Kansas Legislature

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Kansas congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill is sticking with his planned giveaway of rifle similar to the one used in the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

The Leavenworth Marine veteran running for the Republican nomination in the 2nd District announced the contest for an AR-15 rifle on social media the day before the Florida gunman killed at least 17 people.

A push to make more divorcing Kansas parents split custody evenly could, some critics contend, make the break-ups harder for children. What’s more, they worry a shift to a 50/50 custody standard could prevent a spouse’s escape from an abusive relationship.

A bill creating a new equal custody standard would significantly raise the standard needed for a judge to give one parent more time with the children than the other.

Kansas legislators under the of age 45 have banded together with the goal of addressing issues important to young people. The Kansas Future Caucus is a new bipartisan group in the Statehouse.

Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton, one of the leaders, says young people often are disconnected from government officials.

“We are opening the conversation because that’s the best place to start and often this is just a group that’s largely ignored and disrespected in some ways by government officials," Clayton says. "We want to change that.”

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

A telemedicine bill aimed at improving health care access for Kansans, particularly in rural areas, may get bogged down in abortion politics.

The legislation would mean insurance companies can’t refuse to pay for services provided long-distance that they would cover at an in-person office visit.

More controversially, the bill would not allow drug-induced abortion or other abortion procedures through telemedicine.

The Republican race for governor remains crowded, but a little less so with Ed O’Malley’s announcement Thursday that he’s ending his campaign.

O’Malley, a former Kansas House member who last fall took a leave of absence from his job as CEO of the Wichita-based Kansas Leadership Center to campaign, said his inability to keep pace on the fundraising front prompted the decision to withdraw.

Kansas has repeatedly dipped into its highway fund in recent years to balance the budget for all of state government.

Now lawmakers are contemplating a task force to study what that’s meant for the state’s roads and bridges.

Following the borrowing, road projects saw delays across the state. The task force would study the sidelined projects and suggest long-term transportation strategies for Kansas.

Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats both made it hard for the public to know what goes on in the Statehouse. But in the wake of a Kansas City Star series highlighting the lack of transparency, some members of both parties are pushing for change.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity.

Fellow Republicans on Wednesday characterized Gov. Sam Brownback’s spending plan — more than $6.6 billion a year — as a beeline return to deficits and an abdication of responsibility in a budding crisis.

The governor, poised to leave for a spot in the Trump administration, unveiled a five-year, $600 million increase in school funding Tuesday evening. When lawmakers dug into that proposal Wednesday, they griped about key details.

A proposal to strengthen Kansas’ laws against elder abuse is expected to come before lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session.

Kansas lawmakers studying economic development policies say the Legislature should consider changes to a major incentives program next year.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Statehouse, a special committee recommended more study of the STAR bonds program, and members of both parties said they want more oversight.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said there hasn’t been enough accountability in the program. She wants the state to use formulas that determine whether proposed projects will create enough economic development to outweigh their costs.

A female former legislative staff member is charging that sexual harassment is widespread at the Kansas Statehouse.

Abbie Hodgson, who served as chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs from 2014 to July of 2016, was one of several women quoted in an article about sexual harassment in Statehouses across the country published Wednesday by The Hill, a Washington, D.C., publication that covers government and politics. 

Kansas lawmakers considered tighter rules on payday lending during a committee meeting Wednesday, but they ultimately decided not to recommend more regulations for the short-term loans.

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.

kansas.gov

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.”

kansas.gov

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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