Lawmaker’s Questions Thwart Statehouse Power Plan Plan
January 27, 2016

AP) – The construction of a new power plant for the Kansas Statehouse and four nearby state office buildings has been delayed following bipartisan legislative criticism over how the project is being financed.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s office confirmed the delay in construction Wednesday after top GOP legislators said the project had been postponed because of lawmakers’ questions.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee also postponed a confirmation hearing for interim Administration Secretary Sarah Shipman. Her department developed the $20 million project.
The new plant would replace a power plant in the Docking State Office building. The state plans to demolish the Docking building.
The department is financing the new plan through a lease-purchase agreement. Lawmakers have said they have questions about it and weren’t informed before it was finalized.

Health Care Advocates Rip Brownback’s Prescription Drug Plan
January 27, 2016

(AP) – Health care advocates in Kansas are strongly criticizing a proposal from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for decreasing prescription drug costs for the state’s Medicaid program.
They told the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s proposal could deny needed medications to people with chronic conditions and severe mental illnesses.
The committee took testimony on a bill eliminating the state’s ban on so-called step therapy with prescriptions in the Medicaid program.
In step therapy, patients are required to try less-expensive drugs first and have the treatment fail before obtaining more expensive prescriptions. Supporters say allowing Medicaid to use step therapy makes sense.
Brownback’s administration projects savings of nearly $11 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The state must close a projected $190 million budget shortfall.

Lawmakers’ Report Calls for Changes in District Building Project Funding
January 19, 2016

AP) – A new report from Republican legislators in Kansas says the state needs to provide greater oversight over local school construction projects.
The report approved Tuesday recommends creating a legislative committee. It would review proposals from school districts to issue bonds for construction projects when a district will receive state aid to help with the cost. It also suggests that lawmakers limit the projects eligible for state aid.
The state helps poor districts with bond payments. The cost of that aid has jumped.
The report is from a House-Senate committee that studied school funding issues last fall. The committee is recommending that Kansas overhaul how it distributes more than $4 billion in aid to its public schools.
Democrats opposed the report and said the bonding proposals insult local school boards.

Kansas Rules for ‘ Citizen Grand Jury’ Process
January 19, 2016

AP) – The Kansas House has approved a bill aimed at making it harder for judges or prosecutors to influence the work of grand juries convened by citizens.
The vote Tuesday was 101-20 on a bill that would allow people who are responsible for calling a grand jury to observe a judge’s instructions to the jurors. The measure goes next to the Senate.
Supporters said the bill would make grand juries less secretive and more responsive to the people who call them.
Kansas is one of six states allowing citizens to petition for grand juries. The 1887 law was rarely used until about a decade ago, when anti-abortion activists began using it to convene grand jury investigations of abortion clinics. The law also has since also been used to investigate adult bookstores.

Hillary Clinton Sends Kansas Lawmakers a Message
January 11, 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is calling on Kansas to expand its Medicaid program to provide health coverage for thousands of additional families.

Clinton issued a statement Monday, hours before the Republican-dominated Legislature opened its annual session.

The federal health overhaul championed by Democratic President Barack Obama encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs and promises the federal government will pay almost all of the cost.

Clinton said expanding Medicaid also would help small rural hospitals.

She said, “Health care for Kansas families should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few.”

Top Kansas Republicans have been skeptical that the federal government will keep its funding promises.

Told of Clinton’s statement, Kansas House Speaker and Stilwell Republican Ray Merrick dismissed it.

He responded, “Hillary who?”