Statehouse Blend Kansas | KCUR

Statehouse Blend Kansas

Statehouse Blend Kansas explores the inner workings of Kansas politics and government. Host Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service talks each week with people at the center of key debates. You'll hear from lawmakers, advocates and regular Kansans. And you'll stay up to date on what's happening in Topeka throughout the legislative session.

Things got a little chippy during the final week of the regular legislative session, but Kansas lawmakers came away with a school funding plan and a permanent commerce secretary. And now Sec. David Toland is ready to move on to reinvigorating the state's economic development efforts. 

The Kansas Senate has agreed to give school districts raises. The House has not. Instead, negotiators are headed to the bargaining table with a stack of new requirements for reporting how schools spend their money. Rep. Kristey Williams is the one leading the charge for more accountability from districts. 


Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's new administration experienced some social media mishaps this past week, and conservative Republicans pounced. Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty says there's more going on than meets the eye. 

Just after approving the school funding Gov. Laura Kelly asked for, the Kansas Senate turned around and gave the final okay to a tax relief package she opposes, daring the new governor to issue her first veto. 


Gov. Laura Kelly signed her first bill and school finance got some attention, but roundtable discussions on Medicaid expansion dominated a short week at the Kansas Statehouse. Sara Collins, a healthcare economist with the Commonwealth Fund, and Michael Cannon, health policy director for the Cato Institute, represented diverging views of the costs and benefits. 


Kansas lawmakers have given the green light to a slew of bills to proceed past a mid-session break, while stopping other proposals in their tracks. Meanwhile, new KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz is looking forward to getting the state highway program back on the road. 


Rep. Don Hineman got a new assignment this session to figure out how to sustain rural Kansas. The three things the chairman of the Rural Revitalization Committee says rural communities need most: broadband, housing, and, of course, health care.

The Kansas House has rejected Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to refinance pension debt. But the new governor says that won't tank the state budget or doom her priorities, including Medicaid expansion. Should expansion come to be, it'll be Health Secretary Lee Norman's job to implement it, and he says it'll get good ROI. 


With Republican Senate President Susan Wagle leading the charge, the Kansas Senate sent a massive tax relief measure on to the House. Wagle says Kansas has to do something to make sure individuals and businesses don't get stuck with a bigger state tax bill after President Trump and Congress overhauled federal tax rules in 2017. 


Republicans are pushing hard and fast for tax relief that could threaten Gov. Laura Kelly's budget priorities, including Medicaid expansion. The governor has unveiled her plan to extend Medicaid coverage to another 150,000 low-income Kansans. The plan might seem familiar. The official sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, explains it contains compromises that nearly got veto-proof support in 2017. 


The Lines In The Sand

Jan 26, 2019

Now that the ceremonial parts of the 2019 legislation are over, it's back to politics as usual. Republicans and Democrats are digging in on tax cuts, Medicaid expansion, and school funding. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer talks about the starting points for negotiations that will determine whether the new Democratic governor's agenda can get passed. 


So It Begins...

Jan 20, 2019

In her first week in Kansas' corner office, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly laid out her top priorities: ending litigation over school funding, expanding Medicaid coverage, addressing the crisis in the foster care system. Republican lawmakers are critical of her idea to free up the necessary cash by restructuring the state's pension debt. Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine gives his take on what that could mean for the 2019 legislative session. 


That's A Wrap

May 7, 2018

Kansas lawmakers have ended their 2018 legislative session. School spending, guns, and taxes were at the center of big debates this year. This week we discuss what passed, and what didn't. 

Down To The Wire

May 2, 2018

It's the end of the line for Kansas lawmakers. The curtain comes down on the 2018 legislative session Friday — maybe before. We'll talk about the fate of the big tax-cut bill we discussed last week and the school funding plan. Plus, what is the "Truth Caucus" and what are their plans for 2018?

All the commotion around a school funding plan may have overshadowed the fact that Kansas lawmakers are also working on a controversial tax cut bill. Some say it simply returns a federal windfall to Kansas taxpayers. Others argue it’s unaffordable at a time when the state is still recovering from former Governor Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts.

Lawmakers and Governor Jeff Colyer have written another chapter in the story of this ongoing debate by authorizing a $500 million increase in school funding over the next five years. But will that be enough to end the litigation? If not, are we headed for another showdown like the one that rocked the Statehouse in 2005?  

After months and months of debate, it’s finally happened. The Kansas Legislature has passed a school funding plan. Now, the questions are whether lawmakers can fix a mistake in the plan and, once fixed, whether it increases funding enough to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

The clock is ticking for the Kansas Legislature to agree on a new school finance formula. One lawmaker in the middle of the debate says while progress is being made, it’s not happening fast enough. On this episode, the story of the legislature’s increasingly frantic efforts to meet the court’s end of the month deadline.

Is this the right time for a new political party in Kansas? Can an independent candidate win the governor’s race? The coming election could give us answers to both questions. The viability of independent candidates and parties in this edition of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

Last year the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't adequately funding its public schools. What the justices didn’t say was how much more money would be enough. But a new development has potentially changed the debate to the tune of $2 billion dollars. 

Are Kansas’ strict voter registration laws necessary protections against fraud, or are they a nakedly political attempt to disenfranchise certain voters? That question is at the heart of a federal trial going on in Kansas. We explain this complicated issue and get the latest from the Statehouse. 

In the weeks since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, student activists and others have taken to the streets in an effort to spur policy makers to talk about how we regulate guns. But, is that debate happening here in Kansas?

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

The Medicaid Gap

Feb 20, 2018

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have not expanded Medicaid. This has created a gap for patients who are too poor to afford insurance, but make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. Advocates say that expansion could give coverage to these people, but with consistent legislative opposition, what are the odds of a bill passing this year?

The political divisions in America, and Kansas, appear deeper than ever. Republicans and Democrats can't seem to work together on anything. One candidate for Kansas Governor thinks an independent party might help our polarized politics. We talk with Greg Orman on this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

How important is the tone a Governor sets in state politics? Can a tenor of optimism or the opposite affect policy? As Kansas transitions from former Gov. Sam Brownback to new Gov. Jeff Colyer, we discuss what practical difference this change in leadership might make in the statehouse.

During his State of the State address, exiting Gov. Sam Brownback said his budget recommendations included an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. That left many lawmakers stunned, and Senator Jim Denning, a Republican representing the 8th District, angry. We sit down with Denning to talk about what he's expecting as Lt. Governor Colyer takes on a new role as governor, and discuss why an attempted ousting of a legendary state employee ignited a major backlash.