Laura Kelly | KCUR

Laura Kelly

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s transportation plan isn’t as bold as those that came before it.

Since the 1990s, Kansas has spent tens of billions of dollars on three successive 10-year programs. Each required a tax increase and launched with a commitment to complete a long list of new building projects.

But Kelly, a Democrat who won election on a promise to restore the state’s finances, isn’t proposing a bunch of new projects. And she isn’t seeking a tax increase to help pay for her plan.

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. 

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.

Kansas News Service file photo

TOPEKA, Kansas — The same kids who end up in trouble with the law often come from families in disarray.

Those families, in turn, regularly turn to the state for food assistance, foster care or mental health care.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s budget wish list is long: boosting spending on higher education, public safety and human services. She'd aim to cut some taxes, but look to add new ones for streaming video and music services.

Not surprisingly, the $7.8 billion plan is getting a mixed response from the Republicans who control the Legislature.

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.

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. 

Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

The foster kid is a 17-year-old boy who was kicked out of his home when he was 10, started using drugs by 13, and in five years is expected to be in prison or dead.

Kansas Department of Children and Families social workers check on him every day and there’s been some progress: He’s now in an independent living facility and he’s not using drugs anymore. But he still has many needs, including a coming heart transplant.

How can he be helped?

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

Fernando Salazar / Special to the Capital-Journal

At first, they wanted to save her.

Then, after she fled the Kansas foster care system at age 16 and fell victim to the commercial sex trade, social workers told her she was going to prison forever.

"When I went into foster care and they wanted to take me away from my family, I ran," she said. "I ran away, and that's how I really started to get into all of this trouble. After I ran away, that's when they started treating me like, 'Oh, you're a suspect and you're not innocent.'

Segment 1: Some survivors of sex trafficking in Kansas recieve prison sentences rather than support.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — One of the United States’ largest and oldest private prison companies will house up to 600 Kansas inmates in a facility in Eloy, Arizona.

CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, owns and operates 129 prisons, immigration detention centers and other facilities in more than 20 states, including the Leavenworth Detention Center. Its revenues total more than $1 billion a year.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The state of Kansas is canceling a contract that administered an elementary-school reading program because of what state officials call inappropriate spending on travel and salaries. 

The contractor disputes any mishandling of the money, which in recent years amounted to nearly $10 million routed from a program meant to serve needy families. 

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."

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly

Jul 3, 2019

State's chief executive offers insights on her first session in office and her plans for moving Kansas forward

Governor Kelly explained how she is working with Republicans despite pushback from party leaders on everything from Medicaid to the budget. Kelly acknowledged that state prison conditions are a top priority and that she will entertain every alternative to avoid building a new prison "at all cost."

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.

Creative Commons-CC0

The state spending review panel is freeing up some of the money the Kansas Department of Corrections asked for to place inmates in county jails and private facilities. Prison officials say it’s a last resort.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday she’ll dispatch her lieutenant governor to a dozen small cities across the state in hopes of crafting a plan to aid rural areas.

Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity and named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to head it in January soon after taking office.

Rogers will travel to 12 rural communities this summer to “listen to Kansans” and develop “long-term, sustainable solutions” to problems that have spurred decades of population decline in all but a handful of the state’s 105 counties.

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. 


Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Exactly 10 years ago, on May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion zealot gunned down ob/gyn and reproductive rights advocate George Tiller as he was distributing literature in the foyer of his Wichita church.

His murder marked the culmination of 18 years of militant anti-abortion protests that began with massive demonstrations in Wichita in June 1991. Protestors blockaded abortion clinics for weeks during the “Summer of Mercy,” police made more than 2,600 arrests and a judge ordered U.S. marshals to keep the gates of Tiller’s clinic open.

File photo

A day after Kansas notified Planned Parenthood in May 2016 that it would cut off its participation in Medicaid, the nonprofit group sued to block the move.

So Kansas hired three high-powered East Coast law firms to defend it in a case that would slog on for nearly three years before Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration agreed to drop the termination effort in April.

The Atkins-Ingram family

Garden City Community College Trustees voted Tuesday to spend $100,000 on an independent investigation into the exertional heatstroke death of a football player last August.

The family and friends of 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth from Neptune, New Jersey, have been calling for an independent probe since the teen died after a conditioning practice.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas senators met Tuesday to formally vote down Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination for a Court of Appeals seat. In a strange twist, even Kelly wanted her nominee rejected.

The outcome was already known before lawmakers returned to Topeka for the single vote.

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. 


Jobs For Felons Hub / CC BY 2.0

Kansas may soon turn to private contractors to take the overflow from its crowded prisons, raising questions about growing costs and the reliability of for-profit jails.

That plan ran into complications over the weekend when lawmakers insisted on a closer review from a state commission to OK some of the line-by-line spending. But taxpayers could soon be spending almost $36 million more to deal with a range of problems in the prison system.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

In the waning days of the 2019 session, the conservative Republicans controlling the Kansas Legislature made one thing clear to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and her allies: They were ready for a fight against Medicaid expansion.  

The issue commanded the four-month session, which ended in the wee hours Sunday. The session was the first with the new Democratic governor in office, which gave people who wanted to expand health coverage for thousands of low-income Kansans the energy to push hard in the final days. Their efforts ultimately failed.
 


Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas proved Wednesday they’ve got the votes in the Legislature — if they can get a vote.

But they lacked enough lawmakers on their side to bypass Republican leadership and force that vote.

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.

Pages