Kansas House Speaker Draws Challenger
November 17, 2014

(AP) – A southeast Kansas lawmaker plans to challenge Ray Merrick as speaker of the Kansas House.

After the election, Rep. Virgil Peck sent letters to victorious Republican House candidates. The Tyro Republican informed them of his intention to stand for speaker when lawmakers come to Topeka on Dec. 1 to hold leadership elections.

He says lawmakers have a responsibility to choose leaders “whom we feel are best equipped to represent the core beliefs of Kansas citizens and our party’s philosophy of limited government.”

Merrick’s spokeswoman, Rachel Whitten, said, “Any legislator is welcome to run for whatever leadership office they choose.”

Peck has served in the Legislature since 2005 and currently serves as chair of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee

Merrick Names Panel to Study All Day Kindergarten in Kansas
January 25, 2014

(AP) – First-term Republicans have a majority on a new Kansas House committee studying GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal for full state funding of public schools’ all-day kindergarten classes.

House Speaker Ray Merrick announced the appointments of the nine committee members Friday.

Brownback wants to phase in an $80 million increase in spending on all-day kindergarten classes over five years.

The study panel is chaired by freshman Republican Rep. Jerry Lunn of Overland Park, with fellow GOP freshman Ron Highland of Wamego as vice-chair.

Also appointed were freshman Republican Reps. Sue Boldra of Hays, Mark Kahrs of Wichita and Charles Macheers of Shawnee.

The other Republicans are Steve Huebert of Valley Center and Ron Ryckman Sr. of Meade.

The Democrats are Ed Trimmer of Arkansas City and Valdenia Winn of Kansas City

Kansas House GOP Bucks Ledadership, Votes Down Tax Bill, Deadlock Continues
May 29, 2013

(AP)– The Kansas House on Tuesday rejected an $857 million tax increase, throwing the overtime session into further turmoil.
Moments before the vote, House Republican leaders urged their super majority caucus to approve the bill.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, told the caucus if the measure fell, “Look to be here a long time. We start at ground zero.”
The Legislature has already been in session 95 days, which is five days longer than it was supposed to meet and 15 days longer than Republican leaders had vowed they would meet.
But a bipartisan group in the House rejected the tax bill, on a 42-71 vote. And no tax or budget conference committee meetings were scheduled for the remainder of the day.
Democrats, outnumbered 92-33 in the House and 32-8 in the Senate, said the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback should end the session.
“Time to pass a budget and go home, thus driving a wooden stake through the heart of Gov. Brownback’s so-called ‘grand experiment,’ said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.
Brownback wants to make permanent the 6.3 percent state sales tax, which is scheduled to fall to 5.7 percent on July 1, phase out itemized income tax deductions, slash standard deductions and lower income tax rates.
The House voted on a plan to set the sales tax at 6 percent. Over five years, the bill also would have reduced itemized deductions, such as charitable contributions, mortgage interest and real estate property taxes, by half and slashed the standard deduction from $9,000 to $5,000 for head of household, and $6,500 for married filing jointly. Over five years, it would also reduce the top income tax rate from 4.9 percent to 3.5 percent and the bottom rate from 3 percent to 2.3 percent.
After five years, the package would have increased taxes $857 million.
But state Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, said that setting the sales tax at 6 percent when it is now 6.3 percent was a tax cut. “When rates go down, I don’t see how you can say that is a tax increase,” he said.
But state Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, said, “This can’t be faked. You can’t go home and say, ‘Oh it’s progressive. Oh, it’s dynamic. Nope, it’s just a straight-out tax increase.”

Report Says Medicaid Expansion to Cost $600 Million More for Kansas
February 9, 2013

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas would face about $600 million in additional costs over the next 10 years if it opted to expand Medicaid as encouraged by the federal government’s overhaul of health care, according to a report released by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration Friday.

Brownback said in a statement Friday that the additional costs of providing expanded health coverage for the needy and working-class families under the federal law would affect the state’s ability to finance public schools and other core services. But he didn’t say specifically that the state should opt out of the Medicaid expansion, and his staff has said he’ll leave that decision to the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Brownback has long been a critic of the health care overhaul, championed by Democratic President Barack Obama,

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a conservative Stillwell Republican, said he opposes the expansion and doubts the federal government will keep its promise to finance almost all of the cost. But Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who’s pushing legislation to enact the expansion, said it is worth doing — even with the additional costs — because it would help tens of thousands of uninsured Kansans.

“I’m not for expanding Medicaid,” Merrick told reporters during a news conference before the report’s release. “I’m not one that trusts the federal government to have the money. They don’t have the money for a lot of things right now.”

The new report was prepared for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment by Aon Hewitt, a global actuarial and human resources firm based in Linconshire, Illinois

The Department of Health and Environment released a two-page summary, promising that the full report would be made public next week.

Brownback’s 2013 Plan in Tonight’s ‘State of the State’ Speech
January 15, 2013



Kansas Governor Sam Brownback lays out his agenda for 2013 in his ’State of the State’ speech Tuesday night.
Brownback will address a joint session of the Kansas legislature from the house Chambers at 6:30 Tuesday evening (for a list of broadcast and web outlets, see below).
The Governor comes to the speech with dominating Republican majorities in both the house and the Senate.
That may make it easier for him to continue his pledge to reform the state tax code in hopes that a better business climate will spurt the Kansas economy. Recent statistics have shown economic growth in the state as it emerges from the recession.
The Governor’s main challenge may be to keep the Statehouse conservatives in step with the Administration.
Some may push to eliminate the one-cent sales tax surcharge that was added by then Governor Mark Parkinson several years ago.
Another late development is the school court ruling handed out late last week. That ruling found the state government had violated its own constitution by not spending enough money on public education in the state.
Attorney general Derek Schmidt immediately announced he would appeal the ruling.
The case, however, may shape the budget decisions confronting the lawmakers.
Monday, the 2013 legislature opened for its 90-day run.
For the first time in years, the Speaker of the House is from Johnson County in suburban Kansas City, Missouri.
Stillwell Republican Ray Merrick told the House Members in his opening address, “A legislative session that promises open communication between chambers and the support of the executive branch,” he said. “We know the budget is always a challenge, but especially this year because we chose to leave more money in the pockets of hard-working Kansans and to commit to running the state on less,” according to the Topeka capital Journal.
Monday, the Governor’s Office released a list of the broadcast and web outlets where Gov. Brownback’s ‘State of the State’ speech can be seen or heard:

KPTS (Wichita)
KTWU (Topeka)
Smoky Hills Public Television (Central and Western Kansas)
WIBW-TV (Topeka) on My TV Channel 13.2 live

Kansas Information Network (Find the list of network’s 33 affiliates located across the state herehttp://radionetworks.com/kinaffiliates.html)

Kansas Public Radio
• KANU-Lawrence / Topeka / Kansas City FM 91.5
• KANH-Emporia FM 89.7
• KANV-Olsburg / Junction City FM 91.3 and in Manhattan on FM 99.5

High Plains Public Radio
• KANZ- Garden City FM 91.1
• KZNA-Hill City FM 90.5
• With assorted transmitters and translators all across western KS

Radio Kansas
• KHCC-Hutchinson / Wichita FM 90.1
• KHCD-Salina / Manhattan FM 89.5
• KHCT-Great Bend / Hays FM 90.9

KMUW-Wichita FM 89.1

KRPS-Pittsburg, KS FM 89.9

KCUR-Kansas City, Missouri FM 89.3

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