p.m. May 5 or risk needing a special session.


Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt was in Kansas City Tuesday to promote MO ABLE, a new savings program for people with disabilities.

“Look, when my son was born, we opened up a college savings account. You have all those hopes and dreams,” says Schmitt. “Emotionally, psychologically, that’s tough for families.”

Schmitt's 12-year-old son is nonverbal on the autism spectrum.

The tax-advantaged accounts function similarly to Missouri’s 529 college savings plan and can be used to pay for assistive technology and long-term care.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A third of the way to an end-of-year deadline, Kansas officials still do not have federal approval to extend KanCare.

In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the state’s request for a one-year extension of the waiver that allowed it to privatize its Medicaid program. The denial letter said neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was doing enough to hold the three private companies that run the program responsible for providing services accountable to Medicaid rules.

Amy Jeffries / KCUR 89.3

When a number of moderate Republicans joined the Kansas Legislature after the 2016 election, many were talking about a possible coalition with the Democrats. As the 2017 legislative session starts to near its end, we explore whether that coalition ever became a reality. 

Summer is approaching, a time when Missouri residents hit the road for a little rest and relaxation. It might be a rougher-than-expected journey, though, as legislators aren’t making transportation projects a priority during the 2017 session.

In the meantime, the Missouri Department of Transportation is using a reserve fund to maintain the state’s roads and bridges — money that’s supposed to go toward emergencies and natural disasters. MoDOT chief engineer Ed Hassinger said it’s not an issue right now, but will be if the department has to draw from it for another three years.

Office of the Missouri State Auditor

Updated, 4:40 p.m. Thursday: The Missouri Department of Revenue has turned a stack of documents over to the State Auditor's Office, according to a news release.

Auditor Nicole Galloway took the unusual step of issuing a subpoena Wednesday after the Department of Revenue failed to comply with an earlier request.

Galloway initiated the audit six weeks ago to ensure Missourians owed tax refunds were being paid on time. State law requires returns not paid within 45 days be paid with interest, which Galloway says isn't good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of the Kansas agency that oversees the state’s hospital system is working to jump-start the process of recertifying Osawatomie State Hospital.

Federal officials decertified the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in December 2015 due to concerns about patient safety and staffing.

The decertification order is costing the hospital approximately $1 million a month in federal funding.

File photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City needs to do a better job investigating and documenting employment discrimination complaints.

Kansas City Auditor Doug Jones says his office initially set out to audit the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (EEO) office because it was told that complaints take too long to resolve.

Wikimedia Commons

A Washington-based watchdog group has joined calls for an investigation into Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard over campaign contributions he received from a Joplin businessman.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner is replacing Ron Estes as state treasurer.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced LaTurner’s appointment to the soon-to-be vacant position Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

During a Friday visit to Junction City that included a stop at a food pantry site, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall said he would work to maintain funding for programs that feed the hungry.

Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District, which includes two counties — Geary and Riley — with the state’s highest rates of food insecurity. Residents of those counties also are more likely than most people across the country to lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill.

Hudnall and Ellison
Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Did Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard sponsor a bill to help a Joplin business avoid a costly lawsuit in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations?

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When it comes to the Buck O’Neil Bridge (formerly known as the Broadway Bridge,) Kansas City is in a tough spot.

More than 50,000 people drive across the bridge each day, according to The Mid-America Regional Council, whose Beyond The Loop project is studying the bridge and its surrounding area.  

ktrimble / Creative Commons

Did Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard sponsor a bill to help a Joplin business avoid a costly lawsuit in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations?

For the third year in a row, the Missouri House passed a bill that would legalize the growing and production of hemp for purposes like soap and rope. But its fate is likely to be the same as before: A slow death in the Senate due to the short time left in the 2017 session and the bill’s low priority for Republicans running the chamber.

The Missouri Farm Bureau also strongly opposes House Bill 170, and sent individual letters to every member of the House before Monday night’s 126-26 vote.

Kansas lawmakers have a plan for school funding, but they still have to pass it. And they have to agree on some mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to close the giant budget gaps projected for the next two years. Kansas News Service editors Amy Jeffries and Jim McLean joined Statehouse Blend host Sam Zeff to talk about how lawmakers might ultimately solve the state’s budget problems.

Creative Commons-Flickr/Valerie Everett

Additional funding for some mental health facilities in Kansas may depend, at least in part, on the number of lottery tickets sold from new machines.

The Kansas House and Senate have approved versions of House Bill 2313, which would direct proceeds from newly legalized lottery ticket vending machines to crisis stabilization centers and mental health clubhouses.

Kansas lawmakers have a plan for school funding, but they still have to pass it, and agree on some mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to close the giant budget gaps projected for the next two years. Kansas News Service editors Amy Jeffries and Jim McLean joined Statehouse Blend host Sam Zeff to talk about how lawmakers might ultimately solve the state’s budget problems.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As a House-approved $27.8 billion state budget heads to the Senate, we sit down with Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Ryan Silvey to talk about who wins and who loses in this proposal and the process for crafting a budget. Silvey also talks about his hopes for the REAL ID legislation he is sponsoring, and he weighs in on recent suggestions that his fellow Republican, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, has engaged in pay-for-play by sponsoring a bill sought by a wealthy donor.

Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators hit adjournment Friday with some big tasks left for their wrap-up session that starts May 1.

At the top of the list is a tax and budget plan, which largely will be influenced by the amount of school funding that legislators decide to add in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last month. In the health policy arena, Medicaid expansion supporters are regrouping after the governor’s veto — and holding out hope for another shot this session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor's note: This story was updated  at 10:30 a.m. April 14 to clarify that expansion supporters will attempt to pass a new bill, not override Gov. Sam Brownback's veto.

Advocates of expanding Medicaid eligibility are planning a another attempt to overcome Gov. Sam Brownback’s opposition to an expansion bill when lawmakers return in May to wrap up the 2017 session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

After sitting on the sidelines since his veto of a tax bill in February, Gov. Sam Brownback this week re-engaged with lawmakers working on a solution to the state’s budget crisis.

He needn’t have bothered.

The Senate on Thursday rejected the “flat” tax bill that he was lobbying for by a decisive 37-3 vote.

“This is bad tax policy,” said Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

KC Pet Project

Kansas City residents handed city officials a big victory Tuesday night when they approved an $800 million bond package and property tax increase to address the city's infrastructure needs. 

City officials are eager to get to work. City Manager Troy Schulte says his team has already been developing a first-year implementation plan for the first tranche, or portion, of the money. He says he plans to deliver a final version of that plan to the city council by May 1. 

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. April 5.

Rather than propose a new tax plan, Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday opted to endorse a flat tax proposal that a Senate committee advanced this week.

“My goal has always been to make Kansas the best state in America to raise a family and grow a business,” Brownback said in a statement. “A flat tax accomplishes this goal by making taxes fair for everyone and encouraging economic growth.”

Courtney Bierman / Kansas Public Radio

Members of the Kansas House on Tuesday shot down a proposal to debate whether to allow concealed firearms on college campuses.

A motion by the chamber’s top Democrat would have forced the House to consider a bill regarding out-of-state concealed carry licenses. However, the real motivation was for critics of the state’s concealed carry law to propose changes during the debate.

House members rejected the idea of even bringing up the bill for debate with a 44-81 vote.

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