Kansas Legislature

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop, but not as fast as those in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs.

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show the uninsured rate in Kansas dropped to 8.7 percent in 2016 from 9.1 percent the year before. That is not a statistically significant change.

Approximately 249,000 Kansans lacked health coverage in 2016, down from about 261,000 the previous year.

The uninsured rate in Missouri declined to 8.9 percent from 9.8 percent the previous year.

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In 2010, then U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, during his Topeka gubernatorial campaign, told voters they should use five policy objectives to evaluate his performance – something he called the “Road map for Kansas.”

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback – and his soon-to-be successor Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer - have been in the national spotlight since last week’s announcement that Brownback had been nominated by the Trump Administration to serve as the ambassador for international religious freedom.

The New York Times ran stories on both men last week – one highlighting Brownback’s legacy and another describing who Colyer is.

Attorneys for the state and the Legislature faced a barrage of questions from skeptical Kansas Supreme Court justices Tuesday scrutinizing the Legislature’s school finance plan.

The head of an organization that represents Kansas state employees is criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration for using a state agency to deliver a political attack on the Legislature.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said it was inappropriate for the administration to send an email to employees of the Kansas Department for Children and Families that criticizes lawmakers for raising taxes.

The Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit is in its seventh year. In that time, the case has led to repeated rulings against the state for underfunding schools and responses by lawmakers in the form of appropriations bills.

Kansas Legislature

House Majority Leader Don Hineman of Dighton defends the Kansas Legislature’s move to reinstate tax cuts in a July 3 Topeka Capital-Journal editorial.

Hineman writes that overturning Gov. Sam Brownback’s “overly aggressive 2012 tax cut” was a return to common sense tax policy, resulting from lawmakers fulfilling promises they made to their constituents during 2016 campaigns.

The health care plan unveiled last month by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate met with fierce opposition from hospital, doctor and patient advocacy groups. Among them was the National Rural Health Association, which is based in Leawood, Kansas, and represents doctors, nurses and hospitals in rural areas nationwide. 

Taxes in Kansas will be climbing over the weekend because a tax increase approved by lawmakers is taking effect. The new law will raise income tax rates and reinstate income taxes for thousands of business owners.

“We’re encouraging everybody to just think about it,” said Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams.

For wage-earning employees, Williams recommends studying paychecks in July to make sure the income tax withholding has been increased.

Lawyers for Kansas and for dozens of school districts suing it filed briefs Friday at the Kansas Supreme Court, in what could be the final leg of a seven-year legal battle over school finance.

The state argues legislation passed early this month ratchets up annual state aid to schools by nearly $300 million over the next two years, and that should be enough to end the Gannon v. Kansas case once and for all. 

Many Kansas workers will soon see a change in their paychecks because of an income tax increase that takes effect Saturday.

Lawmakers approved a $1.2 billion income tax increase to close a projected $900 million budget gap for the next two fiscal years. 

The new law raises income tax rates and reinstates income taxes on thousands of business owners.

“We’re encouraging everybody to just think about it,” said Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams.

The Kansas legislative session may be over, but lawmakers still aren't sure whether their work has ended. They're waiting to see whether the new school funding system they put in place will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

The court previously said education spending was inadequate. In response, lawmakers approved $300 million in new funding over two years and a new method to distribute the money.

Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, says members of the group like the new funding formula, but they still have concerns.

Kansas lawmakers met briefly Monday for the ceremonial end of the legislative session. They considered overriding some vetoes issued by Gov. Sam Brownback but ultimately took no action.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle ended that chamber’s meeting quickly because she said some lawmakers were gone and overrides simply weren’t going to be possible.

Gov. Sam Brownback denounced the level of spending in the Kansas budget, but he still chose to sign the bill into law over the weekend.

In voting for a $1.2 billion tax increase to bolster the budget for the next two years, the Kansas Legislature avoided a projected $900 budget hole and began restoring past cuts to the mental health system.

Kansas scores 15th among the 50 states for overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 “Kids Count” report.

The state’s relatively high overall ranking is driven by its No. 7 ranking for kids’ economic well-being, based on indicators like housing affordability and employment security for parents.

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The Kansas Legislature passed a budget bill Saturday, which marked the 113th day of the Legislative session.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the two chambers took up the budget bill, which was hacked out during hours of negotiations that ended Friday between the two legislative bodies, with sometimes considerable disagreement about allocations.

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National press reports of significance of override of Brownback agenda

Several national news outlets, following the Kansas Legislature’s override of Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase Tuesday night, reported about the move’s significance.

School districts across Kansas are breathing a bit easier after the Legislature passed a school funding plan and a tax law that provides the money for it.

Ideally, districts would want to have most of their budgets done by now so school boards could approve them and publish in August.

But not this year, as lawmakers have struggled to agree on a plan to adequately fund schools in the face of a June 30 deadline from the state Supreme Court. 

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday morning requiring abortion providers to give patients information listing their credentials, any disciplinary actions meted out against them and whether they have malpractice insurance.

The bill also requires the information to be provided at least 24 hours before a procedure and printed on white paper in black 12-point, Times New Roman font.

Kansas lawmakers have voted to roll back a series of major tax cuts that became an example for conservative lawmakers around the country but didn't deliver the growth and prosperity promised by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican.

A coalition of conservative Republicans, some of whom voted for sweeping tax cuts in 2012 or defended them in the years since, sided with moderates and Democrats to override Brownback's veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase.

A bill to replace funding for Medicaid and the Kansas mental health system lost to budget-balancing cuts last year is headed to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Senate substitute for House Bill 2079 would increase a fee that health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, pay to do business in Kansas from 3.31 percent to 5.77 percent. HMOs are a type of health insurance that typically has lower premiums but only covers care within a network of doctors and hospitals. 

On Day 108 of the Kansas Legislature’s session, lawmakers got down to business. They passed a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education, then they approved a $1.2 billion tax plan.

But minutes after the Senate’s 26-14 tax plan vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package, which would put more than 300,00 small businesses and farmers back on the tax rolls, add a third income tax bracket and restore a number of tax deductions and credits.

Kansas is on track to spend less than a third of what it did six years ago on cash assistance and to serve a third as many low-income people, according to a state budget office memo.

Those numbers have been falling steadily since Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011, when Kansas began incorporating work requirements for programs like cash assistance and food stamps in an effort to break what the governor described as “cycles of dependency.”

A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. 

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TOPEKA – Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, will try to ax a proposed $120 annual charge to water right owners to finance public schools.

“It has nothing to do with utility bills,” Estes said at the Monday afternoon meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance.

Senate Bill 251 contains the Senate’s proposed school finance formula and it would levy a $2.25 monthly charge on residential water, electric and natural gas bills. For non-residential customers, the monthly charge would be $10 on each of the three utilities.

Kansas lawmakers marked the fifth anniversary of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts becoming law by rejecting a bill that would have largely repealed them.

The bill defeated Monday night by the House was similar to a measure rejected May 10 by the Senate. Both would have raised more than $1 billion over two years to cover a projected budget shortfall of $900 million by increasing income tax rates and repealing a controversial exemption given to more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. 

Jim Beckel / The Oklahoman

It’s no secret that Republicans tend to win more elections on the High Plains than Democrats. But with the recent struggles in Donald Trump’s White House, the national media has been flooded with stories about how the GOP may be in trouble in next year’s midterm elections.

With that in mind, we decided to have a look at exactly what the balance of power looks like in our listening area.

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Kansas superintendents are calling on lawmakers to put more money into a school funding bill.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, several superintendents traveled to Topeka last week to tell the Senate education committee to add more money to Senate Bill 251.

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A measure aimed at repealing Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policy was withdrawn by House negotiators Thursday.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, House negotiators withdrew an offer to the Senate for simultaneous votes on nearly full repeal of tax cuts signed five years ago by Gov. Sam Brownback.

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