The Secretary of State's race in Kansas has become one of the most important races of the election season. Why? Because issues like immigration and questions about government accountability are part of the debate.
At the center of that debate -the controversial, telegenic UMKC law professor and immigration activist, Kris Kobach.
Kobach's been exciting crowds at fundraisers and Tea Party rallies all year. When Sarah Palin was in Independence, people cheered Kobach almost as much as Palin.
Topkea, KS – Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson returned from a trip to Washington D.C. recently, where he and a coalition of governors urged Congress to extend federal payments that help support the Medicaid program.
The joint state/federal health program benefits aged, low-income and disabled Kansans.
Federal stimulus legislation has helped pay a bigger chunk of the program in recent years than usual. State lawmakers have assumed that would be extended, and built the funding into the state budget for this fiscal year.
Topeka, Kan. – Lawmakers have wrapped up the two major unresolved issues this session: the budget, and how to fund it. Both chambers had passed budgets that largely protected funding for education and social services. But in order to balance that budget, lawmakers needed about 300 million dollars in new revenue. Monday, they identified that money. Lawmakers passed a one-cent sales tax increase to fill the deficit.
Topeka, Kan. – Kansas lawmakers return to the statehouse on Monday with the hopes of wrapping up the 2010 session. Legislators worked over the weekend trying to tie up loose ends of the last few important issues.
Legislators burned the midnight oil on Friday with house members working until the wee hours of the morning and during the day on Saturday to approve a budget.
A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans drafted the plan. It would avoid spending cuts to education and social services, but would require a tax increase of more than $300 million to balance.
Topeka, Kan. – A so-called "Health Care Freedom Amendment" to the Kansas constitution failed today in the House. The amendment is aimed at exempting the state from federal health care laws that would require Kansans to have health insurance.
Supporters have argued it would send a message that they disapprove of the law signed today by President Obama. But they fell nine votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.
Topeka, Kan. – Kansas third district Representative Dennis Moore says he plans to vote in favor of the health care reconciliation bill when it comes to the floor of the House.
Moore serves on the House Budget Committee, which is charged with reviewing legislation under the rules of reconciliation. That committee has reported the so called Reconciliation Act of 2010 to the House Rules Committee with instructions. That's the last stop before a vote by the full House.
Topeka, Kan. – A special House committee will start hearings on an ethics complaint filed against House Speaker Mike O'Neal. the committee decided not to dismiss the complaint against the Hutchinson Republican.
Topeka, Kan. / Jefferson City, Mo. – A measure pushing back against the federal government passed in the Kansas House Monday by a vote of 109 to 11. The resolution calls on the federal government to stop passing laws that put mandates on the states.
Proponents have argued the federal government is encroaching on states' rights. The non-binding measure has no legal authority, but Republican Representative Joe Patton told fellow lawmakers it still carries weight.
Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas House of Representatives took a step yesterday towards banning what law enforcement officials call synthetic marijuana. The product, sold under the name K2, contains chemicals similar to those found in marijuana.
Olathe Republican Rob Olson argued for the ban, pointing to cases where young people have been made ill by the substance.
"Are we going to pass over this and not support it, and then someone dies, and then be back here next year saying we should have done this?" asked Olson on the House floor.
Topeka, Kan. – The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee is working on legislation that lawmakers hope could reduce domestic violence in Kansas. The measure would add new ways to identify domestic abusers.
Currently, domestic abusers can be charged with domestic battery. If the legislation becomes law, other crimes could have the designation of domestic violence added. This would include crimes like destruction of property if the victim and the offender had a relationship.
Topeka, Kan. – Kansas House lawmakers are going to be looking at new ways to fill a projected $400 million state deficit. That's because Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson's proposal to use a sales tax increase to help fill the hole was rejected by a House committee. The proposal would have increased the state sales tax by 1 percentage point for a three-year period.
Kansas City, Mo. – Supporters of the governor's proposed 1 cent sales tax increase are hoping the bill will advance in the Kansas House. The House Taxation Committee took testimony from proponents of the increase.
Kansas lawmakers are starting the years-long task of redrawing the lines for both national and state political offices. An advisory group began meeting this week in Topeka to look at the redistricting process.