Kansas Legislature | KCUR

Kansas Legislature

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. 

Kansas lawmakers have gotten down to business, passing a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education and a $1.2 billion tax plan. But just minutes after the vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package.

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.

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 / KCUR 89.3

There are two college tuition stories in Kansas right now.

The first is a good news story. Johnson County Community College says it will hold the line on tuition. The JCCC Board of Trustees voted last month to maintain the current cost for students. A credit hour is $93 for Johnson County residents and $110 for all other Kansas residents.

“JCCC is a place where every student has the opportunity for success.  By not raising tuition, that opportunity for success is now more achievable for more students,” president Joe Sopcich said in a statement.

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.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The race for Mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas was quietly moving toward the August primary.

That was until Tuesday, when veteran state Sen. David Haley filed to take on incumbent Mark Holland, who filed for re-election back in February.

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. 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this episode, we get the democratic perspective on a school funding formula that passed in the Kansas House last week. And, we look ahead to what tax package  might emerge in the coming week.

Guests:

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.”

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas House debated a new school finance plan for five hours Wednesday, taking up two dozen amendments and finally voting 81-40 to advance a bill not much different from the one that had come out of committee. The measure is slated to get a final vote Thursday in the House. Then it will be the Senate’s turn.  

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow public health care facilities to continue to ban concealed guns.

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

Kansas lawmakers marked the fifth anniversary of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts becoming law by rejecting a bill that would have largely repealed them.

The bill defeated Monday night by the House was similar to a measure rejected May 10 by the Senate. Both would have raised more than $1 billion over two years to cover a projected budget shortfall of $900 million by increasing income tax rates and repealing a controversial exemption given to more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Turnover among caseworkers has delayed children’s movement through the Kansas foster care system, contributing to record numbers of kids living away from their families.

Sam Zeff

The Kansas Legislature continues to struggle to come up with a tax plan and a school funding formula. Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway, says finding a consensus is complicated because there are so many factions within the Republican Party.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Heavy rains early Friday flooded some Statehouse offices and displaced some of the researchers who work for Kansas lawmakers.

Maintenance staff and members of the Kansas Legislative Research Department worked Friday to clean up and sort through water-damaged books and documents in the ground-floor offices.

Raney Gilliland, director of the department, said a 10-inch pipe that carries rainwater from the Statehouse roof failed during the storm.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

They must satisfy members who want to set a school-funding target before voting on the tax increases needed to fund it and those who first want to close a projected $900 million gap between revenue and spending over the next two budget years.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have struggled since 2015 on whether to investigate alleged discrimination against same-sex couples in the state’s foster care and adoption system.

Now some think they’ve hit on an answer: Ask people working in the foster care system if they think the issue needs a deeper look.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat, has asked the Legislative Post Audit Division to conduct a survey about potential bias against same-sex couples in child placement decisions.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A former Kansas legislator who also served as the state agriculture secretary and as a regional official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is running for governor.

Joshua Svaty, 37, launched his bid for the Democratic nomination Tuesday at the Ellsworth Co-op, not far from the farm where he grew up.

Dressed casually in jeans and an open-collared shirt, Svaty told a small crowd of supporters that he was running to “undo the damage” done to education, health care and the state’s transportation system by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A divided K-12 Education Budget Committee on Monday passed out a school funding plan for Kansas schools that essentially nobody likes.

It adds $279 million over two years: $179 million in the first year and $100 million in the second. After that, school funding would increase based on the inflation rate. The measure was kicked out of committee without recommendation.

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Private investigators and some other services that Kansas lawmakers consider “non-essential” may soon be subject to the state sales tax.

The House on Monday passed a bill 78-42 that would impose the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on a relatively short list of currently exempt services.

In addition to private investigation and security services, the list includes plumbing and pool cleaning, towing, non-residential janitorial services, debt collection and pet care excluding veterinary services.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

When Kansas lawmakers started this legislative session in January, most agreed that comity was back, partnerships would be forged and work would get done.

That was then and this is now.

A trio of challenges remain as the Legislature on Sunday passed the 90-day mark in its session: a budget, a tax plan and a school funding formula.

Matt Hodapp / 89.3 KCUR

Kansas lawmakers had high hopes last week that a Senate tax bill would pass, and they could get on with approving a budget. But, two Democrats joined with a number of Republicans to vote down the legislation. The Democrats said it wouldn't generate enough revenue. On this week’s podcast, KCUR’s Jim McLean and Sam Zeff talk with Republican Rep. Russ Jennings, who says that vote could prolong the session. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill creating a task force that will recommend improvements to the foster care system.

The House Children and Seniors Committee passed the bill in March after collecting testimony from foster parents, law enforcement officials and child welfare advocates. Many of those who testified expressed concerns about social worker caseloads and lack of coordination in the system. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The drama unfolding in the Kansas Statehouse pales in comparison to the intrigue surrounding recent events in the nation’s capital.

But what’s happening — and not happening — in Topeka will determine the extent to which a group of new legislators elected last fall can fulfill the promises they made to voters to stabilize the state budget and adequately fund public schools.

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