Kansas Legislature

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas has plenty of reports on problems in its foster care system but needs a plan to fix them, according to members of a House committee.

The House Children and Seniors Committee voted Tuesday to create a foster care task force that will present a plan for improvements to the foster care system by January.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat, said the state needs to do more than study the foster care system.

“This task force is not for oversight. It’s for corrective action,” he said.

Kansas lawmakers know they are late to the Medicaid expansion party, but they appear determined to show up anyway.

"I feel like now is as good a time as any," says Anthony Hensley, the leader of the Democratic minority in the state Senate.

For the past three years, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders were able to block debate on expanding health care for the disabled and working poor via Medicaid, a component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Not anymore.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The leader of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services wants the state’s two psychiatric hospitals to be exempt from a concealed carry law set to take effect in July.

KDADS Secretary Tim Keck told a legislative committee this week that the department is seeking authorization to continue banning concealed guns in Osawatomie and Larned state hospitals. The two hospitals treat people with mental health conditions who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

With all of the talk in recent years about Kansas’ budget problems, it can be hard to keep track of what programs have been cut and by how much.

So, some Kansans may not remember that last summer Gov. Sam Brownback ordered more than $56 million in cuts to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Including the amount of federal matching funds lost, the cuts amounted to $128 million.

Kansas lawmakers remember the cuts, and they are taking steps to reverse them.

Sam / Zeff

The Kansas Regents have given every state run university and community college in Kansas a tall order: vastly increase the number of degrees and certificates they award.

Every Regents school has to graduate 20 percent more students in the next three years and then maintain that level.

That’s 13,000 more associate degrees, four year degrees and certificates a year across the system.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A Kansas House committee advanced a bill Monday that would amend the state’s juvenile justice policies — a year after lawmakers made sweeping changes to them.

Last year’s overhaul intended to create options other than incarceration for Kansas youth offenders.  But the changes had some unintended consequences, said Rep. Russ Jennings. One example is that some crimes involving a gun, like a drive-by shooting, might only result in probation.

kslegislature.org

A Kansas senator who compared Planned Parenthood to Dachau doubled down on his statement and called Planned Parenthood worse than Nazi concentration camps.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, Republican of Leavenworth, told KCUR on Monday that he saw nothing wrong with the comparison, which he made in a letter to Planned Parenthood after a woman made a donation to the organization in his name.

Asked if he thought Planned Parenthood was akin to a Nazi concentration camp, he replied, “Worse. Much worse, much worse, much worse."

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers appear poised to pass a Medicaid expansion plan despite objections from Gov. Sam Brownback and uncertainty about the future of federal funding.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, doesn’t hesitate when asked if the expansion bill, which passed the House in late February, will clear the Senate later this month.

“I believe the bill passes on the Senate floor,” Wagle says, adding that she believes it will be approved by a wide margin.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The head of an advocacy group for Kansas providers of disability support services said this week that the Brownback administration is trying to combine Medicaid waivers through a state contract after the Legislature blocked the administration from doing it by statute.

Tim Wood, executive director of Topeka-based Interhab, said the request for bids released Feb. 22 would lead to a major change for Kansans with disabilities and was done quietly without their input.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas public colleges will have to allow firearms on their campuses starting in July. But they’re still battling with the gun lobby over how people should be allowed to carry their guns.

In preparation for the law mandating concealed carry on campuses, the colleges have proposed some restrictions. For example, people carrying a semi-automatic weapon on campuses would not be allowed to keep a round in the chamber.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

For years Kansas Sen. David Haley has introduced bills to stiffen penalties for hate crimes and they’ve gone nowhere.

But Haley and others think his bill might have more urgency this year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on Senate Bill 128 Wednesday, just weeks after a man opened fire on two Indian immigrants in an Olathe bar, wounding one and killing the other.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Reports that Gov. Sam Brownback may soon be leaving the state to take a United Nations post have lawmakers and others at the Statehouse talking about how things might change with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer in charge.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

An adult stem cell center established by the Kansas Legislature in 2013 is almost ready for its first clinical trial.

Buddhadeb Dawn, executive director of the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, told legislators Tuesday that the trial will focus on treating graft-versus-host disease and will begin after final approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators heard testimony against physician-assisted suicide Monday from a former state representative.

“This is a direction we don’t want to go,” said Steve Brunk, a Republican who represented a Wichita-area district for 12 years. “We value life, and we don’t want to take the step of looking down this corridor where we negate the value of life and we assist people in dying.”

It’s already a felony for physicians to help patients end their lives in Kansas.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The first weeks of the legislative session are a time for lawmakers to put forward their favorite ideas that have little chance of becoming law. In most years, that list would include changes to Medicaid, but things are different with the 2017 Kansas Legislature.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) lays out why a veto override of major tax legislation failed in the Senate and how he expects the Supreme Court's Gannon ruling to affect the rest of the session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

It is not hyperbole to say the challenges that members of the 2017 Kansas Legislature face are among the most daunting in state history.

Will O'Neill / Flickr - CC

Today we ask the Ethics Professors which services the government is (and is not) morally obligated to provide its citizens. Health care? Education? A good-paying job? Then, KCUR's Sam Zeff fills us in on a Kansas Supreme Court ruling with major implications for education funding and equity.

Charles Riedel / AP

As expected, the Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday morning ruled that the state’s school funding formula is inadequate under the Kansas Constitution.

In a unanimous 83-page decision, the court gave the Legislature until June 30 to address the state’s public education financing system.

The decision comes after the court ruled earlier that the school funding formula had failed to meet the equity prong of the Kansas Constitution.

All three of the private insurance companies that manage the Kansas Medicaid program made a profit on it in 2016 — the first year that has occurred.

UnitedHealthcare was by far the most financially successful of the three, with $30.2 million in profits. Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene, had a $5.5 million profit and Amerigroup made about $3.4 million.

The three companies lost millions in 2013 and 2014, the first two years of KanCare.

Kansas Tax Receipts Continue Upswing In February

Mar 1, 2017
File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas tax receipts came in about $37 million above estimates in February, chipping away at the state’s budget deficit.

The Kansas Budget Office on Wednesday reported about $331.5 million in tax receipts for the month, which was about 13 percent higher than projected revenue. Tax revenues were up about 9 percent compared to February 2016.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There’s been an awful lot of discussion on what Kansas’s new school funding formula will look like and whether the Legislature will still make cuts to public schools mid-year.

Nothing has been decided, which has educators in the state both a little optimistic and a little scared.

On a recent morning Allison Theno was combining math and penguins to teach her 18 kindergartners at Basehor Elementary to subtract.

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When the Kansas Senate comes back after this week’s midsession break, it may consider legislation to form a comprehensive state plan to fight diabetes.

House Bill 2219 would instruct the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to conduct an analysis of state costs from diabetes, identify best practices to prevent and control the condition, and develop a budget to implement those practices.

It also would require the agency to report on the plan’s progress every two years.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Susan Concannon (R-Beloit) talks about passing Medicaid Expansion out of the Kansas House and its prospects both in the Senate and on the Governor's desk.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Every major advancement of African-Americans since the Civil War has been met and opposed by "white rage," says Carol Anderson. Today, she explains how resentful whites have looked to halt the progress of blacks through discriminatory policies, laws, intimidation and violence.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida.

Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas was out in front of just about every other state in 2013 when it fully privatized its Medicaid program and renamed it KanCare.

The switch to managed care was one of the first big policy changes made by Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised it would both improve health care and lower costs.

KanCare was immediately controversial.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans succeeded Wednesday in a last-gasp effort to advance a measure, overpowering opponents who thought they had blocked it earlier in the week.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The five-year fight over Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to remake Kansas income tax code came to a head Wednesday, and 16 senators voted to let it continue.

With the governor’s signature fiscal accomplishment hanging by a thread, the Kansas Senate fell three votes short in an effort to override a Brownback veto hours after the House did so.

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