Statehouse Blend

Statehouse Blend Kansas explores the inner workings of Kansas politics and government. Host Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service talks each week with people at the center of key debates. You'll hear from lawmakers, advocates and regular Kansans. And you'll stay up to date on what's happening in Topeka throughout the legislative session.

Battles over a Republican tax cut proposal and Medicaid expansion persisted through the last day of the Kansas Legislature's 2019 session … and remain unresolved. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says he plans to address healthcare and tax policy next session, when maybe he'll be Senate President. 


All Kansas lawmakers really had to do to end the 2019 legislative session was pass a budget. They did that, with gusto. But also without passing Medicaid expansion. That's one of the items left on freshman Rep. Brandon Woodard's to-do list for next year. 


Things got a little chippy during the final week of the regular legislative session, but Kansas lawmakers came away with a school funding plan and a permanent commerce secretary. And now Sec. David Toland is ready to move on to reinvigorating the state's economic development efforts. 


The Kansas Senate has agreed to give school districts raises. The House has not. Instead, negotiators are headed to the bargaining table with a stack of new requirements for reporting how schools spend their money. Rep. Kristey Williams is the one leading the charge for more accountability from districts. 


Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's new administration experienced some social media mishaps this past week, and conservative Republicans pounced. Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty says there's more going on than meets the eye. 


Just after approving the school funding Gov. Laura Kelly asked for, the Kansas Senate turned around and gave the final okay to a tax relief package she opposes, daring the new governor to issue her first veto. 


Gov. Laura Kelly signed her first bill and school finance got some attention, but roundtable discussions on Medicaid expansion dominated a short week at the Kansas Statehouse. Sara Collins, a healthcare economist with the Commonwealth Fund, and Michael Cannon, health policy director for the Cato Institute, represented diverging views of the costs and benefits. 


Kansas lawmakers have given the green light to a slew of bills to proceed past a mid-session break, while stopping other proposals in their tracks. Meanwhile, new KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz is looking forward to getting the state highway program back on the road. 


Rep. Don Hineman got a new assignment this session to figure out how to sustain rural Kansas. The three things the chairman of the Rural Revitalization Committee says rural communities need most: broadband, housing, and, of course, health care.


The Kansas House has rejected Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to refinance pension debt. But the new governor says that won't tank the state budget or doom her priorities, including Medicaid expansion. Should expansion come to be, it'll be Health Secretary Lee Norman's job to implement it, and he says it'll get good ROI. 


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