Kansas Legislature

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this episode, we get the democratic perspective on a school funding formula that passed in the Kansas House last week. And, we look ahead to what tax package  might emerge in the coming week.

Guests:

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas is on track to spend less than a third of what it did six years ago on cash assistance and to serve a third as many low-income people, according to a state budget office memo.

Those numbers have been falling steadily since Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011, when Kansas began incorporating work requirements for programs like cash assistance and food stamps in an effort to break what the governor described as “cycles of dependency.”

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas House debated a new school finance plan for five hours Wednesday, taking up two dozen amendments and finally voting 81-40 to advance a bill not much different from the one that had come out of committee. The measure is slated to get a final vote Thursday in the House. Then it will be the Senate’s turn.  

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow public health care facilities to continue to ban concealed guns.

A state law taking effect July 1 will allow people to carry concealed guns into any public building that is not secured by armed guards and metal detectors.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers marked the fifth anniversary of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts becoming law by rejecting a bill that would have largely repealed them.

The bill defeated Monday night by the House was similar to a measure rejected May 10 by the Senate. Both would have raised more than $1 billion over two years to cover a projected budget shortfall of $900 million by increasing income tax rates and repealing a controversial exemption given to more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Turnover among caseworkers has delayed children’s movement through the Kansas foster care system, contributing to record numbers of kids living away from their families.

Sam Zeff

The Kansas Legislature continues to struggle to come up with a tax plan and a school funding formula. Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway, says finding a consensus is complicated because there are so many factions within the Republican Party.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Heavy rains early Friday flooded some Statehouse offices and displaced some of the researchers who work for Kansas lawmakers.

Maintenance staff and members of the Kansas Legislative Research Department worked Friday to clean up and sort through water-damaged books and documents in the ground-floor offices.

Raney Gilliland, director of the department, said a 10-inch pipe that carries rainwater from the Statehouse roof failed during the storm.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

They must satisfy members who want to set a school-funding target before voting on the tax increases needed to fund it and those who first want to close a projected $900 million gap between revenue and spending over the next two budget years.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have struggled since 2015 on whether to investigate alleged discrimination against same-sex couples in the state’s foster care and adoption system.

Now some think they’ve hit on an answer: Ask people working in the foster care system if they think the issue needs a deeper look.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat, has asked the Legislative Post Audit Division to conduct a survey about potential bias against same-sex couples in child placement decisions.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A former Kansas legislator who also served as the state agriculture secretary and as a regional official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is running for governor.

Joshua Svaty, 37, launched his bid for the Democratic nomination Tuesday at the Ellsworth Co-op, not far from the farm where he grew up.

Dressed casually in jeans and an open-collared shirt, Svaty told a small crowd of supporters that he was running to “undo the damage” done to education, health care and the state’s transportation system by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A divided K-12 Education Budget Committee on Monday passed out a school funding plan for Kansas schools that essentially nobody likes.

It adds $279 million over two years: $179 million in the first year and $100 million in the second. After that, school funding would increase based on the inflation rate. The measure was kicked out of committee without recommendation.

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 / 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. 

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.

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.”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Another poll has found strong majorities of Kansans support expanding Medicaid, but some political experts say it isn’t likely to make a difference this legislative session.

The latest Medicaid expansion poll found about 68 percent of Kansans surveyed said they supported expanding the program to non-disabled adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or annual income of about $16,600 for an individual and $33,400 for a family of four. About 60 percent of Republicans polled said they also supported expansion.

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.

apalapala / Flickr — CC

A challenge to Kansas’ law requiring residents to provide documentary proof of citizenship when registering to vote may proceed to trial, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson denied Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s motion seeking to throw out the challenger’s main claim.

That claim asserts that the law unconstitutionally burdens residents’ right to vote.

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The University of Kansas Health System and a Tennessee-based for-profit hospital chain have agreed to rescue a troubled Topeka hospital despite possible changes in federal health policy that could hurt Kansas providers.

Officials from the KU Health System and Ardent Health Services, the nation’s second-largest privately owned for-profit hospital chain, announced Thursday that they had signed a letter of intent to acquire St. Francis Health.

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.

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.

Johnson County Community College / YouTube

Kansas universities and community colleges have been working for years getting ready to allow campus concealed carry.

Unless the Legislature rolls the change back, and that appears unlikely, Johnson County and every other state school will have to allow almost anyone older than 21 to carry a pistol on campus on July 1.

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