Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots in tracking the policies, issues and and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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File Photo / Kansas News Service

In voting for a $1.2 billion tax increase to bolster the budget for the next two years, the Kansas Legislature avoided a projected $900 budget hole and began restoring past cuts to the mental health system.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Jim Barnett is throwing his stethoscope into the ring.

Again.

The 63-year-old doctor and former state senator is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

Again.

Barnett, who represented an Emporia-centered district in the Kansas Senate for a decade, won the 2006 GOP primary over a relatively weak field but lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in the general election.

Four years later he came up short in a race against Tim Huelskamp for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Safety concerns continue to prevent recertification of Osawatomie State Hospital, although a recent inspection didn’t find any evidence of the patient violence that prompted federal officials to decertify it in late 2015.

Staffing shortages and concerns about security and patient safety prompted the initial order. Certain they had addressed those issues, state officials appeared confident the state-run psychiatric hospital would pass muster. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The cost of higher education in Kansas continued to swell this week, carrying on a long-running trend in which universities rely increasingly on tuition and fees to operate.

This fall, a full-time semester at the University of Kansas will cost nearly $2,000 more than a decade earlier. The increase at Kansas State University has been similar.

Also over the last decade, the state’s spending per student at Kansas Board of Regents universities has slid.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed into law the state’s new school funding formula, which increases aid to schools by $284 million within two years.

In signing Senate Bill 19 into law, Brownback said it directs “more dollars into the classroom by limiting bond and interest aid, encouraging responsible financial stewardship at the local level.” 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Given all the controversy about KanCare – Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program – it would be reasonable to expect big crowds at public hearings about renewing the program.

But that wasn’t the case Wednesday when relative handfuls of health care providers and consumers turned out in Topeka for the first in a series of forums scheduled across the state.

The sparse turnout disappointed state officials and legislators who attended.

Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen/Twitter

Two Kansas lawmakers say they are okay after reports of a shooting at a Congressional baseball practice outside Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning. 

NPR reports Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican from Louisiana, one of his aides, and two Capitol Police were injured in the shooting. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

It took 113 days instead of the scheduled 100, but Kansas lawmakers finally ended their 2017 session Saturday.

Their final act was to approve a two-year budget plan that supporters say will start the process of repairing damage done by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But the session’s climatic moment occurred a week earlier when lawmakers overrode Brownback’s veto of a bill that largely reversed those cuts. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback defended his signature tax cuts this week after lawmakers overrode his veto of a bill repealing them, but he may have exaggerated their impact.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House and Senate worked into the night Thursday on a state budget, just two days after voting to scuttle Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies amid a projected $900 million shortfall over the next two years.

Negotiators from both chambers launched into evening talks shortly after the House passed a multiyear spending plan that differs from the Senate’s on key points such as pay raises for state employees.

Dan Margolies / Kansas News Service

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who catapulted to national prominence on the strength of his anti-immigration views, announced his candidacy for Kansas governor Thursday.

Kobach made the announcement two days after Kansas lawmakers voted to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a tax package that would raise $1.2 billion over the next two years — a rejection of Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

School districts across Kansas are breathing a bit easier after the Legislature passed a school funding plan and a tax law that provides the money for it.

Ideally, districts would want to have most of their budgets done by now so school boards could approve them and publish in August.

But not this year, as lawmakers have struggled to agree on a plan to adequately fund schools in the face of a June 30 deadline from the state Supreme Court. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday morning requiring abortion providers to give patients information listing their credentials, any disciplinary actions meted out against them and whether they have malpractice insurance.

The bill also requires the information to be provided at least 24 hours before a procedure and printed on white paper in black 12-point, Times New Roman font.

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A school finance bill headed to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk would expand a program that funds private school tuition through tax credits.

Lawmakers passed the changes Monday. The provisions were just one portion of a much larger bill that primarily establishes a new system for funding Kansas public schools. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Conservative Republicans, some of whom voted for sweeping tax cuts in 2012 or defended them in the years since, parted ways with Gov. Sam Brownback on tax policy Tuesday — at least long enough to side with moderates and Democrats in overriding his veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase.

The law to increase taxes over the next two years comes as legislators seek to close a projected $900 million budget gap for that same period and bolster funding for K-12 schools under a Kansas Supreme Court order.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Sam Brownback

Kansas lawmakers are gearing up for an attempt to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a tax increase. The House and Senate approved the plan overnight Monday and Brownback vetoed it Tuesday.

In a statement, Brownback said Kansas has a “pro-growth” tax policy and the bill would be a step backward on that front.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A bill to replace funding for Medicaid and the Kansas mental health system lost to budget-balancing cuts last year is headed to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Senate substitute for House Bill 2079 would increase a fee that health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, pay to do business in Kansas from 3.31 percent to 5.77 percent. HMOs are a type of health insurance that typically has lower premiums but only covers care within a network of doctors and hospitals. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

On Day 108 of the Kansas Legislature’s session, lawmakers got down to business. They passed a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education, then they approved a $1.2 billion tax plan.

But minutes after the Senate’s 26-14 tax plan vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package, which would put more than 300,00 small businesses and farmers back on the tax rolls, add a third income tax bracket and restore a number of tax deductions and credits.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

A school finance plan that will add nearly $300 million over two years gained approval Monday night in the Kansas Legislature and now moves to Gov. Sam Brownback for consideration.

Lawmakers faced a June 30 deadline to increase school funding after a March ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court that said current funding is inadequate. During debate, some lawmakers raised concerns that the $300 million plan will not satisfy the court and could make a special session likely.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas House and Senate negotiators have come up with an amended foster care task force bill but are working against the legislative clock to get it passed.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

With a record number of children in state custody — more than 7,000 at the end of March — Kansas officials have made recruiting and retaining foster parents a priority.

Speaking at a recent Statehouse event, Gov. Sam Brownback said Kansas should reverse its current situation and have foster parents waiting to be assigned children.

“This is doable. We just need people to step up,” he said. “Listen to your heart. Don’t block it.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House is expected Monday morning to debate a mega bill that ties sweeping tax reforms and higher funding for public schools into a single yes-or-no vote.

The latest attempt at sealing elusive deals on income tax and school finance emerged Sunday afternoon following three days of stop-and-go negotiations between the Legislature’s two chambers, which each have passed their own versions of a K-12 bill.

Now lawmakers will vote simultaneously on whether to increase state aid for schools by about $280 million — and scuttle Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policies.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature isn’t close to coming up with a school funding formula. 

However, lawmakers are working with a bill that looks a lot like the formula they scrapped in 2015 for block grants.

That bill, and the struggle this session to write it, is not just back to the future, but back 25 years to the future. That’s when another school funding suit bogged down the session.

When the history of Kansas school finance lawsuits is written — whenever that may be — two names will loom large. And they’re not governors, attorneys general or legislative bigwigs.

University of Kansas Hospital

The Kansas Senate and House voted Thursday to allow public health care facilities to continue banning concealed weapons. The 24-16 Senate vote and 91-33 House vote send the bill to Gov. Sam Brownback for consideration.

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.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Senate’s potential new formula for funding Kansas schools is based on spending at 41 districts where — according to a recent statistical analysis — students are doing well academically relative to local poverty rates.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department performed the calculations last month at the request of Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, and the bill based on it would inject around $230 million into K-12 school districts over the next two years.

Kansas News Service

After 10 hours of debate, a dozen amendments and a timeout to talk taxes, the Kansas Senate early Wednesday advanced a school finance plan and returned later in the morning to approve it on a 23-16 vote.

Once they finished the late-night debate, senators ended where they began: an additional $234 million over two years for K-12 education. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

A few years ago, Olathe attorney Shanelle Dupree noticed a pattern in the foster care cases she handled: Most parents had little understanding of the system or what to do if they wanted their children back.

So she started a class to try to change that. Once a month, parents who have a child in foster care can meet in a Johnson County family law courtroom to learn more about the basics of the child welfare system. Most parents are referred by the courts as part of the plan to prove they can take care of their children, Dupree said.

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.”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday named Doug Girod to be the next chancellor of the University of Kansas.

Girod served as executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center for the last four years.

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