2017 legislative session

Stephen Koranda

Kansas House and Senate negotiators have reached a compromise to balance the current year’s budget without cuts to state services. They have been facing a shortfall for the budget year ending in June of nearly $300 million.

The budget agreement would delay a payment into the Kansas pension plan, KPERS. It would also borrow some money from a state investment fund.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee has rejected giving pay raises to most state employees. Democratic Rep. John Alcala proposed the raises as part of a budget plan because some state employees haven’t had a pay increase for nearly 10 years.

The chairman of the committee, Republican Troy Waymaster, said with lawmakers facing a budget deficit, there simply isn’t enough money.

“We would like to do something for state employees. Is this the right time? In my opinion, no it’s not,” Waymaster says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Updated Tuesday at 10:41 a.m.

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 vote.

respectable_photography / flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill lowering penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch says lawmakers lowered penalties for first-time marijuana possession last year, but didn’t lower penalties for paraphernalia. That means people could face harsher sentences for possession of a pipe than for possession of marijuana.

“It does keep it at a crime. There is a potential jail sentence," he says. "It just makes it proportional with the possession of the underlying drug."

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

The Kansas Senate is likely to debate a budget proposal this week, and House lawmakers could also make progress on their spending plan. But there’s one hitch: Both budgets are unbalanced.

Wikipedia

The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that opens the door to growing industrial hemp.

Republican Rep. Willie Dove says people have confused hemp with marijuana. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana, and hemp does not have enough THC to get a person high.

Dove says industrial hemp could give farmers a new, profitable crop to grow.

“But yet they’ve been held back just because of ignorance of what the product really is,” Dove says.

J. Schafer, Kansas Public Radio

A Kansas House committee has voted to reverse some of the funding cuts made to colleges and universities last year.

The proposal would divert money next fiscal year to help restore part of the cuts to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Under a budget provision last year, KU and K-State took a bigger hit than other schools.

Republican Rep. Troy Waymaster proposed restoring the funding.

“It really hurt KU and K-State. We needed to balance that out and just make it fairer to all the regents schools across the board,” Waymaster says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A Kansas Senate committee has voted to restore some funding to higher education. Cuts were made to state colleges and universities earlier this fiscal year.

Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed adding millions of dollars in the coming two years to a state scholarship fund. As part of the Senate budget plan, the new money would instead be diverted and used to restore some funding to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have waited for half the session to get a look at what will probably be the basis for a new school funding formula.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Kansas has plenty of reports on problems in its foster care system but needs a plan to fix them, according to members of a House committee.

The House Children and Seniors Committee voted Tuesday to create a foster care task force that will present a plan for improvements to the foster care system by January.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat, said the state needs to do more than study the foster care system.

“This task force is not for oversight. It’s for corrective action,” he said.

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