Kansas Governor | KCUR

Kansas Governor

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas The road to democracy is paved in donuts.

At least that’s the case if you dropped by Washburn University’s Memorial Union for lunch on a recent afternoon, followed the “free donuts” sign and blaring rock music down to the lower level, where there were not just boxes of glazed temptation, but smiling faces holding out electronic tablets.

Kansas News Service / Kansas News Service

One might think the end of her first legislative session as Kansas governor would give Laura Kelly some relief.

"Oh, not much," she said. "We've been extraordinarily busy."

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Kansas has agreed to change its policy and allow transgender people born in the state to update the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Friday entered into a consent decree that ends a lawsuit brought by four native Kansans and the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, Inc. (K-STEP).

The policy change is significant because birth certificates can determine access to education, employment, health care, travel and the ability to obtain other identification documents.

Battles over a Republican tax cut proposal and Medicaid expansion persisted through the last day of the Kansas Legislature's 2019 session … and remain unresolved. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says he plans to address healthcare and tax policy next session, when maybe he'll be Senate President. 


All Kansas lawmakers really had to do to end the 2019 legislative session was pass a budget. They did that, with gusto. But also without passing Medicaid expansion. That's one of the items left on freshman Rep. Brandon Woodard's to-do list for next year. 


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. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The stakes run high for 130,000-some low-income Kansans who stand to gain from expanding Medicaid coverage — and for the political players who will decide the contentious issue.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly made expansion a centerpiece of the election that put her in office. Two Republican leaders — Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning — could see their elevation to higher office also turn on the issue.

Chris Neal for the Kansas News Service

The clock is ticking for Kansas lawmakers to figure out a school funding solution. Briefs making the case for a plan are due to the state Supreme Court April 15.

With only one week of the regular legislative session to go, there’s still significant division over how to satisfy the court that funding is adequate and end the nearly decade-old Gannon lawsuit.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has sent a tax relief bill down in flames, taking her veto pen to the measure she says would wreck the state budget. But, as a priority for Republicans, it could remain in play for the rest of the legislative session and rise from the ashes.

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. 

Kansas News Service

The last week might have been easier for Gov. Laura Kelly if every staffer and appointee had stuck to sharing cat photos on Twitter instead of political opinions.

The Kansas GOP pounced quickly on her newly formed Democratic administration for the social media transgressions of its people. With divided government in Topeka, GOP leaders won’t miss a chance to point out potential errors.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas Senate seem ready to end a long-running lawsuit by complying with a court ruling that said the state sends too little money to local school districts.

The Kansas House? Not just yet. It’s advancing a plan that would continue adding school spending for another year, and only another year.

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. 


Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

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. 


Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The Republican-controlled Kansas House approved wide-ranging tax legislation Thursday. The measure would reduce sales taxes on food, which could help Kansans across the income spectrum. It would also give some big corporations a break, and that will likely spark a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Creative Commons

Seg. 1: A recent poll shows Jolie Justus and Steve Miller leading the race for Kansas City mayor, but nearly 30 percent of voters are undecided.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The new chairman of the Kansas Republican Party is focused on winning back the governorship and the 3rd Congressional District. He told party leaders this weekend how he plans to do it.

Johnson County attorney Mike Kuckelman was the only one to present a full slate of leadership candidates for party officials to consider at their state convention Saturday.

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. 


Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas Legislature handed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly her first defeat this week.

On Valentine’s Day, no less.

They soundly rejected her plan to extend the timetable for covering the unfunded liability of the state pension system, KPERS.

Kelly hoped to lower the state’s annual payments by extending the timetable for amassing 80 percent of the dollars needed to pay all future retirement benefits.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

Gov. Laura Kelly has said she has an easy solution for funding schools: Just renew the finance plan the Kansas Legislature agreed to last year and fold in an adjustment for inflation. But over in the Senate, lawmakers are picking that proposal apart.

After months of wrangling last year, lawmakers approved a $500 million multi-year boost for schools in response to a state Supreme Court ruling in the long-running Gannon case.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Kansas Department of Transportation officials outlined plans Wednesday for putting a state highway program abandoned by former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback back on track.

Years of lean budgets prompted annual raids of the state highway fund. With more than $2 billion siphoned off since 2011, it became known as the “bank of KDOT.”

“By reducing transfers from the state highway fund, we move closer to closing the bank of KDOT,” Kelly said at a news conference staged at the transportation agency.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate are forging ahead with plans to plow millions into tax relief that would largely benefit big business. Some Democrats and more moderate Republicans suspect it’s also a strategy to deprive the governor of the money to fund her priorities.

Carving out chunks of the state savings account now could send lawmakers scrambling to fund schools and other services with the cash that’s left when they’re knitting up the budget later this spring.

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. 


Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Ty Masterson finally said it this week. He gave voice to what many Republicans had been thinking since November. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s election was a fluke.

“Her presence in the governor’s office is a tragic collision of timing,” Masterson, a state senator from Andover, told Associated Press Correspondent John Hanna.

As a result, Masterson said Kelly lacks a mandate from voters.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly named former Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker on Thursday to help lead one of her signature initiatives.

Kelly chose Rooker to head the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, a 15-member group created in the late 1990s to guide state investments in early childhood programs.

Rooker, a moderate Republican, represented a Johnson County district in the Kansas House for six years before narrowly losing last year to Democrat Rui Xu. While in the Legislature, Rooker played a leadership role on education issues.

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. 


Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Three weeks into the 2019 legislative session, the battle lines are becoming clear.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is keeping a relatively low profile (for a new governor) and sticking to her plan of triaging state needs and responding to the most urgent among them.

Toward that end, she’s told her cabinet members to make a deep-dive assessment of their agencies.

Analysis

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal is a retread.

It’s virtually the same bill that former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed in 2017.

An attempt to override that veto in the House failed, but only by three votes.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: An early look at Kansas City's mayoral race, and the performance of new governors in Kansas and Missouri.

There’s so much going on in the world of politics that we couldn’t resist any longer. Today, our political panel discussed the mayor's race in Kansas City, Missouri, which is beginning to heat up, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's plans for infrastructure and workforce development, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly's struggle with Republicans on tax cuts and school funding, and the soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas. 

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