HPPR Government & Politics

Government:
state government (executive, legislative & judicial)
local government (city & county)
regional agencies & authorities
policies
budgets & taxes
laws, rules & regulations

Politics:
district-level and statewide office campaigns
legislative proposals
voting patterns

Texas lawmakers put the finishing touches on a $210 billion state budget last night. The budget now goes back to both chambers for a vote.

The Kansas House approved a bill that some legislators hope will improve voter turnout in local elections.

Senate Bill 498, which ends a five-year property exemption for new wind farms on Jan. 1, 2017, is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.

In eastern Colorado, some farmers are breaking the law flying drones to pinpoint which parts of their fields need fertilizer, water, weed killer, or seed. Jean Hediger is one of the law breakers. The 60 some year old farmer says she has pure intentions, and preventing use of this technology is keeping farmers in the dark ages. Those who risk using the drones without permission from federal authorities could face penalties of thousands of dollars… up to 27 thousand dollars. That might change- soon. The Federal Aviation Administration proposed new rules in February allowing people to fly small unmanned aircraft for commercial reasons. Drone operators would have to be certified and keep their devices in sight during flight. Currently, the FAA allows farmers and other to apply for exemptions. About 300 have been granted, but the process is lengthy.. and there are about 1,000 people already on the waiting list.

The Kansas Senate voted not to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. The proposal failed on an 11-26 vote. The laws surrounded alcohol sales have been a contentious issue in the Statehouse this year.

Kansas lawmakers say they've reach a compromise that will bring the ride-hailing service Uber back to the state.

The increased sale tax solution to the budget woes of the State of Kansas has been rejected. Legislators will return Monday to work on the issue.

boe.ca.gov

There’s a new tax plan headed for debate in the Kansas House. A legislative committee has advanced a proposal that would focus on sales taxes to fill a budget hole of more than $400 million. 

The bill relies mostly on increasing the Kansas sales tax rate from 6.15 percent to 6.85 percent. It also reduces or eliminates most tax deductions. Republican Representative Kasha Kelley, one of the plan’s authors, would prefer more spending cuts but says sales tax is another option.

A judicial bypass is when a judge gives a minor permission to have an abortion without her parent or guardian's consent. The bill is authored by Democratic State Representative Geanie Morrison. She says she wants the judge to see the minor in person without exception. The minor would also need to show a government-issued ID, and would require more time to pass before the judge could consent to the procedure.

KHI News Service

The chairman of the Senate committee working on a plan to address the state’s projected budget deficit is confident that a tobacco tax increase will be a part of the final package.

However, public health advocates are concerned that the increase won’t end up being large enough to significantly lower smoking rates and reduce expenditures on smoking-related illnesses. They continue to favor the proposal that Gov. Sam Brownback announced at the beginning of the session to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack.

image via C-Span2

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran has what amounts to a running feud going with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He says the agency is dragging its feet implementing a new law that’s designed to help veterans in rural areas get the care they need.  The new secretary of the VA – Robert McDonald – says Moran’s claims are baseless. We have two reports this morning, the first from Jim McLean of the KHI News Service, who recently sat down with Moran in his Capitol Hill office.

Moran tangles with VA secretary over program for rural veterans

The Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill Monday that would protect churches and ministers from being sued if they refused to perform or host a same-sex marriage.

Kansas Legislators are considering undoing the elimination of business income tax cuts. The reductions were part of the 2012 tax cuts pushed by Governor Sam Brownback.

Andy Marso / Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas House on Thursday passed a measure legalizing the use of low-THC marijuana oil for people with persistent seizure disorders.

Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat, championed the oil legalization on behalf of Ryan and Kathy Reed, who moved to Colorado to access it for their young son, Otis.

Wilson successfully brought together House colleagues from across the political spectrum on the measure Thursday by emphasizing how much narrower it was than prior medical marijuana bills that never cleared the committee process. The final vote was 81-36. 

Members of the Texas senate have unanimously approved a bill that legalizes marijuana oil for medicinal purposes. Texas Public Radio’s Ryan Poppe reports for those who interrupt it to mean that Texas has legalized marijuana, Tyler Republican Sen. Kevin Eltife says he has faced similar challenges educating fellow lawmakers on what exactly is cannabidiol or CBD oil.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The House Tax Committee is considering a plan to raise the sales tax in Kansas to help fill a budget hole. During a hearing Wednesday, no one spoke in favor of the plan and only one person signed up to speak against the bill. The Kansas Policy Institute opposes the tax increase and says lawmakers should instead consider more budget cuts.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Marvin Kleeb, says raising the state sales tax from 6.15 to 6.5 percent would provide a quicker infusion of cash.

jobs.thefuntimesguide.com

Kansas lawmakers this week heard from industry experts about changing the state’s retirement plan from a traditional pension to a 401(k)-style retirement system. Under the proposed “defined contribution” system, employees are responsible for investing their retirement savings. That change would reduce the state's investment risk. Republican Representative Ron Ryckman says lawmakers need to consider all their options.

"We owe it to our employees and our taxpayers to look under every rock, look at every solution. And that’s what today’s about,” says Ryckman.

Calvin Mattheis / The Hutchinson News

Kansas farmers are getting ready to bring in the wheat harvest, they are again being targeted to help make up Topeka’s budget woes reports Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

There’s a proposed $3 excise tax on all land- agricultural, residential, and commercial.  The bill is proposed by Sen Jeff Melcher- R-Leawood.

Dave Ranney / Kansas Health Institute

At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, Kansas hospital administrators signaled their willingness to talk about increasing a state assessment on their revenues to fund Medicaid expansion.

They anticipated that the state’s deteriorating budget situation would make it impossible for Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to consider expansion without a way to pay for the state’s share of the costs.

And they anticipated that even with funding options, Medicaid expansion was a long shot to pass.

Under a clean power plan proposed by the federal government, states can develop their own strategies to limit carbon emissions. If they don’t, the feds will do it for them. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its plan for Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is drawing more criticism about his order to monitor the federal military exercises known as "Jade Helm 15." This time it's from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a former GOP state representative and late-night host Jon Stewart.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback vetoes bill requiring new insurance mandates and background checks for drivers of the ride service Uber.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Health care advocates are calling for Kansas lawmakers to increase tobacco taxes to help fill a budget hole of more than $400 million. Dr. Roy Jensen, with the University of Kansas Cancer Center, says the governor’s proposed tax increase on tobacco could cause thousands of Kansans to quit or never start smoking. He says that could save the state a billion dollars in health care costs in the coming decades and possibly prevent up to 15,000 deaths. 

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The wind power industry, free-market business groups, the governor and lawmakers have unveiled a compromise to overhaul the Kansas renewable energy standard. It would remove the mandate that 20 percent of power generation come from renewable sources and replace it with a voluntary goal.

Some advocacy groups get something they’ve wanted, eliminating the mandate for renewable energy. Mike O’Neal is president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been on the receiving end of bi-partisan criticism since he ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor a training exercise by U.S. Special Operations Command. Abbott defended his actions, but also made a point of saying there is nothing for people to worry about. Abbott says his directive to the state guard was only to create an official channel of communication between the special forces training and the Governor's office. Jade Helm 15 is a two-month training exercise across several states where soldiers will "further develop tactics, techniques and procedures for emerging concepts in Special Operations warfare."

The Texas Senate approved a bill this week limited municipal control over oil and gas drilling and prohibiting any city from banning fracking. The Denton ban could eventually fall if the bill is signed by the governor.

Lauren Coodley / History News Network

The nation’s top safety watchdog lacks the resources or ability to set and enforce rules in a timely manner reports The Washington Post.  In 2012, the Government Accountability office found it takes nearly eight years on average to issue a new rule.  That’s because of the heavy burden of documentation needed to withstand industry lawsuits and a budget that’s declined significantly since 2010.

Case in point is one of the most dangerous jobs in America- meatpacking.  There were over 28,000 reported injuries in 2013, but OSHA says it doesn’t have the resources or ability to set or enforce rules. 

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The chair of the Senate Tax Committee in the Kansas Legislature says he’ll offer some proposals next week that could close the budget gap. Legislators need to fill a hole of more than $400 million. But, he’s offering few details.

Republican Kansas state Senator Les Donovan had reporters thinking he was giving them a hint on the plans. He says there’s been too much focus on Kansas eliminating income taxes for many business owners. He says when the state cut personal income tax rates that did more to cause the budget gap.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas lawmakers didn’t take on anything too significant their first day back from spring break. They’re going to be spending the rest of the wrap-up session looking for ways to fill a deficit of more than $400 million. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, tax committees are scheduled to start work Thursday.

The chairman of the Kansas House Tax Committee, Republican Marvin Kleeb, says they’re going to start first by digging into the budget numbers. Then next week, they’ll start looking at tax proposals.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A state audit is critical of a Kansas program where some convicted sex offenders are sent for treatment after they serve their prison sentences. The audit says the involuntary program doesn’t offer individualized treatment and most people don’t complete it. Kari Bruffett is secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which runs the Sexual Predator Treatment Program. She says the audit doesn’t take into account recent improvements they’ve made.

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