Kansas Legislature

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, March 28.

Buoyed by the failure of Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Kansas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a Medicaid expansion bill in a 25-14 bipartisan vote.

The Senate vote sends the bill to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, whose spokeswoman reaffirmed his opposition to expansion in tweets during nearly three hours of Senate debate Monday but did not say whether he would veto it.

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A school finance proposal that would boost funding by more than $75 million is going to fall short of what the Kansas Supreme Court views as adequate.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the court ruled earlier this month that the state was not providing an adequate education to all Kansas students and gave the Kansas Legislature until June 30 to come up with a new school finance formula.

A Kansas legislative committee is considering tighter amusement park regulations following the death of a lawmaker’s son last year on the Verrückt water slide in Kansas City, Kan.

STEPHEN KORANDA / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

The Kansas House approved a bill last week that would offer up to $100 million in income tax credits over five years to investors throwing resources into job-creating business developments in rural areas of the state.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, provisions of the bill, which passed the House by a vote of 97-22, would be implemented starting in 2020. The amount of the tax credits issued wouldn’t exceed $20 million annually and investment companies could begin applying for eligibility after Jan. 1, 2018.

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Scores of Kansans concerned about inadequate mental health resources visited the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to take notice of the issue. 

www.k-state.edu

Efforts to fund Kansas’ long-term water plan are at a standstill, at least for now, as legislators face massive revenue shortfalls, as well as a Supreme Court order to increase school funding.

As The Lawrence Journal-World reports, a new committee tasked with dealing with water and environmental policy has made little progress and has come to a virtual standstill, at least for now.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

The Kansas House passed a bill Tuesday that provides a tax exemption on materials and services needed to rebuild or repair fencing for ranchers and farmers affected by wildfires

As The Wichita Eagle reports, lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon advanced House Bill 2387 with a 122-0 vote, after the Legislature set the bill on a fast track - bypassing its typical procedure - giving the legislation both early and final approval on Tuesday.

KCUR

TOPEKA – The Kansas House of Representatives conducted its 11 a.m. session Monday and then recessed until 4:45 p.m. That is intentionally aimed at speeding up procedures for House Bill 2387, which contains sales tax relief for those recovering from the wildfires.

"We want to fast track that bill," House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton said.

Legislature grapples with school finance future

Mar 14, 2017

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court gave an “F” to the Legislature for fulfilling its Constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, and some legislators were steamed when they returned to work last week for first time since the March 2 decision.

“There’s nothing that says they’re the supreme authority over us,” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.

Did they make any suggestion whose taxes we should raise? Whitemer asked.

The Supreme Court ruling did not require a specific additional sum or even flatly order more money, although that’s the interpretation.

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

Bob Jagendorf / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas is gaining international attention for a bill that would compensate wrongfully convicted Kansans.

The weekly British newspaper The Economist recently published a story about the bill, which would give wrongfully convicted Kansans $80,000 for each year spent in prison.

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Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of tax legislation last week represents a “credit negative” to ratings agency Moody

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A bill that would have expanded Medicaid in Kansas was tabled Monday by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the action effectively ends chances that the bill will be passed this session under legislative deadlines.

Amy Bickel

With their water wells dropping, two farmers from the far southwest corner of Kansas flew a 1967 Cessna Wednesday morning to Topeka – all in support of hemp.

Farmers Darren Buck and Reid Shrauner didn’t have quite the journey as some of their fellow Morton County residents, who left before sunlight to support a bill that they think could boost their county’s struggling economy and extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.

KCUR

  The Kansas House approved a tax bill Wednesday that would raise Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax cuts.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the proposed bill would include an end to a tax cut for roughly 330,000 business owners and generate more than $1 billion over the next two years, according to state estimates.

But Brownback said he won’t sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

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On Tuesday A Kansas senate panel moved to cut $128 million from K-12 education and $23 million dollars from higher education to help fill the state’s three hundred and ten million dollar budget shortfall.  

As The Hutch News reports, the Senate ways and Means Committee approved the cuts, which would take place this fiscal year, as part of a larger budget bill that also reduces funding to state agencies.

It took many by surprise, but the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee passed out a bill Tuesday that would cut $154 million out of the budget by July 1, the vast majority coming from education.

Of the proposed cuts, education shoulders 98 percent of the total. More than $127 million of the cuts would come from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education. 

In Johnson County, the plan would result in millions of dollars in cuts:

An irrigation system waters soybean plants in a field near Larned, as seen in this file photo from 2011.Credit Sandra J. Milburn / The Hutchinson NewsEdit | Remove

TOPEKA – Garden City Mayor Chris Law wasn’t in Topeka Tuesday, but he would have liked what was said.

Feds reject Kansas' request to extend KanCare

Jan 23, 2017
KanCare.ks.gov

Federal officials have rejected Kansas’ request to extend KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, saying it has failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees.

As reported by The Wichita Eagle, federal investigators reviewed the state’s Medicaid plan in October and found that Kansas is “substantively out of compliance with Federal statutes and regulations, as well as its Medicaid State Plan,” according to a letter sent to the state Jan. 13 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wants to increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, among other things, to fill the state’s $378 million budget shortfall.

As The Kansas City Star reports, Shawn Sullivan, Brownback’s budget director, presented the governor’s tax and budget proposals to lawmakers yesterday.

Kansas City Star

Kansas has a new Speaker of the House, and he’s coming into the job with a hard row to hoe.

As The Kansas City Star reports, Ron Ryckman is inheriting not one but two budget shortfalls. There’s the current budget gap of roughly $348 million, with seven months left in the fiscal year. And then, once the new fiscal year begins, the shortfall is expected to balloon to $582 million.

Peter Hancock / Lawrence Journal-World

A gathering of prominent political voices said this week that they believe moderate Republicans and Democrats may win a majority of seats in the Kansas Legislature next month, reports The Lawrence Journal World.

Rich Sugg / Kansas City Star

Kansas is still combing through the aftermath of this month’s primary. The election ousted many of the state’s far-right legislators, replacing them with more moderate lawmakers.

John Hanna / AP photo

A political action committee called Main Street Kansas has been making questionable claims about moderate Kansas Republican candidates. It has now been discovered, as the Lawrence Journal-World reports, that the group’s radio ads are being funded by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. The funding might possibly constitute a violation of Kansas ethics law, says the Journal-World.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

From the Kansas Health Institute:

To say that many educators in Kansas are fed up with state lawmakers would be an understatement. The Legislature has been putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on public schools in recent years. This election season, educators are trying to send some legislators packing.

Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle

This week Kansas experienced something we don’t see a lot of in the modern political realm: compromise. Over the past few months the state has been mired in a fraught battle over funding among public school districts.

Jim McClean / KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain concerned about a Medicaid drug policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Known as “fail first” or “step therapy,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

Juleann / Creative Commons

In regional news, Kansas is having trouble feeding itself. That’s deeply ironic, considering the state has long been seen as the nation’s breadbasket. A grassroots campaign is underway to prevent rural Kansans from going hungry. But state lawmakers aren’t doing much to solve the issue, reports The Hutchinson News.

Jim McClean / KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

The 2016 election could be a tough one for some Kansas lawmakers hoping to return to the Statehouse.

Polls, editorials and reader comments on news websites indicate that voters are paying attention to what’s happening in Topeka, and many don’t like what they’re seeing.

KSlegislature.org

Kansas legislators were grilled this weekend by a small but vocal group of citizens. The interrogators wanted the lawmakers to justify the state’s low revenue and reasons for not expanding Medicaid. The exchange occurred at a South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation meeting, reports The Wichita Eagle.

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