How could a bill changing policies at the Kansas Department of Labor clear both chambers of the Legislature and make it to a conference committee without anyone finding out whether it could endanger federal funding? In addition to reducing the cap on monthly unemployment benefits, the bill would eliminate the current merit-based test for hiring employees in the unemployment department and lift a prohibition against the employees being active in political campaigns. At the start of the conference committee meeting Monday, Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, presented an analysis he requested from federal officials indicating that the state likely would lose $17.5 million in federal funding to administer the unemployment insurance program and $660,000 to run employment offices. But the GOP conference committee members advanced the bill anyway Tuesday, based on the opinion of a KDOL attorney that the state would win a court case if the federal government tried to strip Kansas of funding. – Phillip Brownlee
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