Kansas Legislature

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A Senate committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would repeal an income tax exemption for more than 300,000 business owners. The bill, which could go before the full Senate on Thursday, also would increase income tax rates overall.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said she supported the measure because the Legislature needs to make some progress on tax issues.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators are weighing plans to restore cuts to Medicaid, but health care providers may not see the extra boost until 2018 or even 2019.

The Senate’s budget committee heard testimony Monday on Senate Bill 94, which would increase a fee on HMO insurance plans to draw down federal funds and replace the cuts made to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators concerned about health issues are doing something unusual in politics these days: getting bipartisan.

Veteran legislators from both parties who lead the House and Senate health committees have formed the Healthy Kansans Caucus.

The first meeting attracted about a dozen lawmakers Friday to a conference room at the Kansas Health Institute in Topeka.

Many of them were elected for the first time in November. One of the freshmen, Rep. Tom Cox, said the new crop of legislators are more interested in problem-solving than partisan wrangling.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

KanCare expansion advocates say confusion in Washington, D.C., is helping their cause as they gear up for Statehouse hearings this week on an expansion bill.

Brad Wilson / Flickr — CC

In the basket of thorny issues facing Kansas lawmakers how to fund public education is certainly among the thorniest.

Led by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans, the old funding formula was scrapped two years ago in favor of a block grant scheme that expires July 1.

Starting Monday morning the House K-12 Budget Committee starts discussions on a new formula.

And with that comes some questions: 

What is this K-12 Budget Committee?

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

  On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Joy Koesten (R-Leawood) talks about mental health, school funding, and taxes.

Guests:

  • Joy Koesten, Representative (R-Leawood), Kansas Legislature

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is drafting bills to restrict illegal immigration in Kansas while he advises President Donald Trump on the same subject nationally.

Members of the Kansas House and Senate introduced two measures on Kobach’s behalf this week. One bars so-called “sanctuary cities” and the other would instruct the Kansas Highway Patrol to sign an agreement to help the federal Department of Homeland Security with immigration enforcement.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ two state-run psychiatric hospitals would lose nearly $20 million under the budget proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

In the current fiscal year, Osawatomie and Larned state hospitals are relying on state funds to make up for the loss of federal funding. Brownback’s recommendations for the fiscal year that starts in July would end that practice, leaving it to the hospitals to make up the lost revenue.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

One critical part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget-balancing plan is creation of a statewide health insurance pool that Kansas public school teachers would have to join.

The governor’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year counts on $80 million a year in health care savings based on an efficiency study by Alvarez & Marsal consulting firm.

But some legislators, including Republicans, are skeptical.

“There’s a big difference between theory and practicality,” says Rep. Larry Campbell of Olathe, chairman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee.

Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flikr -- CC - remixed, cropped

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order suspending new-refugee admissions for 120 days and blocking travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.

The move caused immediate controversy, sparking protests in Kansas City and other cities and airports around the U.S. as federal authorities began enforcing the ban.

KU Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital today will go it alone in trying to get the Legislature to roll back a law that would allow almost anyone to carry a concealed gun in almost any public building.

The hospital is backing a bill (HB 2150) that carves out the facility in Kansas City, Kansas, even if lawmakers decide to let the concealed carry bill take effect on July 1. The measure does not carve out the adjoining KU Medical Center campus.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Dr. Damon Heybrock’s office doesn’t look like a traditional medical clinic.

Heybrock finished converting a two-story row house into a medical practice in September, putting exam tables in the bedrooms and a centrifuge for lab tests next to the kitchen sink.

Original pieces by Kansas City artists cover the walls of the clinic in Westwood, which Heybrock named Health Studio KC.

The look isn’t the only thing that’s different about his practice — so is the payment method. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Opponents of allowing guns on university campuses are not giving up their fight despite a setback this week in a Kansas Senate committee.

State law says Kansas colleges and universities must allow concealed weapons on campus starting in July. Bills in the House and Senate would exempt higher education institutions from the law, allowing them to continue banning guns on campus.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are trumpeting new poll numbers that show them gaining ground despite what appear to be long odds of success.

The poll, conducted in December just before the start of the 2017 legislative session, indicated that 82 percent of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which commissioned the survey.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 893

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Sen. Dinah Sykes (R-Lenexa) and Rep. Brett Parker (D-Overland Parker) give us their freshman perspective on Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal, concealed carry on college campuses, and a possible new school funding formula.

Guests:

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Some Kansas lawmakers hope allowing community-based rehabilitation programs to bill Medicaid for their services will help more people with mental illnesses find work.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow the psychosocial rehabilitation programs known as “clubhouses” to claim reimbursement from Medicaid as allowed by federal law. Some states already allow clubhouses to receive Medicaid funds.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Mothers, college professors, pastors, teachers and students packed a Capitol hearing room Thursday morning to make this plea to lawmakers: Roll back a law that in July will make it legal for almost anyone to carry a concealed gun on Kansas college campuses and in other public buildings.

So big was the roll-back contingent that many there to testify had to be hailed to the room from down the hallway.

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

Kansas lawmakers seeking to keep university campuses, hospitals and government buildings off limits to firearms are facing a familiar argument from opponents.

Namely, that such restrictions infringe on the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s a Second Amendment issue,” says Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican. “It’s a right to bear arms issue.”

University of Kansas

New figures from the Kansas Board of Regents spell out just how much each university, community college and technical college would lose if the Legislature chooses to cut its way to a balanced budget this year. 

And it's a lot of money.

In total, all 37 institutions would lose out on a combined $52,546,469 if lawmakers enact an across-the-board 6.95 percent cut.

The state's current-year budget is estimated to be $362 million short and the Legislature must find that money before July.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

In what could be a blow to the road construction industry in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Tuesday said it will only spend $44 million on new projects in the next fiscal year.

For the past several years KDOT has let about $400 million just on preservation projects, including roads and bridges.

“It’s going to cause us additional concern about the safety and reliability of our roads, getting product to market and also providing jobs for many of the folks who are in the construction business,” says Bob Totten with the Kansas Contractors Association.

Jvikings1 / Wikimedia Commons

After success in the state House of Representatives last Thursday, a right-to-work bill is front and center today in the Missouri Senate. We look at the pros and cons of forcing workers in unionized companies to pay union fees. Then, we learn about one Good Samaritan's efforts to reduce a rash of break-ins in Hyde Park.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: An update to this story was posted at 5 p.m. Jan. 26.

About 350 elderly and disabled Kansans are suddenly without dental care after an Oklahoma City company informed nursing homes that it was suspending services for Kansas residents whose Medicaid applications are pending.

The company, Sterling Dental, sends dentists to nursing homes in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas for on-site care.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are working to fill a $350 million budget hole in the current fiscal year that ends in June. Members of a House committee wanted to know what it would take to erase the deficit using only spending cuts. A legislative report says state agencies would see a 7 percent budget reduction.

Republican Representative Erin Davis requested the information. Davis says she’s not advocating for cutting Kansas spending, but she wanted to see what the option would look like.

Kansas Supreme Court

In a blow to teachers in Kansas, the state Supreme Court Friday upheld a 2014 law that stripped educators of due process before being fired.

In a unanimous ruling the court rejected an appeal by the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) that argued the law violated the constitutional ban of one bill covering more than one subject. KNEA claimed since the bill covered both appropriations and policy the act was unconstitutional.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, budget director Shawn Sullivan walks us through Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal, and discusses reaction from the legislature. 

Guests:

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators are seeking answers from the Brownback administration after federal officials denied a one-year extension of the state’s Medicaid program known as KanCare.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas legislative session is not yet two weeks old, but there are already signs of the change that many voters called for in the recent elections.

New legislative leadership and an aggressive group of newcomers are pushing back against many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal, which they say won’t fix structural problems with the state budget.

Message From Voters

From the earliest days of the campaign season it was evident that many voters were frustrated about the “budget mess” in Topeka.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The debate over allowing concealed guns on college campuses is starting to heat up in the Kansas Statehouse.

A law passed in 2013 will require public universities to allow concealed guns on campus starting this summer. A group of Kansas lawmakers now is pushing a bill that would exempt state universities and colleges from the requirement.

Colby Ellis / Flickr - CC

Football can be pretty violent. Today, two local physicians discuss whether school boards should continue to support contact sports for high-schoolers. Then, get tips on crafting an apology that will avoid making a bad situation worse.

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