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Kansas Legislature

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Kansas Democrats have filed two gun control bills for the upcoming legislative session. With some key lawmakers signaling resistance, the proposals could be a tough sell.

Still, legislators from both parties expect discussion of the state’s role in regulating firearms.

A Missouri nonprofit has released a list of recommendations it says will help combat and prevent sexual harassment at the Kansas Statehouse.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

When Kansans on Medicaid are incarcerated or treated at residential mental health facilities, their Medicaid benefits are terminated. Mental health advocates hope to change that during the upcoming legislative session by pushing for a bill that would instead suspend those benefits.

After patients or inmates are dropped from Medicaid, it can take weeks or months to reinstate health coverage — a risk for people who need continuous care for mental health conditions.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Dec. 27, the Kansas Department of Revenue announced it would not be launching its new drivers license records system as planned on Jan. 2. To "ensure a successful rollout," the agency anticipated a short delay of days or weeks. 

Kansas auditors remain worried about the quality of a major state information technology project involving about 2 million drivers’ records — with little time left until the project’s go-live date.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday suggested the Legislature let the public have a say on the state’s constitutional duty to pay for public education, but he steered clear of criticizing the Kansas Supreme Court’s rulings on the topic.

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are facing an even tighter deadline to pass a new school finance law this session, after an attorney for the state encouraged them to finish their work on the topic less than two months into the coming 2018 legislative session.

Asked Monday by lawmakers what legal staff need to help make the state’s case, Arthur Chalmers urged them to aim for the start of March for handing off a new school finance bill rather than sometime closer to the date the Kansas Supreme Court set for filing the state’s arguments.

Charlie Riedel-Archive Photo / Associated Press

In the summer of 2005, the Legislature butted heads with the Kansas Supreme Court over a ruling that ordered an influx of money to public education.

The result? Kansas came closer than ever to a constitutional crisis.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A University of Kansas study supports the suspicions of lawmakers and advocates who believe there’s a link between additional restrictions on welfare benefits and an increase in foster care cases.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A crowded field of candidates running for governor in Kansas gained its first woman Friday with the entry of state Sen. Laura Kelly.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Descriptions of an underfunded, under-resourced foster care system short on child placement options sounded familiar to Kansas lawmakers and child welfare advocates at a task force meeting this week.

But the events described Tuesday actually played out 30 years earlier, when a 1989 class-action lawsuit — alleging that the state’s foster care system violated the rights of Kansas children — raised issues that eventually led to the current privatized system.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The new secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families has come in promising a thorough review of the agency, staffing changes and more accountability following allegations and outrage about problems in the state’s foster care system.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers studying economic development policies say the Legislature should consider changes to a major incentives program next year.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Statehouse, a special committee recommended more study of the STAR bonds program, and members of both parties said they want more oversight.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said there hasn’t been enough accountability in the program. She wants the state to use formulas that determine whether proposed projects will create enough economic development to outweigh their costs.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers began groundwork Monday for their response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to fix school finance by this spring. The same day, a Hiawatha senator announced he will seek to curb the court’s powers through a constitutional amendment.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback revealed Tuesday that in anticipation of his confirmation to a post in the U.S. State Department he has begun transferring major responsibilities to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Brownback said Colyer is developing the budget that the governor is required to propose at the outset of the legislative session, which will convene Jan. 8, 2018.

“He’s doing those and getting ready for the legislative session,” Brownback told reporters after taking delivery of a Christmas tree at the governor’s mansion.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials seeking to renew KanCare are asking people covered by the privatized Medicaid program to trust them to make it better.

In a series of recent public hearings, state officials have assured providers and beneficiaries that KanCare 2.0 will fix the administrative and service-delivery problems that have plagued the current program since its inception.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families responded Tuesday to concerns about destroyed evidence in child abuse cases during a legislative task force meeting.

After a Kansas City Star investigation suggested DCF employees had shredded documents regarding children in state care, an agency official told lawmakers that the claims by former DCF deputy director Dianne Keech were inaccurate.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County Community College just received the biggest financial gift in its history and plans to use the money to expand its technical education.

JCCC says it received a $10 million donation from the Overland Park-based Sunderland Foundation. It's part of a $102 million project that will add two buildings to campus.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates say Kansas policymakers should take notice of elections this week in Maine and Virginia.

In Maine, lawmakers sent five expansion bills to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in recent years. He vetoed them all. So Maine voters took matters into their own hands Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a ballot initiative authorizing expansion.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of Kansas’ Department for Children and Families, announced Friday that she will retire effective Dec. 1. Friday was also the last day for her top deputy, Chief of Staff Jeff Kahrs, as he departs for a position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DCF oversees the state’s privatized foster care system, which has drawn particular scrutiny during Gilmore’s tenure.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The group of experts tasked with forecasting how much Kansas will collect in taxes raised their two-year estimate by $225 million after meeting Thursday to compare notes on the performance of key sectors of the state economy.

That’s better than the trend of downward revisions in recent years but not the robust increase that some lawmakers who voted to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts were hoping for.

FIle Photo / Kansas News Service

Anecdotal evidence from prosecutors across the state indicates opioid abuse is growing in Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said, but he urged lawmakers not to forget the state’s ongoing methamphetamine problem.

Schmidt answered questions about the issue Thursday from a panel of lawmakers in Topeka.

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee

Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday used a group of like-minded witnesses to attack President Donald Trump’s tax cut plan by comparing it to what they repeatedly referred to as Kansas’ “failed” tax experiment.

Two Kansans — House Democratic Leader Jim Ward and state employee union representative Sarah LaFrenz — joined a list of national experts in assailing the 2012 Kansas tax cut experiment that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback touted as a “red state model.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A security lapse at the El Dorado Correctional Facility led to a June 24 disturbance during which inmates used makeshift weapons to threaten guards, according to new information provided Wednesday to Kansas lawmakers.

The report, compiled by the prison’s Serious Incident Review Board, said the failure of guards to secure “multiple” doors allowed between 50 and 70 inmates to leave their cells and enter the prison yard where inmates from another cellblock had gathered for their scheduled “evening recreation.”

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After wrestling to balance the budget for years, Kansas lawmakers bit the bullet this spring and agreed to undo many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.  

The question now is whether they have done enough to fix the state budget, as many promised to do in the 2016 campaign. Lawmakers will get a better idea of the state’s financial situation later this week when the consensus revenue estimating group determines whether revenues are tracking with projections.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas legislative leaders have directed their staff to work with the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation to update the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy.

The move comes amid recent allegations by several former legislative staffers, lobbyists and campaign workers about the prevalence of harassment at the Statehouse. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers soon will start work to determine their response to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that found K-12 public school funding unconstitutional.

Republicans and Democrats on a key legislative panel decided the matter is too urgent to wait until the 2018 legislative session starts in January.

They voted Monday to create an 11-member committee that will meet for three days before then. Its task will be to kick-start efforts that must be done by an April 30 deadline.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A female former legislative staff member is charging that sexual harassment is widespread at the Kansas Statehouse.

Abbie Hodgson, who served as chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs from 2014 to July of 2016, was one of several women quoted in an article about sexual harassment in Statehouses across the country published Wednesday by The Hill, a Washington, D.C., publication that covers government and politics. 

Courtesy KVC Kansas

With high numbers of children in the foster care system and not enough homes to care for them, one Kansas contractor is turning to a short-term housing option.  

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