Kansas Legislature | KCUR

Kansas Legislature

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Democratic Party and the Democrat leader in the Kansas Senate, Anthony Hensley, called out top Republican officials Wednesday for not condemning the white nationalist march and violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The weekend events left one person dead and dozens injured. Two officers also died when a state police helicopter monitoring the rally crashed. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials have cleared an initial hurdle in their effort to regain federal certification for Osawatomie State Hospital.

Problems that federal inspectors cited in May have been fixed, making the state’s largest mental health hospital eligible for a full recertification inspection, according to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

That inspection must take place within the next 120 days, according to KDADS Secretary Tim Keck.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A decade after Kansas unveiled plans to migrate its driver’s license records from an aged mainframe to modern information technology infrastructure, the effort remains incomplete and, auditors say, troubled.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.

Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

After four years of planning for concealed carry in Kansas government buildings, you might expect that officials would have the wrinkles ironed out -- that they would have considered all the possibilities. 

But there is still confusion, and it starts at Cedar Crest, the stately governor’s mansion on the west side of Topeka.

Wladyslaw / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas’ private tuition tax credit program doubled in size in the 2016-2017 school year and appears likely to expand again after lawmakers voted to enhance it this session.

More than 200 children from low-income families received scholarships to attend private schools in northeast Kansas and Wichita during the fledgling program’s third year in existence. However, it only was the second year in which children actually received scholarships, because it took private schools time to set up the program.

Friday is Laura McQuade’s last day as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

She’s leaving to become head of Planned Parenthood of New York City. In her three years in the region, she has overseen Planned Parenthood’s geographic expansion – it now operates 12 clinics in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma – and the expansion of its health and reproductive services.

Suzanne Heck / Courtesy Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

Two Democrats in the Kansas Legislature want to know more about why Gov. Sam Brownback appointed the same individual to two high-level positions, allowing him to collect two paychecks since 2014.

In 2011, Brownback appointed Mark Dodd to head the State Gaming Agency, which oversees gaming facilities operated by Native American tribes. Three years later, he made Dodd executive director of the Native American Affairs Office, which is part of the governor’s office.

Asked about the arrangement Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Brownback described it as efficient.

Courtesy Kansas Department of Corrections

A state senator is pushing for a legislative investigation of recent uprisings and disturbances at a 1,500-inmate prison near Wichita.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, on Monday proposed having legislative auditors look into incidents at the El Dorado Correctional Facility on at least four separate days in May, June and July.

FIle Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday touted his credentials and passion for helping the Trump administration mitigate religious persecution around the globe.

The prospective ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom said he does not know how long it might take for the U.S. Senate to consider his nomination by President Donald Trump, and he hasn’t yet decided when to turn over the reins to his lieutenant governor, Jeff Colyer.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After months of speculation, news broke Wednesday evening that Pres. Donald Trump nominated Kansas' governor as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The appointment requires Senate approval. Today, we hear from journalists, political thinkers, and Kansas state lawmakers to find out what this long-rumored move means for the Sunflower State, and to discuss the legacy Gov. Sam Brownback will leave behind.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A fresh legal challenge to the state’s 2014 elimination of teacher job protections has reached the Kansas Supreme Court, close on the heels of a separate lawsuit that proved unsuccessful six months ago.

At stake are due process rights for thousands — or even tens of thousands — of teachers who had earned them before the Republican-led Legislature passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed the repeal.

In name, the case is a battle between the school board of a 270-student district in rural Butler County, east of Wichita, and two teachers dismissed from their jobs in 2015.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of an organization that represents Kansas state employees is criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration for using a state agency to deliver a political attack on the Legislature.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said it was inappropriate for the administration to send an email to employees of the Kansas Department for Children and Families that criticizes lawmakers for raising taxes.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit is in its seventh year. In that time, the case has led to repeated rulings against the state for underfunding schools and responses by lawmakers in the form of appropriations bills.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Lawyers for Kansas and for dozens of school districts suing it filed briefs Friday at the Kansas Supreme Court, in what could be the final leg of a seven-year legal battle over school finance.

The state argues legislation passed early this month ratchets up annual state aid to schools by nearly $300 million over the next two years, and that should be enough to end the Gannon v. Kansas case once and for all. 

Kansas News Service

Many Kansas workers will soon see a change in their paychecks because of an income tax increase that takes effect Saturday.

Lawmakers approved a $1.2 billion income tax increase to close a projected $900 million budget gap for the next two fiscal years. 

The new law raises income tax rates and reinstates income taxes on thousands of business owners.

“We’re encouraging everybody to just think about it,” said Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers met briefly Monday for the ceremonial end of the legislative session. They considered overriding some vetoes issued by Gov. Sam Brownback but ultimately took no action.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle ended that chamber’s meeting quickly because she said some lawmakers were gone and overrides simply weren’t going to be possible.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback denounced the level of spending in the Kansas budget, but he still chose to sign the bill into law over the weekend.

“I am signing the budget, despite my concerns about excessive spending, to avoid a break in core functions of government and to provide state workers with well-deserved pay increases,” said Brownback in a statement Sunday afternoon.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday signed a bill creating a task force to examine the Kansas foster care system.

The number of children in the Kansas foster care system has set records in recent years, passing 7,100 in April. The death of an abused boy in Kansas City, Kansas, also raised concerns about whether the system was protecting children. 

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.

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.

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.” 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

For a while, it seemed as though it would be a long time before Kansas lawmakers came up with a tax plan that could pass. Just when it seemed the impasse was at its worst, the Women's Caucus stepped up with a plan that led to a compromise.

Guests:

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Kansas scores 15th among the 50 states for overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 “Kids Count” report.

The state’s relatively high overall ranking is driven by its No. 7 ranking for kids’ economic well-being, based on indicators like housing affordability and employment security for parents.

But the state fares less well in three other categories: health, in which the foundation ranks it 20th; education, 26th; and family and community,  23rd.

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. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

With school finance, taxes, and a budget passed, the Kansas Legislature adjourned. Just after the final yays, nays, and hurrahs, podcast host Sam Zeff hopped into the Topeka studio with Kansas News Service reporters Celia Llopis-Jepsen and Jim McLean for a quick take on the legislative session that was.

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.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School Board meeting Thursday night was decidely more upbeat than about this time two years ago. At that time,the board was facing a $2 million deficit and had laid off 80 people to fill budget hole.

But last night, the board heard the district will probably be able to spend about $14.5 million more in the 2017-2018 school under the school funding plan passed this week by the Kansas Legislature.

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