Kansas Legislature

Kansas Legislature

Primary election night was brutal for conservative Republicans in the Kansas Legislature. 

Six Republican members of the Senate lost their primaries. The more moderate candidates won two additional seats left open by conservatives who decided not to run for reelection.

Eight Republican House members were ousted in the primaries. The Kansas Chamber, which has been known to back lawmakers who align with Gov. Brownback on tax policy, had endorsed all of those defeated incumbents. Eight others the Chamber endorsed in 13 open House races also lost.

One of the school funding lawsuits that has been hanging over the head of Kansas has been dismissed.         

The lawsuit is called Petrella and was filed in federal court by a group of Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) parents.

They argued that the district, one of the wealthiest in Kansas, should be able to raise and spend as much local tax money as it wants.

Kansas law caps how much local money a district can spend.

 Julia Szabo
KCUR 89.3

The number of teachers leaving Kansas or simply quitting the profession has dramatically increased over the last four years.

The annual Licensed Personnel Report was released Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Education. While it was provided to the Board of Education meeting in Topeka Tuesday, the report was buried in board documents and not addressed by either staff or the board.

The report shows that 1,075 teachers left the profession last year, up from 669 four years ago. That's a 61 percent increase.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

  On this week's Statehouse Blend, we look back at the Kansas and Missouri Legislature's favorite songs, and what they meant in the context of the sessions. It's Statehouse Blend's Greatest Hits.

Guests:

  • C.J. Janovy, Arts Reporter, KCUR
  • Matt Hodapp, Statehouse Blend Producer, KCUR
Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

It only took a few minutes for the Kansas State Board of Education to approve $7.2 million in extraordinary needs funding for school districts across the state. The extra money will go to 34 school districts. Three districts didn't get any money.

The six local districts who applied for the additional state aid didn't get all they wanted but still did well.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

Schools around Kansas are just a couple of weeks from opening for the new school year, but about three dozen districts say they need more state aid and have applied for extraordinary needs funding.

In all, 37 districts are asking for about $8.4 million from the state Board of Education. There is about $15 million in the pool. All districts contribute a small portion of their state aid to the pool.

Two of the biggest requests come from the two of the smaller districts in this area: Spring Hill in Johnson County and Basehor-Linwood in Leavenworth County. 

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Primary losses by a Senate Republican leader and a slew of Johnson County conservatives Tuesday night will swing the Kansas Legislature back toward the center. Moderate Republicans won eight state Senate races against more conservative opponents, ousting six incumbents.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Republican from Hutchinson, had aspirations of being the next Senate president. But former community college president Ed Berger defeated him handily in what was perhaps the most surprising result of the night.

Americans tend to think that each election is a littler dirtier than the last. Certainly that is the feeling among many candidates running for the Kansas Legislature as attack postcards fill mailboxes as the Aug. 2 primary quickly approaches.

This year the postcards often focus on education. Who is for kids and who is against them? Let's use the Republican primary for House District 21, which includes Prairie Village, Mission Hills plus chunks of Overland Park and Leawood, as an example.

Courtesy Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital as a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the fifth and final story of the series.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

More often than not, Republican incumbents in Johnson County are skipping what was once a mainstay of campaign season – the candidate forum.

I’m not talking about one or two no-shows. I’m saying the League of Women Voters invited every candidate in a contested primary to participate in a political meet and greet in June, but not one of 14 Republican incumbents showed up.

Their challengers did, but they didn’t.

Which begs the question: where are current lawmakers campaigning?

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend, Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) talks about presidential politics, schools, and tax policy.

Guests:

Heartland Health Monitor

Administrators at Osawatomie State Hospital worked to maintain a delicate balance in 2011 as they struggled to cope with rising demand for care and funding that hadn’t kept up.

OSH superintendents had credited the facility’s experienced workforce for pulling it through lean times before, but that key source of stability soon would be diminished.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knows agriculture is huge in Kansas.

It’s a $62 billion a year industry that accounts for 43 percent of the Kansas economy and touches every part of the state.

Following the 2012 Brownback tax cuts, farmers no longer had to pay state income tax -- just like 334,000 LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships.

Andy Taylor

Dr. Julie Stewart doesn’t want political candidates and elected officials to show up at her nonprofit medical clinic in Coffeyville for photo opportunities, grant announcements or organized tours.

Instead, the Coffeyville physician would like those officials to take a personal interest in the patients who have chosen Stewart’s Community Health Clinic of Southeast Kansas because they have no health insurance options.

Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature continue to be unpopular, and the primary race in the 1st Congressional District is in a dead heat, according to a new survey from the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute. 

With the presidential nominations settled and Kansas races heating up ahead of the Aug. 2 primaries, Brad Pendergast, with the Docking Institute, says it was time for some new polling numbers.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

  On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend, Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) talks about presidential politics, schools, and tax policy.

Guests:

YouTube

The man who has testified dozens of times in the Kansas Legislature saying that public schools are over-funded, administrators and some teachers make too much money and school districts operate inefficiently, once called for lawmakers to raise taxes to improve schools.

Dave Trabert now runs the Kansas Policy Institute and is a powerful voice among conservative lawmakers. On its website, KPI calls itself "an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans." 

The Shawnee Mission School District and its teachers were unable Wednesday to reach a deal on compensation, so the talks will now go to a federal mediator, according to the teachers union.

The negotiations fell apart when the union asked for a $1,350 stipend for teachers who won't get a raise next year as they progress through the salary schedule.

“Most people who go to work and work hard like to see some sort of increase to keep up, in the very least, with the cost of living,” says union president Linda Sieck.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A state Senate race in the Topeka area shows how complicated this election cycle can be for some candidates. Kansas Republicans are running at a time when polls are showing the state’s Republican governor – and the Legislature itself – with pretty low approval ratings.

Senator Vicki Schmidt, a moderate Republican from Topeka’s 20th District, is not shy about the fact that she often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Gov. Sam Brownback.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

This week I did a story on a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans who are already working on a new school finance formula in advance of the 2017 session which will gavel in come January.

The story was based on an interview I did with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Kelly is the senate minority whip.

KHI News Service

While most Kansas educators are still breathing a sigh of relief that the school funding equity issue was solved in a special session and public schools could remain open, some lawmaker are already looking ahead to the new session in January.

Sen. Laura Kelly, the minority whip from Topeka, says a small bipartisan group has already begun meeting to draft a new school funding formula to replace block grants, which expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The plan, drafted by Democrats and moderate Republicans, is based a great deal on the old formula.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the University of Kansas Medical Center: For almost 40 years KU doctors have been flying around the state to bring their expertise to small towns.

But in another unintended consequence, budget cuts in Kansas have drastically cut back this service.

About 6:45 a.m. on an already steamy June morning, seven KU Med staffers pile on a twin-engine King Air at the Downtown Kansas City Airport.

Cramped but certainly comfortable, they're about to take off on a 40 minute flight to Hutchinson.

While many educators are spending the summer on the campaign trail, the sign outside a public elementary school in Wichita urges voters to register.
Abigail Wilson / KMUW

To say that many educators in Kansas are fed up with state lawmakers would be an understatement. The legislature has been putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on public schools in recent years. This election season, educators are trying to send legislators packing.

The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) estimates that all across the state roughly 50 current and former school board members, administrators, and teachers are candidates in legislative elections.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Do you remember not long ago when Kansas was on the edge of facing a public education shutdown? Many feared schools would be closed July 1. Some even believed they may not be open for the start of the school year in August.

The unconstitutional inequity between rich and poorer districts appeared to be a problem the Legislature couldn't solve.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A special session focused on solving Kansas' nettlesome school funding problem begins Thursday. At stake: school itself. The Kansas Supreme Court has threatened a statewide shutdown of schools if lawmakers don't make funding more equitable before June 30.

It's not an overstatement, then, to say most Kansans will be impacted by what happens in Topeka over the next few days. 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

News of a mistake that dropped several thousand Kansans from state Medicaid backlog reports has advocates and Democratic lawmakers questioning the state’s oversight of the contractor blamed for the error.

KHI News Service

The Vice President of the Kansas Senate says the special session set to gavel in on Thursday will probably stretch into early next week. That would move the Legislature even closer to a June 30 school shutdown deadline, and make the session longer than Gov. Sam Brownback suggested it would take to fix the inequity that exists between rich and poor school districts in Kansas.

“We’re probably looking at more like three to five days if all goes well,” Sen. Jeff King from Independence said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend.

The Kansas Board of Regents met Wednesday afternoon to approve tuition increases for the next school year. The board thought it was going to do that last month, but during the meeting Gov. Sam Brownback announced he was cutting an additional $30 million out of higher education.

So, at their last regular meeting until September, the Regents found themselves having to approve even higher tuition hikes.

Last year, we asked our listeners to solve the Kansas School Funding Formula. As news develops around a potential public education shutdown in Kansas, we break out our calculators and enter the Kansas school funding debate. When legislators go back to Topeka next week, what will go into solving the state's toughest math problem?

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

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