Sam Brownback

Kansas legislators passed a law this year that says that if a court strikes down a 2014 law that removed some powers from the state Supreme Court, the judiciary will lose funding. On this edition of Up To Date, we examine the ensuing battle being waged between the Kansas Judiciary and the executive and legislative branches. 

Guests: 

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is defending recent moves to raise sales and cigarette taxes in order to balance a state budget hit hard by the governor’s income tax cuts. Brownback told KCUR's Steve Kraske that critics—including Democrats in the statehouse—do not see the big picture.

Kraske: Democrats are out today saying that the fact that you won't acknowledge this is a tax increase, what happened in the last session, is a sign that you’re living in a dream world. What do you say to that?

Brownback: Well, I wish they’d put forward proposals they supported. The Democrats didn’t put forward a single proposal in this legislative session that could be debated, the only thing they wanted to see happen was [that] everything fail, just come crashing down. So if they’re not willing to put forward proposals, I really don’t think they have much credibility to criticize.

KHI News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s office said Wednesday it had received word from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that no charges will be filed after an investigation into loans made to the governor’s re-election campaign.

The governor released a joint statement along with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon who was also at the center of the probe.

“We have been advised by legal counsel that the United States Attorney’s office has concluded an investigation regarding campaign finance matters, and no charges are to be filed,” the statement read. 

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback maintains that the revenue enhancement package just adopted in Topeka, which has been described as the largest tax increase in Kansas history, should not be considered a tax increase. On this edition of Up To Date, Steve Kraske has a one-on-one with the governor about the 2015 legislative session's contentious tax debate. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, state and local officials as well as the Secretaries of both Agriculture and Homeland Security smiled, shook hands, even hugged as they came together for the latest in a series of ceremonial groundbreakings for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Manhattan, Kansas facility has been in the works for 16 years, said Sen. Pat Roberts, the grandfather of the project, who first pushed for greater food and agriculture safety with Kansas State University officials in 1999.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It's a common problem for mail order pharmacies such as Overland Park-based OptumRX – patients will return prescription drugs, unopened.

"Let's say when their physician changed their prescription, they forgot to to notify us that the original cycle of medications they were on needed to change," says Tim Wicks, CEO of OptumRX.

Usually, those returned prescriptions end up in the trash.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed a law that bans dilation and evacuation (D&E), a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

The law, titled the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, redefines "dilation and evacuation" as "dismemberment." Language in the law says the fetus is pulled apart limb by limb and allowed to bleed to death before being removed from the pregnant woman's body. 

A Kansas Senate committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to study the governor’s choice to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Gov. Sam Brownback has picked Topeka attorney Kathryn Gardner to fill the open seat.

During the hearing, senators will hear from any supporters and opponents of Gardner’s nomination. Then, senators will have a chance to pepper Gardner with questions about her experience and qualifications.

When Brownback announced that Gardner would be his pick, he said she meets the standards Kansans set for judges.

Elle Boatman

Elle Boatman was scrolling through her Facebook news feed Tuesday afternoon during a break from her job at Wichita State.

There she learned that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback had rescinded an earlier executive order by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that offered protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered state workers. Boatman is a transwoman and said she was floored by the news.

“I was really just devastated,” Boatman recalled on Wednesday.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed an executive order rescinding protected class status for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state workers.  We talk to two local journalists about public reactions to the governor's move and what it means for the LGBT community in Kansas.

Guests:

  • Peggy Lowe is a reporter for Harvest Public Media based at KCUR.
  • Barb Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has overturned an executive order that protected many state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order he rescinded was put into place by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Her order had barred executive branch state agencies from discriminating in hiring and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Doug Bonney, with the ACLU of Kansas, says the move comes as a surprise.

Kansas lawmakers are just beginning the job of reviewing and modifying Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax and budget plan.

The governor’s proposal slows scheduled income tax cuts and reduces spending to help fill a budget shortfall. Republican state Sen. Ty Masterson chairs that chamber’s budget committee. He says after revenue collections came up short of predictions, it’s prudent to adjust the tax cuts.

“We had the largest revenue estimation miss in the history of the state, and so now you just have to reevaluate. The purpose is still the right purpose,” says Masterson.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The watch word for school funding in Kansas is now block grants. But how that will work remains a mystery to educators.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap the current per pupil funding formula which, he says, is complicated and inefficient.

While lawmakers try to write a new formula, Brownback proposes to give school districts lump sum payments over the next two fiscal years equal to about what they receive now.

Across the state, that’s $3 billion in aid to local school districts.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stuck by his aggressive tax policy during his State of the State address Thursday, outlining an ambitious list of legislative priorities for 2015.

But even members of the governor's own party say it's too early to tell what Brownback can accomplish during the session.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback addressed a wide array of issues in his ambitious State of the State address. On this edition of Up To Date, three Kansas lawmakers give their reactions to the governor's speech. 

Guests:

  • Rep. Tom Burroughs (D), House Minority Leader, District 33.
  • Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R), District 19.
  • Rep. John Rubin (R), District 18.
Andy Marso / KHI News Service

In his first State of the State address since being re-elected, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday night that his efforts to fight poverty and reform Medicaid have been a success and outlined a controversial second-term agenda.

Ashley Booker, KHI News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback opened the 2015 Kansas legislative session Monday with an inaugural speech that emphasized strengthening families as a solution to the state’s financial woes.

Addressing newly elected legislators and statewide office holders in the House chamber, the governor said a “lack of healthy families” plays a major role in poverty, both in Kansas and nationwide.

“While many of our problems are economic and we will be second to none in addressing them, the reality is the solutions are principally cultural and moral,” Brownback said.

The Associated Press reports that a federal grand jury is investigating loans to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign.  

The loans in question were most likely from Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Colyer loaned the Brownback  campaign half a million dollars three separate times, always just before a campaign finance report was due.  On at least two occasions the campaign paid the money back days later.  

Gov. Sam Brownback's chief of staff is resigning to accept a position with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the administration announced Monday. Landon Fulmer will step down Jan. 5.

Jon Hummell, Brownback's policy director, will replace Fulmer. He will continue to also serve as policy director until the administration names a successor.

Fulmer has been chief of staff since April 2012. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There are some high-profile issues that Kansas lawmakers will address in the upcoming legislative session, including filling a budget hole. But there are always other issues that rise to the surface and attract attention when lawmakers are in Topeka.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he’ll be pushing anti-poverty legislation in the coming session, and he also expects work on long-term water policy.

A spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families says the agency plans to heed Gov. Sam Brownback’s call for cutting $3.9 million from its fiscal year 2015 budget by delaying a planned upgrade of its computer system.

The savings should cover “almost all of our anticipated FY 2015 reduction,” DCF spokesperson Theresa Freed said in an email, referring to the state’s current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015.

Delaying the upgrade, she said, will have “no impact” on the department’s services for at-risk children and low-income families.

While Kansas had other high profile campaigns in 2014, the race for U.S. Senate in Kansas was so unusual that it attracted a lot of attention. Political staffers and experts weighed in Thursday on that and the governor’s race as part of a panel by the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

When Gov. Sam Brownback announced this week a list of stopgap measures to close a $280 million budget hole, one of the biggest chunks was $55 million from a “Kansas Department of Health and Environment Fee Fund Sweep” made possible in part by a federal law the governor has strenuously opposed and criticized.

The $55 million comes from a Medicaid drug rebate program that was expanded as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday he will use his power of allotments to make fee transfers and spending cuts to close a $280 million budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Brownback said in a prepared statement that the allotments come from recommendations made by budget director Shawn Sullivan.

A couple of weeks before the election, the Kansas Department for Children and Families issued a press release that poverty in the state fell almost two and a half percent under Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback wasted no time incorporating those figures into the narrative of his success as governor.

“And just yesterday, poverty rates going down in the state of Kansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” said Brownback at the gubernatorial debate in Wichita. “We are moving in the right direction and getting things done."

But the poverty rate information was wrong.

State revenue forecasters said Monday that the state can expect hundreds of millions of budget dollars less than previously thought to fund schools, social programs and highway projects.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Following the strong Republican wins in Kansas elections this week, some people are trying to determine what drove the wave of victories for Republicans. Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback both won their races, but many polls before the election showed them neck-and-neck with their challengers or losing.

Kansans voted to retain two Kansas Supreme Court justices under fire for their decision to overturn the death sentences of two brothers in one of the most notorious murder cases in the state’s history.

The two, Justice Eric S. Rosen and Justice Lee A. Johnson, were appointed to the court by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Kansas Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor but stand for retention by voters at the end of their six-year terms.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Gov. Sam Brownback was re-elected as Kansas governor by a narrow margin Tuesday night after a tough campaign against Democratic challenger Paul Davis.

Brownback took a majority in crucial Johnson and Sedgwick counties, giving the Republican the edge over Davis, who ended up with 47 percent of the vote. Brownback landed 49 percent of the vote, and 4 percent went to Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr.

"What a night!" Brownback exclaimed as he thanked supporters for the win. "Paul Davis ran a great race ... that State Fair debate is not one I will soon forget."

There’s a chill in the air, and a forbidding wind is rustling through the trees. But which is scarier—the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween or the campaigning for the midterm election?

On Friday's Up to Date, the Political Pundits return to talk about the issues surrounding the close races in Kansas for secretary of state, governor and especially for the U.S. Senate, where a leadership change is a real possibility.

Plus, we have a look at the buzz surrounding the Missouri governor’s race of 2016. 

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