Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas government”
Topeka — The Tea-party affiliated FreedomWorks is urging Kansas legislators to reject Common Core reading and math standards.
"Help us protect Kansan students from Common Core," Whitney Neal, director of grassroots for FreedomWorks, said in a note to the group's members. "Let’s fight to keep parents, teachers, and local communities in charge of education – not Washington bureaucrats."
Kansas formally adopted Common Core standards in 2010, saying they would help prepare students for college and careers. Numerous school districts throughout the state, including Lawrence, have spent the past two years getting teachers ready to implement them.
Common Core standards have been adopted by most states, and started as a project of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.
But FreedomWorks says Common Core will take away the rights of states to compose their own education requirements.
In Kansas, the Legislature is fighting over budget and tax issues. Senate Republican leaders want to insert a provision in the budget that would prohibit the expenditure of state funds to implement Common Core standards.
Topeka — As the Kansas Legislature remained deadlocked over taxes and spending, Gov. Sam Brownback is speaking today at a $40-a-ticket luncheon in Chicago before the Illinois Policy Institute.
The event has been titled "There's no place like home. A conversation with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback."
The information about the event says that Brownback "has proven to be an innovative reformer seeking to expand liberty in the Sunflower State." It says Brownback enacted the largest income tax cut in Kansas history and is seeking more cuts.
The Illinois Policy Institute describes itself as a non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives. Here is a link to information about the event.link text
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday urged Congress to approve a proposed farm bill, saying he hoped a bipartisan deal on agriculture would create momentum to also pass immigration reform and a long-term deficit reduction plan.
"It's like turning a wheel," Vilsack said in a telephone interview with the Lawrence Journal-World. "Once you give it a push, it can roll around for a while. We have to get momentum in this Congress for getting something done," he said.
Passage of a farm bill provides the best opportunity "to get that wheel rolling," he said.
The House and Senate are set to consider separate five-year farm bills. The Senate bill would cut $2.4 billion annually, while the House plan would reduce spending by $4 billion out of about $100 billion annually.
Both versions would cut food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The Senate bill would cut $400 million per year, while the House would reduce it by $2 billion annually.
The administration supports the Senate version, Vilsack said, because the House bill cuts SNAP too deeply.
And Vilsack said it's important to approve immigration legislation, too.The Senate Judiciary Committee is aiming to pass before the Memorial Day recess an immigration bill to secure the border and offer citizenship to millions.
Vilsack said getting those two pieces of legislation passed may pave the way for cooperation on a budget deal.
Congress and the White House's failure to agree on long-term deficit reduction has led to automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration. Vilsack said sequestration "does create a challenge to fund programs."
Topeka — Labor officials are not happy with the Kansas Legislature.
Citing a recent report that lists Kansas as one of the nation's 10 most deadly states in workplace safety, labor officials said Wednesday the 2013 Legislature will be remembered as one of the most anti-worker legislatures ever.
"Far too many people are dying on the job in this state and instead of strengthening protections for working people, our elected officials are further rigging the system against Kansas workers," said Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas AFL-CIO. "Their misplaced priorities will mean that the health and well-being of more working people are at risk on the job."
An AFL-CIO report said that 78 workers were killed on the job in Kansas in 2011, a rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to the national average of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 workers. In addition, 41,000 workplace injuries and illnesses were reported, which was a rate higher than the national average. Kansas ranks 40th in workplace safety, according to the report.
But instead of addressing these safety issues, Tunnell said, the Legislature approved and Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law measures that make it more difficult for injured workers to collect workers' compensation.
Senate Bill 187 puts the appointment of workers' compensation judges more in the hands of businesses and insurance providers. Business groups said the former system favored nominees who were the least objectionable, and not necessarily the most qualified.
Senate Bill 73 reduces the time an injured worker can report a workplace injury, and puts in place new impairment guidelines for injured workers that organized labor has opposed. Supporters of the bill said the new impairment ratings were simply an update.
Topeka — A possible election challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback by former Senate President Steve Morris has been batted around the Twitterverse recently.
Contacted by phone, Morris, a Republican from Hugoton, said he has no plans to run for governor in 2014, but he added, "In this business, you never want to say never."
Morris said there was been discussion around the state of trying to challenge Brownback, a conservative Republican, with an independent or third-party candidate. He said there is probably no way a moderate Republican could defeat Brownback during the GOP primary because of the strength of conservatives within the party.
Morris said he believes Brownback's income tax cuts are hurting the state.
"The tax plan that the governor engineered last year was a big mistake, and this (Brownback's desire to eliminate the state income tax altogether) would just compound that mistake," he said.
Morris was one of 9 moderate Republican senators who were defeated in the GOP primary in August 2012. The moderates were targeted by Wichita-based Koch Industries and groups loyal to Brownback, such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansans for Life.
Topeka — The legislative wrap-up session entered its second week and the major items have yet to be wrapped up.
Gov. Sam Brownback, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, planned to meet Monday to discuss taxes, but for rest of the Legislature there's not much to do.
A lot of resolutions have been passed honoring folks, and on Friday state Rep. Phil Hermanson, R-Wichita, proposed to his girlfriend, Rhonda Riggs, on the House floor. She said yes.
But the major state business — passing a budget and the taxes to support it — have eluded legislators. Still, Brownback was optimistic.
In a two-minute exchange with reporters, he said, "It always takes a lot to finish a session up and that's where we are now."
He said talks with Wagle and Merrick have gone well. "We have excellent leadership, seasoned leadership," he said.
Brownback declined to talk about what was being discussed behind closed doors. And he wouldn't give a time period on when he expected the Legislature to finish.
Monday was the 80th day of the session, and leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature didn't expect an agreement on tax cuts and a state budget until later in the week.
Brownback and Senate Republicans have agreed to cancel a sales tax decrease from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent scheduled by law July 1. Brownback says revenue from the higher sales tax rate is needed to stabilize the budget and help enact income tax cuts.
House Republicans want to let the sales tax drop and enact less aggressive income tax reductions.
As far as the budget goes, Brownback has called for the same level of funding for higher education as last year, while the House has proposed a 4 percent cut, and the Senate, a 2 percent cut.
Topeka — As legislators return Wednesday for the wrap-up session, concerns are rising for those who care for Kansans with developmental disabilities.
Two issues are in play.
One is increased funding proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback to reduce the number of Kansans on waiting lists to get the support they need.
The second issue is whether the thousands of Kansans with developmental and intellectual disabilities should be brought under the new KanCare system to provide their long-term care services.
Parents of those with disabilities support Brownback's proposed $18.5 million funding increase, though many oppose providing long-term care for their children under the privatized KanCare system run by for-profit insurance companies.
But Brownback's administration is saying one would impact the other.
Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the "continued opposition to including long-term services under KanCare for persons on the I/DD (intellectual and developmental disability) waiver jeopardizes the state's ability to address the waiting lists."
De Rocha points to a fiscal note of House Bill 2029, which would "carve out" long-term care services from KanCare.
That fiscal note, signed by Brownback's budget director Steve Anderson, says the carve-out would increase costs to the state by $9.2 million in the fiscal year starting July 1, and $16.8 million in the fiscal year after that.
As a result, de Rocha said, the ability of the House and Senate to adopt Brownback's increased funding plan "could be impacted by the carve-out."
Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, which represents groups that provide services to people with developmental disabilities, had a different view of the fiscal note.
Laing said projected costs contained in the fiscal note incorrectly included several factors, including inflation. "We don't get paid higher costs due to inflation. That is a fictional variable that they've thrown in," he said.
InterHab says more than 1,100 Kansans will attend a rally on Wednesday outside the Statehouse calling on Brownback and the Legislature to carve out from KanCare long-term services for the developmentally disabled.
Topeka — State tax revenue is expected to decline more over the next fiscal year than it decreased during the three years of the Great Recession, according to new state fiscal estimates.
New revenue figures show that the state will receive $5.454 billion in tax revenue for the fiscal year that starts July 1— a decrease of $745 million from the estimated $6.199 billion in revenue during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
During the recession, tax receipts fell to $5.191 billion in fiscal year 2010 from $5.809 billion in fiscal year 2007. That's a decline of $618 million over a three-year period.
The bulk of the $745 million reduction in receipts over the next fiscal year includes $450 million less in income tax and $270 million fewer dollars in state sales tax.
The revenue estimates are compiled by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which includes the state Division of the Budget, Legislative Research Department and three consulting economists from state universities.
Last year, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law cuts in income tax rates, including exemptions from state income taxes on non-wage income for 190,000 businesses, and eliminating tax credits for low-income Kansans.
In 2010, facing record revenue declines, the Legislature approved raising the state sales tax from to 6.3 percent from 5.3 percent, and then allowing that rate to fall back to 5.7 percent after three years.
Saying he wants to avoid cuts to higher education, Brownback is now pushing to make the 6.3 percent sales tax permanent. Democrats say the tax plan signed by Brownback has produced a fiscal crisis.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in Washington, D.C., yesterday testifying against an immigration bill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kobach cited the recent Boston Marathon bombing as one of several reasons he opposed the proposed legislation, saying that the bill provided insufficient background checks to prevent terrorists from gaining amnesty.
According to his written testimony, Kobach said that under the bill "any illegal alien can invent a new name with a totally clean record and present that name when applying for the amnesty.
"In other words, an alien who has a terrorist background can call himself `Rumpelstiltskin' without having to prove that that is his real name."
He said marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shoot-out with police, was able to travel internationally and gain terrorist training before returning to the United States.
Supporters of the immigration bill, however, say it will strengthen security by increasing border security and enforcement. The measure would also require employers to check their workers' legal status, and it would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants now here illegally.
Kobach has worked with several cities and states, such as Arizona, in passing measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration.
His use of the term "self-deportation," to describe the departure of undocumented workers because of tough immigration enforcement laws became an issue during the November presidential campaign. Kobach was an adviser on immigration issues to Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who also used the term "self-deportation." Some have said that hurt Romney among Hispanic voters.
During Tuesday's committee meeting, Kobach got into a discussion about "self-deportation" with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Kobach said, "Self-deportation is not some radical idea. It is simply the idea that people may comply with the law by their own choice.
"Self-deportation is something that Arizona has proven that if you ratchet up the penalties for violating the law, people chose to leave and it has been proven that they do that."
But Durbin said, "The voters had the last word on self-deportation on Nov. 6, so we're beyond that now. You can stick with that theory as long as you'd like, but I think what we are talking about now is whether America is a better country if we have an immigration system that brings 11 million people out of the shadows, to register with this government, so we know who they are, where they are, do a criminal background check, or whether we leave them in the shadows."
Topeka — Last week's revenue projections by state fiscal officials showed little change in Kansas' revenue forecast. But budgetary storm clouds are right over the horizon.
The new numbers highlighted that next year state revenue will drop precipitously as the income tax cuts signed into law last year by Gov. Sam Brownback kick in.
The state will receive $6.2 billion in revenue during the current fiscal year that ends June 30. For the fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1, revenue drops to $5.45 billion, a 12 percent or $750 million decrease.
Brownback has stated that income tax cuts will boost the economy.
But House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said the revenue figures show the income tax cuts approved by Republicans aren't working.
"It shifts the tax burden almost entirely to the middle class and requires cuts to the public services that help the middle class thrive. The Brownback tax plan isn't working, and these negative projections are further evidence that it is not going to work in the future," Davis said.
The income tax cuts will reduce revenue to the state by $450 million in fiscal year 2014, which is a 15.8 percent decrease. The state sales tax, which is scheduled to fall from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent on July 1, will produce $270 million less than the current year, which is a 12.3 percent decrease. Brownback has proposed keeping the sales tax rate at 6.3 percent.
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback continues to try to build his case for making the 6.3 percent state sales tax permanent, instead of letting it fall to 5.7 percent.
On Friday, Brownback said the state may need revenue from the higher levy in case of a ruling against the state from the Kansas Supreme Court on funding of public schools.link text
"We've got a lawsuit pending against the state right now that we have lost at the lower court on K-12 funding, and we don't know when the Supreme Court is going to rule — it's under mediation now — but I think you have got to also be also looking at that in the overall picture," Brownback said.
In 2010, facing a revenue crisis, the Legislature approved a temporary, three-year increase in the state sales tax to 6.3 percent from 5.3 percent, and then decreasing it to 5.7 percent on July 1.
Brownback wants to keep the rate at 6.3 percent, saying the revenue is needed to balance the budget. He has said in recent days that the higher sales tax is required to prevent cuts proposed by the House and Senate to higher education.
Democrats oppose extending the higher rate because they say current budget problems are the result of Brownback signing into law last year income tax cuts, which they say benefit mostly the wealthy. link text In addition, they said that Brownback wants to use future sales tax revenue to cut income taxes even more. Conservative Republicans in the House have also voiced opposition to the higher sales tax rate, saying the budget should be cut more.
But on Friday, Brownback added the issue of school funding to the mix.
In January, a three-judge panel ruled that legislators must increase spending on schools by at least $440 million. The issue is pending before the state Supreme Court.
Brownback said legislators have to consider the impact that a possible final ruling against the state would have on the budget and how the state would come up with additional revenue for schools.
"You could get yourself where you'd be in a crisis position, and I don't think that's prudent," Brownback said.
It's amazing how much of the political fighting in Kansas is wrapped up in one penny that most Kansans pay every day without a fuss. Of course, the penny adds up to approximately $300 million a year, and is key to state budget and tax policy.
During the Great Recession, Kansas saw historic drops in tax revenue that resulted in cuts to higher education, Medicaid and public schools.
In 2010, to avoid even deeper cuts, a slim majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Legislature approved a temporary one-cent sales tax increase to shore up the state budget.
Under the plan, the state sales tax went from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar, and on July 1, 2013, the sales tax rate would then decrease to 5.7 cents per dollar with 0.4 cents going to transportation.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce had vehemently opposed the tax increase, and after the Legislature approved it the chamber worked hard during the campaign season to defeat those who voted for it.
When the smoke cleared after the November 2010 elections, conservative Republican Sam Brownback was elected governor by a large margin and the moderate coalition in the House was crushed.
As the 2011 legislative session started, many conservative Republicans said they wanted to repeal the increased sales tax. But Brownback didn't; the state budget was still struggling and he needed the revenue.
And the Kansas Chamber of Commerce adopted a new strategy, arguing against repeal by saying the revenue from the increase should be used to offset the loss of revenue from what it wanted: elimination of the state corporate income tax.
In 2012, Brownback called for making the increased sales tax permanent to help pay for income tax cuts. He later signed into law cuts in income tax rates, elimination of income taxes for the owners of nearly 200,000 businesses, and removal of tax credits for the poor. But nothing was done on the sales tax issue.
In 2013, the Legislature is still arguing about the temporary sales tax increase, which is scheduled to decrease in a little over two months.
Again, Brownback wants to make the 6.3 percent rate permanent, saying it is necessary to balance the budget and avoid cuts to higher education. Democrats want to protect funding for education, but say Brownback really wants to keep the sales tax higher to cover deficits created by his income tax cuts and to help pay for more income tax cuts in the future to benefit the wealthy. Meanwhile, conservatives in the House also said they want the sales tax to decrease and that the budget can be cut more. Conservatives in the Senate have gone along with Brownback's plan on the sales tax issue, saying it is key to start drawing down the income tax. In fact, many of those Senate conservatives who voted against the temporary sales increase, recently voted to make it permanent.
So, the penny has come full circle. It started as a temporary Band-Aid approved by a moderate coalition to avoid drastic budget cuts.
Now, it is being pushed by a conservative governor, who wants to make it permanent to be used for either propping up the budget that was undercut by large income tax cuts, or to pay for future income tax cuts, or both.
When the Legislature returns, the fight over one penny will be front and center again.
U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, voted against gun legislation that would have expanded background checks and other restrictions.
The measure, put together by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, was in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre and other mass slayings.
The proposal to expand background checks to sales at guns shows and online received a majority of votes in the Senate — 54-46 — but failed Wednesday to get the required 60 votes needed to advance.
Of the bill, Roberts said, "I believe that Senators Toomey and Manchin came to the table with a sincere proposal, however, I have serious concerns with their legislation, including the expansion of the background check system and government intrusion on private firearm transfers.
"A background check can provide a key line of defense against gun violence, but it must be done in a way that does not infringe upon Second Amendment rights."
The National Rifle Association thanked legislators for defeating the background check expansion, saying it would have criminalized transactions between friends — a charge that supporters of the bill said was untrue.
Roberts said he supported an alternative bill that he said would improve the efficiency and accuracy of the background check system.
Moran did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his vote on expanding background checks.
Topeka — Kansas University's National Cancer Institute designation would be at significant risk if budget cuts proposed by House Republican leaders were enacted into law, officials said Wednesday.
The leaders of state higher education institutions briefed the Kansas Board of Regents on the proposed cuts and said they stood with Gov. Sam Brownback who is calling for a continuation of the current level of funding for higher education.
The House has proposed a 4 percent cut to higher education, plus a salary cap, while the Senate has recommended a 2 percent cut. The 4 percent cut and salary cap would total more than $20 million at KU, Gray-Little said.
"If we get the level of cuts that have been proposed in the House it will have a negative effect on our ability to provide the kind of workforce that the state needs," KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.
Kansas State University President Kirk Schultz called the proposed budget cuts "momentum killers."
But House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, has said the argument that such cuts would hurt "has no merit."
Last year, KU's Cancer Center won NCI designation after several years of effort. The designation will open up more research and clinical trials, but officials said renewal of the designation will be difficult to achieve under the proposed cuts. The salary cap would hinder the center's ability to hire and retain top cancer researchers, KU said.
KU released a list of cuts that would have to be enacted if the House budget gained approval. Those include:
— Reducing by 36 the number of medical students KU admits each year. Three-quarters of the reduction would be in Wichita. The School of Medicine-Salina would close.
— Cutting by 50 the number of nursing students admitted and by 30 the available medical resident positions.
— Elimination of 38 faculty positions on the Lawrence campus. KU said the school would become a "farm team" for universities in other states.
— Risk of losing membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.
Other regents universities presented similar scenarios of losing faculty, shutting down courses, more crowded classes and losing ground to other states.
"Some of the proposed cuts will set us back a decade in funding," said Regents spokeswoman Mary Jane Stankiewicz.
Several board members said they didn't understand why higher education was being targeted for the bulk of proposed cuts.
Regent Robba Moran said states that are investing in higher education are the ones attracting large corporations. "(University) rankings do matter and rankings don't come with inexpensive faculty," she said.
Regent Fred Logan Jr. said neither the House nor Senate budget proposals are pro-growth, but he added he was confident Brownback will be able to get the Legislature to adopt his budget plan.
Brownback plans to tour next week to rally support for his higher education budget. The Legislature returns for the wrap up session on May 8.
In focusing on higher education, Brownback is also pushing for making the 6.3 percent state sales tax rate permanent. Under current law, the sales tax is supposed to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1.
Democrats have been critical of Brownback's sales tax plan. “Kansans should not be fooled," said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. "The sales tax increase will not protect higher education. The governor is using a smoke-and-mirrors strategy to hide the real reason behind the budget cuts – his irresponsible income tax cuts.”
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday said he wants the Legislature to conduct an in-depth study of public higher education in Kansas.
Brownback's comments came as he lobbies fellow Republicans to keep higher education funding at current levels and reject proposed cuts. The GOP-dominated Legislature has proposed a 4 percent budget cut in the House and 2 percent in the Senate.
Brownback said he would like legislative leaders to initiate a study on higher education after the current legislative session is over.
"What I hope we do is a big interim study on higher ed funding," Brownback said.
He said the cause of rising tuition, how funds are allocated and administrative costs are "all legitimate questions." But, he said, resolving those issues is difficult in an 80-day legislative session.
Brownback will start a tour next week of various higher education institutions to push for his budget plan. He said universities, community colleges and technical schools need stable funding after having been cut during the recession.
He said the way to provide stable funding would be making the 6.3 percent state sales tax permanent. Under current law, it will decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1.
Democrats say Brownback plans to use revenue from the higher sales tax to further reduce income tax rates. When asked about that, Brownback said of the Democrats, "If they've got another place to come up with the resources, I'd love to see it. I would hope that they would vote for it too."
The tax changes approved last year with only Republican support and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback are being called the worst tax measures passed by a state in the last two years.
That's according to an article in Governing magazine link textthat quotes right- and left-leaning financial experts.
Exempting from taxes pass-through income for business owners provides "an incentive to game the tax system without doing anything productive for the economy," said Joseph Henchman with the Tax Foundation.
Nick Johnson with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the tax package "fails both vertical and horizontal equity tests." And he said the size of the cut was so "jaw-dropping" it will prevent the state from making investments in education and infrastructure.
Topeka - Not a good day weather-wise to showcase the Kansas River, but Gov. Sam Brownback and an enthusiastic group of supporters of the Kaw braved chilly winds Thursday to launch an effort to increase recreational use along the 173-mile river.
"The Kaw is a tremendous asset," Brownback said during a new conference announcing the formation of the Kansas River Development Committee.
Advocates of the Kansas River are hoping to get more people canoeing and kayaking, camping on sandbars, fishing and watching wildlife along the river.
"This is just another step in something great that is happening," said Brian Leaders, landscape architect with the National Park Service.
Last year, the National Park Service designated the river as a National Water Trail.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison said there are 18 boat ramps in 15 communities along the river. Jennison said he would like to see at least two more ramps along the 30 or so miles between Belvue and Topeka. Thursday's news conference was held at Kaw River State Park.
Here is a promo that Brownback and then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did last year about the Kansas River.
Topeka — Is Gov. Sam Brownback moving closer to siding with expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act?
In a two-minute question and answer session with reporters, Brownback, a Republican who opposes the ACA, said his administration is looking at options and alternatives.
"We're still working on Medicaid, what we can do that we could make it work," he said.
Brownback then talked about wanting to make sure the state budget was in good shape and that when he took office in 2011, he was facing a shortfall "after the Sebelius administration."
Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, left Kansas to become President Barack Obama's secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sebelius was succeeded by Mark Parkinson, the former lieutenant governor, who had to deal with record revenue shortfalls during the Great Recession. Ironically, it's Sebelius, as HHS secretary, who is working with governors considering Medicaid expansion.
While many Republican governors, including Brownback, have been critical of Medicaid expansion, some are warming to the idea since the federal government will pay for the first three years, and 90 percent of it after that. Some have also said that it would be unwise for a state to leave federal money on the table for other states to take.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has been trying to persuade Republican legislative leaders to get on board. Earlier this week, Nixon said that if Missouri were to reject expansion of Medicaid it would become like a town from the 1860s that refused a railroad or a city from the 1960s that rejected an interstate highway. In Kansas, estimates indicate that Medicaid expansion would extend coverage to 200,000 more people.
Currently, Medicaid provides health care coverage to about 380,000 Kansans. The largest portion of them — about 230,000 — are children. The rest are mostly lower-income, pregnant women, people with disabilities and elderly people. The $2.8 billion program is funded with federal and state dollars.
Medicaid in Kansas doesn’t cover low-income adults who don’t have children. And a nondisabled adult with children is eligible only if his or her income is below 32 percent of the poverty level, which is less than $6,000 per year. That is about the most difficult eligibility level in the country.
But starting in 2014, the ACA creates an eligibility level of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,415 per year for an individual and $31,000 per year for a family of four.
In the Legislature, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, has been open to the idea of expanding Medicaid, while House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, hasn't.
Two years ago, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill that prohibits private insurance companies from offering coverage for abortions in their general plans except when a woman's life is in danger.
Under the law, Kansas residents or employers who want abortion coverage must buy supplemental policies, known as riders.
But Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she tried to purchase such an optional rider under the state health insurance plan, but it was not available.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed that the state health insurance plan does not offer that coverage as an optional rider.
Francisco, a supporter of abortion rights, said, "I was going to encourage women to do it because the more women of my age who sign up, the cheaper it is going to be for everybody, so then you just make it something that people can afford." Francisco is 62.
The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged that law, saying that women's medical needs should be covered in their insurance policies. Supporters of the law said people who oppose abortion shouldn't be forced to pay for such coverage in general health plan.
The ACLU dropped its lawsuit earlier this year after a federal judge had ruled that the group had failed to prove that the Legislature's motivation in passing the law was to make it more difficult to get abortions.
A measure allowing alcohol consumption in the Statehouse was approved today by the Senate.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the proposal was aimed at allowing drinks to be served next year at an event to commemorate the completion of the lengthy Statehouse restoration project. Wagle said drinks would be sold and the profit would go to a charity.
But several senators said the bill was too broad, allowing state leaders to allow alcoholic drinks at any "official state function." "Alcohol offends some of our constituents," said Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg.
Others were upset the provision was slipped into a conference committee report without being considered as a stand-alone bill before the full House or Senate. Still, the proposal passed 29-10.