Kansas Legislature

J. Schafer / KPR/File photo

Kansas voters want change for the 2017 session: They made that clear by replacing a couple dozen conservative Republican legislators with Democrats and more moderate Republicans. The newly elected lawmakers gather today to select their leadership.

The leadership selections will be an early indication of how much the balance of power has really changed in the Statehouse.

For speaker of the House, the race is between a moderate -- Republican Russ Jennings from Lakin in southwest Kansas -- and two conservatives -- Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe, and Jene Vickery of Louisburg.

KANSAS LEGISLATURE, COLORING BY KELLY TATE

Next Monday, Dec. 5, all of the lawmakers elected to the Kansas Legislature will meet in Topeka to nominate new leadership for the 2017 session.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas lawmakers already know they’ll have some big issues on their plate during the next legislative session, which kicks off in January. There’s also uncertainty clouding the issues.

As Stephen Koranda reports, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments in a school funding lawsuit this fall, but justices haven’t yet handed down a decision.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File Photo

Kansas privatized its Medicaid program in 2013, and there have been questions ever since--questions about how well KanCare is working. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Jim McLean reports, a new study may provide some answers.

dcf.ks.org

In July, an audit blasted the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) for not doing enough to ensure the safety of kids in foster care. A legislative panel has received an update on what the agency has been doing to respond to the findings.

DCF communication director Theresa Freed says the department has already put multiple changes in place.

There are additional improvements coming in January, with stricter polices on required monthly visits to check on foster kids. She says there will also be more scrutiny of Kansas foster homes.

kscourts.org

Despite a growing budget deficit, the Kansas court system will ask lawmakers for an extra $20 million to boost pay for court employees across the state.

A study released by the state Supreme Court paints a dismal picture: Pay for district court judges ranks 50th in the country, and some court employees have starting salary below the federal poverty level for a family of four.

In addition, according to the high court study, a third of judicial branch employees work more than one job, hardly a recipe for retaining experienced workers.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A legislative committee says lawmakers and other state officials should more closely monitor the Kansas foster care system. As Stephen Koranda reports, that is one of the recommendations that came out of a joint committee meeting yesterday.

The recommendations come after a state audit earlier this year, which said the Kansas Department for Children and Families wasn’t doing enough to ensure the safety of kids in foster care. One of the recommendations says lawmakers should create a panel that will more closely monitor and review foster care in Kansas.

Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has established an education task force that the group says will give businesses a stronger voice on Kansas education issues.

The task force is made up of members of the chamber’s government relations committee and the Business and Education Alliance. Chamber president and CEO Gary Plummer says the group wants to work with legislators to have some input over the state’s K-12 and higher education funding decisions.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas Legislature will remain dominated by Republicans next year, but there will be an ideological shift away from the current conservative majority.

Stephen Koranda / KPR, File photo

Republican Sen. Ty Masterson will hold on to his seat for another term. KMUW’s Nadya Faulx reports on the Senate District 16 race.

Unofficial numbers put incumbent Ty Masterson in the lead with 65 percent of the vote over Democratic candidate Gabriel Costilla.

Masterson is the current chair of the senate Ways and Means Committee. At a watch party for fellow Republican Mike Pompeo, who also won his 4th Congressional District Seat, Masterson said his campaign was working against the political climate in Kansas.

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