The Latest: Kansas Legislature opens annual 90-day session
Jan. 08, 2018
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on the opening day of the Kansas Legislature's annual session (all times local):
Kansas lawmakers have opened their annual session facing a court mandate to boost spending on public schools.
When the House convened Monday afternoon, Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. told members he is excited to get to work. But there appears to be little appetite in the GOP-controlled Legislature to either raise taxes or cut spending elsewhere to provide more money for public schools.
GOP Gov. Sam Brownback planned to deliver the annual State of the State address Tuesday evening.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's education funding is insufficient under the state constitution. It did not set a specific spending target but hinted that it expects funding to rise by as much as $650 million a year.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and the head of the Kansas Department for Children and Families are proposing to spend an extra $16.5 million on child welfare services over the next 18 months.
The plan outlined Monday by Colyer and DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel would allow the state to hire more child welfare workers and investigators and boost spending on community services for families.
The state would use part of the funds to find places for abused and neglected children to stay so none of them sleep overnight in DCF offices.
The department also would hire a consultant for a top-to-bottom review.
Colyer and Meier-Hummel said federal funds would cover $8 million of the new spending. The plan will be included in budget recommendations Gov. Sam Brownback presents to lawmakers Wednesday.
Kansas legislative leaders say they expect to offer sexual harassment training to all lawmakers within a few weeks.
Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita confirmed Monday that she's hoping to have a session for all 40 senators by the end of next week. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe said he's working on arranging one for House members later this month.
And House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita said he's planning to schedule training for fellow Democrats who were unable to attend a session in December.
The Kansas City, Missouri-based Women's Foundation has recommended an overhaul of the Legislature's 1994 policy on sexual harassment.
The policy does not require annual training for lawmakers or their employees, and the foundation says it should. The foundation promotes gender equity.
Kansas lawmakers are preparing to open their annual session facing a court mandate to boost spending on public schools with little appetite to do what could be necessary to pay for it.
The Republican-controlled Legislature is scheduled to convene Monday afternoon.
GOP Gov. Sam Brownback planned to deliver the annual State of the State address Tuesday evening and lay out budget proposals Wednesday.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's education funding is insufficient under the state constitution.
Lawmakers last year raised income taxes by roughly $600 million a year to help balance the budget. Legislative leaders see little support among lawmakers for another tax hike. Yet they also don't want to make deep cuts in other parts of the budget to free up money for schools.