Kansas Legislature

KCUR

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.

aviper2k7 / Wikimedia Commons

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).

Wikimedia Commons

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.

National Conference of State Legislatures / fivethirtyeight

Are higher-paid legislators better at running their states? There are two schools of thought. Many experts believe when it comes to state government, you get what you pay for. Conversely, states where lawmakers bring in higher salaries have often been linked with corruption. Even so, states like Texas with a very low legislative income are certainly not free from corruption. And low pay can limit state representation to the wealthy.

AP photo

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a school finance bill in response to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, reports the Garden City Telegram. With its order, the court intends to develop a more equitable education funding system.

Kansas City Star

Parents and teachers descended on the Kansas capitol in Topeka this week in support of Kansas public schools, reports The Kansas City Star. “Make no mistake about it, public education is under attack in Kansas,” Rep. Don Hineman, a moderate Republican, told the crowd. Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat of Topeka, encouraged participants to talk to their legislators and to vote in the 2016 elections.

Kansas City Star

Last week a bill was proposed in the Kansas House of Representatives that would have given the governor more control over Supreme Court appointments. But the measure died Thursday, reports The Kansas City Star. The bill would have amended the Kansas constitution and given the governor full authority to select justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

Topeka Capital-Journal

A Kansas state senator’s dress code for women who appear before senate committees has gotten him into hot water, reports WPEC. The senator’s rules prohibit women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. Sen. Mitch Holmes is a 53-year-old Republican from St. John. He is chairman of the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. His 11-point code of conduct does not include any restrictions on men.

nps.gov

The Kansas House budget committee has decided to make nice with the state’s judicial branch, reports The Hutchinson News. The committee has introduced a bill to eliminate a budget provision that was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. Controversy erupted in 2014 when the Kansas Legislature adopted a bill to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to select district court judges.

Conservative Think Tank Rates Kansas Senators

Dec 10, 2015
AP photo

A conservative think tank in Kansas has given out its yearly awards to state legislators it believes are most in line with conservative economic principles. A senator from Shawnee and a representative from Palco received the highest marks in their respective chambers, reports The Topeka Constitution-Journal. Both, unsurprisingly, are Republicans.

Kansas Faces Continuing Budget Crisis

Nov 23, 2015
Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas’s budget crisis continues to dog Governor Sam Brownback, reports the Topeka Capital-Journal. And the problem can be traced to one issue: After drastically cutting taxes, the state government failed to adequately cut spending as well. In fact, the state of Kansas set a record for general fund spending last year. The Capital-Journal says the problem would have been solved by a one-time 8.5 percent reduction in state government expenditures.

In Integrity Rankings, Every State Scores Poorly

Nov 16, 2015
Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has released its 2015 State Integrity Investigation, reports The Rural Blog. The rankings are based on various measures of legislative integrity, transparency, and accountability. And the news isn’t good. No state scored higher than a C overall.

Bo Rader / The Wichita Eagle

The battle in Kansas between the Republican leadership and the state courts has entered a new phase, reports The Kansas City Star. Four district court judges are now suing the state of Kansas. They’re upset about a 2014 law enacted by Governor Sam Brownback and the legislature, which took the power to appoint chief district court judges away from the state supreme court and handed it over to local judges.

Kansas Narrowly Escapes Judicial Funding Disaster

Sep 9, 2015
John Hanna / AP

The budget battle in Kansas has spilled over into the judicial branch. And as reported by The Atlantic Monthly, the state narrowly avoided disaster last week.

Kansas Near Bottom in Summer Food Program

Jul 21, 2015
Andy Marso / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Half of Kansas kids now qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches during the school year.

But only about 7 percent of those kids participate in summer food programs that keep them fed when school is out, according to a Wednesday presentation at the 2015 Kansas Conference on Poverty.

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