Kansas Legislature | KCUR

Kansas Legislature

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The coronavirus continues to spread in Kansas. The result of emergency orders is that many people are staying in their homes.

The shutdown of businesses across the state has triggered a record wave of people seeking unemployment benefits. The public health emergency has also forced politicians off the campaign trail.

On this week’s Statehouse Blend Kansas, Jim McLean talks with the manager of one U.S. Senate campaign to find out how that candidate is adapting.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The week started with a Kansas House Democrat making an unusual request to not just his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but to the Lord: “Please nudge our counterparts in the Senate. Please help them to work with a little more urgency.”

With the threat of the new coronavirus growing by the day — businesses were shutting down, universities moving fully online — legislators knew time was running out to pass the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. The action was pretty much restricted to the Statehouse’s document room and the chambers. No visitors or school groups in the halls of the Capitol, the hearing rooms empty, the whole place a reminder of how quickly things changed.

Segment 1: One proposed bill in Kansas legislature would allow state prisoners expected to die to be released  sooner.

Although the bill would extend Kansas' current 30-day compassionate release statute to 120 days, State Representative Highberger, said that it would only be "a drop in the bucket" for easing the state's prison overcrowding problem. We learned how the stalemate between abortion rights and Medicaid expansion may have resulted in other potential prison reform legislation being overlooked.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A pressure campaign led by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly aims to force Republican Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle to drop her blockade of a vote to expand Medicaid.

A majority of state senators back the plan, virtually assuring its passage if Wagle allowed a vote.

But Wagle, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists that the Legislature first put an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution up for a statewide vote.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service file photo

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas has one of the highest rates of suspended drivers in the country, and the majority of those more than 215,000 licenses are suspended for unpaid fines or court fees — sometimes unrelated to driving. 

Both the Kansas House and Senate approved separate bills last month aimed at getting drivers back on the road. While some advocates say the state could do more, others are concerned any changes will lead to hundreds of thousands less for the court system. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers sped through dozens of bills this past week to keep them alive past a “turn around” deadline marking the midpoint of the session.

Measures to legalize sports betting and to give citizens more control over property taxes were among bills that made the cut. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas lawmakers passed an important milestone this week: the midpoint deadline called “turnaround.”

In simple terms, it means most bills must have passed one chamber or they’re pretty much dead for the year — though are there are ways around the rules for things legislators really want to pursue (and bills from some committees are exempt).

Here are a few of the dozens of bills that are moving on to the House or the Senate, and a few that reached the end of the line, at least for now.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas legislative session began with what seemed like a done deal for expanding Medicaid. Gov. Laura Kelly and a top Republican senator had forged a compromise to offer health coverage for up to 130,000 low-income Kansans.

About a month later, the deal has ground to a halt — and even the state budget could be held up — because of abortion politics. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A proposal to ban all fruity and sweet vaping flavors in Kansas has upset both pro-vaping and anti-tobacco groups.

Hundreds of popular flavors would disappear. Menthol would remain. The flavor restrictions wouldn’t apply to traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

 

TOPEKA, Kansas — A flurry of proposals in the Kansas Statehouse this session take aim at rising medical costs, including one that may be the state’s first attempt to rein in “surprise bills.”

Courtesy of Loevy & Loevy law firm

TOPEKA, Kansas — Wendy Couser, a former juvenile intake officer at the Newton Police Department, has always believed in the importance of consequences. 

But Couser feels that she’s yet to see consequences for the law enforcement officials who beat, shot and killed her son, William “Matthew” Holmes, during an arrest in August 2017. That’s because, she said, police only conducted one investigation, the full details of which were not made public. 

“I couldn’t have gotten information on my own if I didn’t have attorneys,” Couser said. “I’m sure nobody would have told me anything.” 

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas House narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment Friday that would have said there’s no right to abortion in the state constitution.

After the defeat, Republican leaders promised this “was just the beginning.”

“Don’t be surprised when it comes up again because it will come up again this session,” House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said after the vote.

The final count was 80-43, just short of the 84 votes needed to put the issue on a statewide ballot vote where Kansans could reject it or add it to the state constitution.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansans will likely vote this August on whether to become the fourth state to enshrine in their constitution that abortion isn't a right.

Anti-abortion activists say Kansas needs the change to protect its current abortion laws against potential court challenges.  

Their abortion rights counterparts warn many of those laws already go too far, and the constitutional amendment would pave the way for making abortion illegal.

Where does Kansas law stand on abortion today?

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

The legislative session in Kansas is just getting underway, but lawmakers are already at odds on the hot-button issues of abortion and Medicaid expansion. Republican leaders are pushing for quick passage of an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning are joining forces to break a nearly decade-long stalemate on expansion.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas ⁠— Lawmakers are fast-tracking a push to amend the state constitution and undo a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said women have the right to abortion.

The goal, with voters’ approval in August, is to add a line to the state bill of rights saying abortion isn’t constitutionally protected ⁠— and that legislators can regulate abortions, including when a pregnancy results from rape or incest or threatens a woman’s life.

The proposal already is awaiting floor votes in both chambers, just over a week after the 2020 session began. 

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Medicaid expansion is a done deal, right?

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Jim Denning, the second most powerful Republican in the Kansas Senate, have compromised on a plan. Together, they bring a majority of lawmakers with them. So, game over.

Sure, the deal still needs to clear the Legislature and get the blessing of federal regulators. But the hard part — breaking an almost decade-long stalemate on the issue — looks done.

Segment 1: The group is pushing against any new abortion amendment and for probation reform

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The 2020 Kansas Legislature is underway. And while Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly laid out some of her top priorities during the State of the State address on Wednesday, Republican leaders of the House and Senate (and Kelly's fellow Democrats) have some different goals. 

Here are five issues that will be top of mind for the governor and lawmakers as the session heats up.

An independent review of Kansas’ rising electricity prices shows the current system for setting rates could use some improvements.

In a lengthy report requested by state legislators and submitted by London Economics, analysts concluded three main things: The current ratemaking process has been slightly balanced in favor of utilities, regulators are limited in their ability to protect consumers from paying for underused investments (such as aging coal plants), and additional bill surcharges and have been a key driver of rising rates.

Segment 1: Kansas lawmakers prepare to tackle myriad issues in the upcoming legislative session.

Kansas' Medicaid expansion seems to be the hottest issue going into the 2020 legislative session, but it won't be the only thing keeping senators and representatives busy in Topeka. Possible outcomes and implications for everything from abortion to state debt to prison reforms were previewed.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and a key Republican lawmaker said Thursday they’ve crafted a deal to make roughly 130,000 more Kansans eligible for Medicaid.

The Kansas Governor Wants To Create A One-Stop Agency For Social Welfare Programs

Jan 8, 2020
Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday a plan to form a singular agency — the Kansas Department of Human Services — that would absorb social welfare programs currently handled by three agencies.

The new agency would have a massive statewide presence, employing 6,000 workers, and oversee foster care, mental health services, four state hospitals and the juvenile justice complex. 

Kansas educators want lawmakers to act on health care, bullying and college credits when the Legislature convenes later this month.

For over a decade, the school funding battle has dominated any conversation about education in Topeka. But with a school funding plan in place, educators are no longer on the legal offensive. Instead, school lawyers have become watchdogs, making sure the Legislature keeps the education dollars flowing.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

The Interstate Crosscheck system, a controversial voter registration tracking program championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was labeled effectively “dead” after a legal agreement was announced Tuesday.  

As part of the settlement in a lawsuit brought last year by the ACLU of Kansas, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab agreed to complete a series of information safeguards and issue an “acknowledgement of error.”

Courtesy Stacey Kelly

A Kansas woman who was sex trafficked as a minor and later convicted of felony sex crimes should not receive a pardon from Gov. Laura Kelly, a panel says.

Evert Nelson / Topeka Capital-Journal

Parents of kids who are in the Kansas foster care system described it Saturday as chaotic, deceptive and traumatizing to children.

About two dozen people rallied on the steps of the statehouse in Topeka, calling on lawmakers to bring more accountability to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, an agency long under fire for losing kids and housing them in offices.

Chris Neal / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Abortion opponents appear divided on the best strategy to overcome the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling that the state constitution guarantees a right to the procedure.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to medical marijuana, Kansas may end up looking more like Ohio than Missouri — with edibles and topicals only, no smoking.

The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended potential regulations on Wednesday for the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. It’s far from the first time the legislature would consider medical marijuana: The Kansas Health Institute says 18 bills have been introduced since 2006.

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.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A top Republican in the Kansas Senate said he’s designed a Medicaid expansion plan that aims to walk a fine line — one that can win over conservatives without losing support from moderate Republicans and Democrats.

But the proposal also risks satisfying neither faction.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning outlined a proposal this week that would grow the Medicaid health care plan to cover an added 150,000 or so low-income Kansans.

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