Politics & Government

Where 10 key issues stand as Kansas lawmakers adjourn until May

Hamilton Middle School eighth-grader Sundale Buggs works with his teacher Elissa Frank in February. A plan being considered by a House committee would add about $750 million in education funding over the next five years.
Hamilton Middle School eighth-grader Sundale Buggs works with his teacher Elissa Frank in February. A plan being considered by a House committee would add about $750 million in education funding over the next five years. File photo

Here’s where 10 issues stand as Kansas lawmakers adjourn until May 1.

Abortion

The House passed a bill requiring that doctors provide more information — in a specific font and type size — to women considering an abortion. The measure awaits action in the Senate.

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That information would include when doctors received their medical degrees, when they started working at a clinic, whether they have malpractice insurance, whether they have faced disciplinary action, whether they have clinical privileges in a nearby hospital and whether they live in Kansas.

The bill would require that information be printed in black ink in 12-point Times New Roman font.

Budget

The Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Sam Brownback to close a budget gap of about $290 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The measure would draw from a long-term investment fund to close the gap and is projected to leave the state with a $50 million end balance.

When lawmakers return in May, they will have to pass a balanced budget for the next two years.

Income taxes

The Legislature has considered and rejected proposals to increase income taxes in the face of a projected shortfall of more than $1 billion through 2019.

A flat tax proposal endorsed by the governor fell 37-3 in the Senate last week.

In February, the Legislature approved but the governor vetoed a plan to raise income tax rates, add a third bracket and end an exemption for certain businesses. Supporters of the plan tried but were unable to override the veto.

Lawmakers will go back to the drawing board when they return from their three-week break.

Medicaid expansion

The Kansas Legislature voted to expand eligibility for Medicaid to about 150,000 more Kansans.

Brownback vetoed the bill, saying it would burden the state’s budget with “unrestrainable entitlement costs.”

An override effort failed in the Kansas House.

Sales tax on food

A 1 percent cut in the sales tax on groceries was a part of the flat tax plan rejected by the Senate.

Many lawmakers expressed an interest in a lower tax on groceries but said the state couldn’t afford it.

School finance

A House committee has developed a school finance proposal after the Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to pass a plan by June 30.

The court found the current system inadequate. The plan in the committee would add about $750 million in education funding over the next five years.

The committee has yet to vote on the proposal.

On Friday, legislative leaders voted to hire former Senate vice president Jeff King, an attorney, to advise lawmakers as they craft school finance legislation.

Guns on campus

Efforts to turn back a law requiring public universities to provide adequate security measures or allow people to carry firearms in facilities starting July 1 have been unsuccessful.

An attempt to force a debate on the state’s gun laws failed to garner enough votes early last week.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton, says the campus carry debate is not over as legislators negotiate potential changes to the law.

“We’re still working on it,” he said.

Strong beer in grocery stores

Lawmakers approved a measure to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with an alcoholic content of 6 percent by volume.

It also would allow liquor stores to sell other products for up to 20 percent of their sales.

Lawmakers say the bill was a needed compromise between grocery and liquor stores with questions over the future of 3.2 percent beer.

The bill now goes to Brownback.

Cooperation on wildfires

Kansas would join an interstate firefighting compact with several other states under a bill that passed both houses. It was presented to the governor on Friday.

WATC-WSU affiliation

A bill to affiliate the Wichita Area Technical College with Wichita State University passed the Legislature unanimously and was presented to the governor on Tuesday.

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