Kansas News Service

KMUW's Kansas News Service reports on health, education and politics across the state. The service is a collaboration between KMUW, KCUR and Kansas Public Radio.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Negotiations on potential tax hikes have slowed in the Kansas Statehouse. Eliminating a budget deficit and writing a new school funding formula are the top issues lawmakers need to finish before ending the session.

Last week, a conference committee pushed out a couple tax bills, but legislative leaders chose not to debate them after support fizzled. This week, the committee hasn’t produced any bills so far.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Dennis Wright isn’t alone.

He’s one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kansas residents and public officials waiting for the state to solve its money problems so that dozens of highway projects that have been indefinitely delayed can get going again.

Kansas News Service/File photo

Another poll has found strong majorities of Kansans support expanding Medicaid, but some political experts say it isn’t likely to make a difference this legislative session.

The latest Medicaid expansion poll found about 68 percent of Kansans surveyed said they supported expanding the program to non-disabled adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or annual income of about $16,600 for an individual and $33,400 for a family of four. About 60 percent of Republicans polled said they also supported expansion.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas lawmakers got back to work on taxes Monday after taking off the weekend. A Senate committee advanced a bill that would repeal an income tax exemption for businesses starting next year. That’s been a part of almost every tax proposal developed by lawmakers this year, but recently other tax plans have stalled. 

“That’s one thing that the body can agree on, a majority of the body can agree on," says Republican Caryn Tyson, who chairs the Senate tax committee. "If we can’t get any movement on any other bill, at least we can get movement on that bill."

Stephen Koranda / KPR

An attorney advising the Legislature met with Senators Monday to discuss school funding issues. Lawmakers need to write a new funding formula before ending the session. Former Republican state Sen. Jeff King briefed lawmakers on what might satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

Lawmakers need to comply with the court, which says the current Kansas school funding system is inadequate. King said lawmakers could tie funding to some sort of index, like the inflation rate, so funding goes up over time.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas lawmakers will get back to work on big issues Monday after making little progress last week.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says they'll be squarely focused on Kansas taxes, the budget and school funding.

“The window’s closing, pressure’s on," Denning says. "I’m hoping to see a little bit more movement."

The slow pace is partially because of divisions on how to attack the issues. Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco says she'd like to see them tackle school funding before pursuing tax increases.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas?

Turns out, it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Today lawmakers working to craft a new Kansas school funding formula hear from their lawyer about whether the proposal they’ve been working on all session is constitutional.

The bill the House K-12 Budget Committee has on the table includes $750 million in new money for schools over five years. The committee’s lawyer, former state Sen. Jeff King, will weigh in on whether that’s enough to satisfy the state’s high court.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman from Olathe suggests the price tag could actually be much lower.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A bill to increase oversight of the Kansas foster care system hit a snag after state officials said its wording could jeopardize millions in federal funding.

The bill would create an interim oversight committee that would study problems in the state’s foster care system and submit a corrective action plan to the Kansas Legislature. The House Committee on Children and Seniors approved the bill in March, but it still must pass the full House and Senate.

JOHNSON COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE / YOUTUBE

Kansas universities and community colleges have been working for years getting ready to allow campus concealed carry.

Unless the Legislature rolls the change back, and that appears unlikely, Johnson County and every other state school will have to allow almost anyone older than 21 to carry a pistol on campus on July 1.

To try to spread accurate information to faculty, staff and students, Johnson County Community College has moved to YouTube to spread information.

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