Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kansas — The week started with a Kansas House Democrat making an unusual request to not just his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but to the Lord: “Please nudge our counterparts in the Senate. Please help them to work with a little more urgency.”

With the threat of the new coronavirus growing by the day — businesses were shutting down, universities moving fully online — legislators knew time was running out to pass the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. The action was pretty much restricted to the Statehouse’s document room and the chambers. No visitors or school groups in the halls of the Capitol, the hearing rooms empty, the whole place a reminder of how quickly things changed.

STEPHEN KORANDA / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Kansans could see more road work under a 10-year transportation plan given preliminary approval Monday by the state Senate.

About half of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s $10 billion plan would go to repairing highways and bridges.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A pressure campaign led by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly aims to force Republican Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle to drop her blockade of a vote to expand Medicaid.

A majority of state senators back the plan, virtually assuring its passage if Wagle allowed a vote.

But Wagle, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists that the Legislature first put an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution up for a statewide vote.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas has one of the highest rates of suspended drivers in the country, and the majority of those more than 215,000 licenses are suspended for unpaid fines or court fees — sometimes unrelated to driving. 

Both the Kansas House and Senate approved separate bills last month aimed at getting drivers back on the road. While some advocates say the state could do more, others are concerned any changes will lead to hundreds of thousands less for the court system. 

Kansas lawmakers sped through dozens of bills this past week to keep them alive past a “turn around” deadline marking the midpoint of the session.

Measures to legalize sports betting and to give citizens more control over property taxes were among bills that made the cut. 

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas lawmakers passed an important milestone this week: the midpoint deadline called “turnaround.”

In simple terms, it means most bills must have passed one chamber or they’re pretty much dead for the year — though are there are ways around the rules for things legislators really want to pursue (and bills from some committees are exempt).

Here are a few of the dozens of bills that are moving on to the House or the Senate, and a few that reached the end of the line, at least for now.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas is unmatched in its tracking of ex-convicts, resulting in more than 21,000 people convicted of sex, drug or violent crimes being registered on a public database.

One of them is Marc Schultz, who was convicted of manslaughter for hitting and killing a cyclist while driving drunk in 2010.

“I will forever live with the burden of taking a man’s life for a decision that I made,” Schultz said Monday. “But I didn’t intend for this to happen.”

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.

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.

Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka Monday for the start of the 2020 legislative session, where they'll debate everything from Medicaid expansion to abortion policy.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Rural Kansas communities hope to see roads, internet and taxes addressed in the upcoming 2020 legislative session. But some voters in the state’s southwest corner are worried that these decade-old issues will again take a back seat. 

Kansas educators want lawmakers to act on health care, bullying and college credits when the Legislature convenes later this month.

For over a decade, the school funding battle has dominated any conversation about education in Topeka. But with a school funding plan in place, educators are no longer on the legal offensive. Instead, school lawyers have become watchdogs, making sure the Legislature keeps the education dollars flowing.

Even though it’s the offseason, Kansas Rep. Rui Xu says being a legislator is a full-time job.

Over the course of a week, on top of his part-time gig as a freelance marketer, the Democrat spends 20 to 30 hours meeting with constituents in Johnson County, going to events, working on legislation or helping city council candidates run for office.

Xu isn’t paid for that work. Like every other member of the Kansas Legislature, he only draws a salary from the state during the legislative session, from about January to May. This year, his first in office, he got $19,300.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday effectively ended a nearly decade-long lawsuit by ruling that state lawmakers finally sent enough money to local school districts.

Kansas lawmakers restored mental health funding for Sedgwick County’s Community Crisis Center and two other mental health centers Wednesday.

A week ago, the Kansas legislative session concluded with Democrats and moderate Republicans mounting one last stand for a decisive vote on Medicaid expansion. It didn’t work. Nor did lawmakers ultimately consider a proposal to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Kansans. That had been a top priority for first-term House Democrat Brandon Woodard of Lenexa. As the session wound down, Woodard told Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service, it was disappointing, but not defeating.

A fresh push by school districts to get Kansas to pony up more money for public education met with skepticism Thursday from the Kansas Supreme Court.

Justices had pointed questions for both sides in the lawsuit that began in 2010 and has already gone through multiple rounds of oral arguments and rulings.

The justices, who so far have consistently ruled in favor of the districts, may be ready for it to be over.

Justice Eric Rosen called it frustrating that the funding goal that school districts argue for seems to be a moving target.

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.

 


A new Kansas law is scaling back the requirements for safety drills in public and private schools.

The move comes a year after the Kansas Legislature added crisis drills to prepare students for active shooters and other threats.

Kansas voters might have more flexibility when it comes to where they cast ballots in future elections.

The Kansas Legislature approved an update to a state election law that gives counties the option to adopt open polling. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

UPDATE: On April 5, after this story was first published, both chambers of the Kansas Legislature passed a measure mandating notice that the abortion pill may be reversible, sending the bill to Gov. Laura Kelly's desk where it currently sits. The amended bill includes a compromise sought by Democrats under which physicians who attempt a reversal would report the outcome to state health officials.

Starting Monday, full strength beer – up to 6 percent alcohol content – will be available in grocery and convenience stores across Kansas.

The clock is ticking for Kansas lawmakers to figure out a school funding solution. Briefs making the case for a plan are due to the state Supreme Court April 15.

With only one week of the regular legislative session to go, there’s still significant division over how to satisfy the court that funding is adequate and end the nearly decade-old Gannon lawsuit.

Grievances generated by policy and personality clashes in a southeast Kansas community have spilled onto the statewide stage in the battle over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s nominee to head the state Department of Commerce.

David Toland often found himself at odds with Virginia Crossland-Macha when he was the CEO of Thrive Allen County, a community health-improvement and economic development organization based in Iola.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has sent a tax relief bill down in flames, taking her veto pen to the measure she says would wreck the state budget. But, as a priority for Republicans, it could remain in play for the rest of the legislative session and rise from the ashes.

Republicans in the Kansas Senate seem ready to end a long-running lawsuit by complying with a court ruling that said the state sends too little money to local school districts.

The Kansas House? Not just yet. It’s advancing a plan that would continue adding school spending for another year, and only another year.

Just after approving the school funding Gov. Laura Kelly asked for, the Kansas Senate turned around and gave the final okay to a tax relief package she opposes, daring the new governor to issue her first veto. 


Lawmakers are considering whether Kansas should recognize concealed weapons permits from other states. But for both sides, the real issue is people under 21 carrying concealed guns.

In Kansas, almost anyone over 21 can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Concealed weapons permits are still available, but aren’t needed anymore to carry a concealed gun.

Recognizing permits from other states could allow even younger people to have a hidden gun. Multiple states allow people under 21 to carry a concealed weapon.

The Republican-controlled Kansas House approved wide-ranging tax legislation Thursday. The measure would reduce sales taxes on food, which could help Kansans across the income spectrum. It would also give some big corporations a break, and that will likely spark a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

The Kansas Legislature is in the meat of its 2019 session. Not quite halfway through, but well into the “getting down to business” part.

As such, there are consequential conversations happening throughout the Statehouse. Some occur in hearing rooms. But far more take place out of public view — in offices, hallways and the many convenient alcoves tucked into the building’s less-trafficked spaces.

Pages