2019 legislative session

Republicans in the Kansas Legislature handed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly her first defeat this week.

On Valentine’s Day, no less.

They soundly rejected her plan to extend the timetable for covering the unfunded liability of the state pension system, KPERS.

Kelly hoped to lower the state’s annual payments by extending the timetable for amassing 80 percent of the dollars needed to pay all future retirement benefits.

Gov. Laura Kelly has said she has an easy solution for funding schools: Just renew the finance plan the Kansas Legislature agreed to last year and fold in an adjustment for inflation. But over in the Senate, lawmakers are picking that proposal apart.

After months of wrangling last year, lawmakers approved a $500 million multi-year boost for schools in response to a state Supreme Court ruling in the long-running Gannon case.

After recruiting only three teachers in Kansas last year, nonprofit Teach For America is asking lawmakers for a quarter of a million dollars to continue working for the state.

In 2018, legislators appropriated $520,000 for Teach For America to recruit 12 teachers.

Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate are forging ahead with plans to plow millions into tax relief that would largely benefit big business. Some Democrats and more moderate Republicans suspect it’s also a strategy to deprive the governor of the money to fund her priorities.

Carving out chunks of the state savings account now could send lawmakers scrambling to fund schools and other services with the cash that’s left when they’re knitting up the budget later this spring.

Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly named former Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker on Thursday to help lead one of her signature initiatives.

Kelly chose Rooker to head the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, a 15-member group created in the late 1990s to guide state investments in early childhood programs.

Rooker, a moderate Republican, represented a Johnson County district in the Kansas House for six years before narrowly losing last year to Democrat Rui Xu. While in the Legislature, Rooker played a leadership role on education issues.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers have rejected proposals to legalize medical cannabis in recent years. With a new governor in office, a bipartisan group of legislators is hoping this year could be different.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

School administrators from across Kansas lined up Wednesday in support of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal to boost funding for schools in response to a state Supreme Court ruling.

The bill would add more than $350 million in spending over four years. That’s on top of a funding boost last year.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas senators say the state should make a missed payment to the pension system, but some lawmakers are concerned about spending the money before they’ve finished the state budget.

Republicans are pushing hard and fast for tax relief that could threaten Gov. Laura Kelly's budget priorities, including Medicaid expansion. The governor has unveiled her plan to extend Medicaid coverage to another 150,000 low-income Kansans. The plan might seem familiar. The official sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, explains it contains compromises that nearly got veto-proof support in 2017. 


Three weeks into the 2019 legislative session, the battle lines are becoming clear.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is keeping a relatively low profile (for a new governor) and sticking to her plan of triaging state needs and responding to the most urgent among them.

Toward that end, she’s told her cabinet members to make a deep-dive assessment of their agencies.

Analysis

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