New members of the Kansas House of Representatives have been taking orientation classes this week preparing for their first legislative session. They're learning about their legislative email accounts and getting their official photos, but looming budget issues are already on their minds.
Kansas lawmakers will have to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years to balance the budget. Republican Linda Gallagher, from Lenexa, believes they need to look at raising revenue. She says lawmakers have already made the easiest budget cuts.
Visitors with a concealed carry permit can now bring handguns into the Kansas Statehouse.
The change took effect this week, and Statehouse security officers have a process in place to determine who's carrying in the Capitol. Visitors with a firearm will need to provide their concealed carry permit and a photo ID.
Kansas Capitol Police Officer Stephen Crumpler says staff will screen the person for other weapons and use a system to double-check that the concealed carry permit is valid.
A Democratic candidate for Kansas secretary of state has unveiled her proposal to revamp some voter registration rules. Kansas law requires proof of citizenship documents for people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas, and that requirement has put around 19,000 voter registrations on hold.
Visitors who have a concealed weapons permit will be allowed to bring guns into the Kansas Statehouse starting in July.
A state law grants the Legislative Coordinating Council the authority to bar concealed firearms in the Capitol. But at a meeting Thursday, those legislators chose not to discuss any regulations. That means concealed guns will be allowed in the Capitol next month.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, says this puts the Statehouse on a par with many other facilities.
Gov. Sam Brownback's office on Wednesday announced that Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, will become the new state budget director and Kari Bruffett, currently head of the division of health care finance at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, will step in as KDADS chief.
Kansas lawmakers will resume the 2014 legislative session this week after a nearly month-long break, when they return Wednesday.
Lawmakers don't need to pass a full budget this year, because they passed a two-year budget last session. But they do need to finish at least a spending plan for the Kansas Department of Corrections. That section of the state budget was vetoed by the governor because of cuts in corrections spending.
In the future, you may be able to watch meetings in the Kansas Statehouse from the comfort of your own computer. Legislation in the Kansas House and Senate would add live, online video streams from some committee rooms.
Right now, there's only audio streaming from the floor of the House and Senate. The bills would add live audio and video streaming from four of the most-active committee rooms, where much of the real work on bills takes place.
It’s a disorder that impairs a variety of verbal and non-verbal communication skills. For some, the effects can be mild, but for others, the symptoms can be so severe that they leave individuals unable to care for themselves.
Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick says he'll be working to focus the chamber on economic issues for the rest of the legislative session. Some controversial bills in the House have caught national attention and criticism in recent weeks.
Merrick, a Republican from Stillwell, Kan., says he can't stop members from filing bills, but he can try to get lawmakers back to what he calls the basics of making Kansas the “most business-friendly state in the country.”
A committee in the Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would overhaul the state's retirement system.
The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS, covers thousands of state workers and local government employees like teachers. The proposal would switch KPERS to a 401(k)-style plan where employees manage their retirement benefits.
Currently, KPERS is a pension that pays benefits to a worker based on their salary and years of service. Right now, there's about a $10 billion long-term shortfall.
The legislative committee charged with overseeing state building projects today added money to next year’s budget to help the University of Kansas fund construction of a $75 million classroom building on its Kansas City, Kan. campus.
The Joint Committee on State Building Construction voted to add $1.4 million to the fiscal 2015 budget to help pay for bonds that will be issued to fund the project. The plan is for the state to contribute $15 million over time to help finance up to $35 million in construction bonds.
A committee in the Kansas Legislature could vote this week on a controversial religious freedom bill. It says businesses, individuals and other groups with strong religious beliefs can't be forced to recognize same-sex marriage and provide employment or other services to same-sex couples.
Michael Schuttloffel is with the Kansas Catholic Conference. He uses the example of a photographer asked to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Hundreds of Kansans gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to celebrate the end of the building's 13-year-long restoration project. The event coincided with Kansas Day, the state's 153rd birthday.
School children, members of the public and former and current state officials attended the ceremony. Historians learned that the Kansas Statehouse was never formally dedicated after its initial completion, so Gov. Sam Brownback took the opportunity to unveil a plaque and officially dedicate the Kansas Capitol.
Death penalty appeals in Kansas could speed up under a bill before a Senate committee. There are currently rules limiting the length of court documents and setting deadlines for the process to move forward, but they often aren't followed. The bill would enforce those rules.
Kris Ailslieger, with the attorney general's office, held up a court document more than an inch thick. He says lengthy court briefs and delays often extend the process.
Gov. Sam Brownback made comments aimed at the courts, referenced Kansas history and touted his administration's accomplishments during the annual State of the State address Wednesday night.
Brownback unveiled some of his legislative priorities as he spoke before the members of the Kansas House and Senate. He held up what he says are the achievements of his administration over the last three years: building up state financial reserves and balancing the budget during the recession.
Officials at the Kansas Department of Corrections have recently been working to deal with budget cuts. Some lawmakers voted against the state budget for the current fiscal year specifically because of the cuts to corrections. Legislators may now try to go back and reverse some of the reductions.
Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts says they have had to deal with a $4 million funding shortfall. He says they had to move money from other areas and cut back on offender programs, and they are still more than $1 million short.
The Kansas legislature is back in session this week but they probably won’t be debating a Medicaid expansion, after a recommendation from Gov. Sam Brownback.
Expansion supporters had hoped that at least an expansion compromise could happen this year. But the governor’s statement makes any expansion in the near future all but impossible, because the GOP controlled House has said they will only take up the issue at the governor's urging.
Still, many in the state are pushing for some change to Medicaid, which was intended to be part of the Affordable Care Act.
The 2014 Kansas legislative session is underway, and on the first day, two lawmakers introduced bills that would reduce a backlog of voter registrations.
Nearly 20,000 registrations are on hold in Kansas because of a new law that took effect last year requiring people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to provide documents proving their U.S. citizenship.
The bills that have been introduced would allow people registering to instead sign an affidavit swearing they're a U.S. citizen. Lying on the form would be a felony.
The 2014 Kansas legislative session kicks off Monday, and Gov. Sam Brownback says education is at the top of his priorities, including his recently unveiled reading initiative and instituting statewide full-day kindergarten.
"I think the public wants to see us produce high-quality products, here from government. And the core function of state government is education," Brownback said in an exclusive interview. "We put over half of our state general fund in K-12, but we need to see it produce and not just put money in. And, not ask for any results."
The Kansas Supreme Court generally issues rulings on Fridays, so many people in the Kansas Legislature were watching to see if the court would release its opinion in a controversial school finance case Friday.
The justices did not, so lawmakers are likely to start the legislative session on Monday without a decision in the case.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, says the case could prompt lawmakers to consider rewriting the state's school funding formula.
Gov. Sam Brownback has a plan to beef up veterans' services in Kansas. The proposal would include improvements at two facilities and new workers aimed at helping veterans.
The plan would include a $1.4 million renovation of a veterans' home in southwest Kansas. It would also add 40 new beds for long-term care services to a veterans' facility in Winfield.
Gregg Burden, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans' Affairs, says under the proposal they'll also be looking to hire four new staff members to help veterans access the benefits they've earned.
Legally married same-sex couples are suing the Kansas Department of Revenue over a policy that says they must file separate state tax returns. Kansas does not recognize same-sex marriages, but some other states and the federal government do.
Thomas Witt is with the group Equality Kansas. He says married same-sex couples in Kansas could file a single federal return but would be forced to file two separate state returns.
A state panel is recommending some of the final details for the Kansas Statehouse grounds. The major parts of the renovations should be completed by the end of the year. The Capitol Preservation Committee is recommending additions like a walking trail, new signs and a series of light posts around the property. But they voted not to recommend placing two fountains on the grounds.
Landon Fulmer is a member of the panel and the governor's chief of staff. He questioned a proposal to install two fountains at a cost of more than $90,000, because they'd have to be shutdown in winter.
The Thanksgiving weekend marks the start of Christmas tree sales in many places. And here in Kansas, a lot of the trees sold are grown in the state. But Christmas tree farmers have faced challenges in recent years because of drought conditions.
Eldon Clawson, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, says some growers have had to take steps like adding drip irrigation to keep trees healthy.
“It’s an investment, a major investment, but it’s paid off for their trees,” says Clawson.
A select group of Kansas lawmakers will receive an update on the state's Internet technology security during a committee meeting Tuesday. The annual audit involves combing through the security protocols of state agencies looking for problems.