- Associated Press - Monday, May 2, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Latest on the Kansas Legislature (all times local):

1:55 a.m. Monday

The Kansas Senate is debating a plan for balancing the state budget that would require Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to do most of the work of closing shortfalls in the state’s current and next state budgets.

Senators expected to vote on the measure early Monday morning. House members approved it earlier, 63-59, so Senate approval would send the measure to Brownback.

The state faces projected shortfalls totaling more than $290 million in the current budget and the one for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. It assumes Brownback would follow through on plans to cut higher education spending and delay major highway projects.



The plan also anticipates Brownback would make up to $92 million in as-yet-unspecified spending cuts but bars him from touching state aid to public schools.

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1:40 a.m.

Kansas legislators have approved a bill aimed at changing welfare policies and reducing prescription costs within the state’s Medicaid program.

The Senate approved the measure early Monday morning on a 27-13 vote after the House passed it Sunday night, 79-43. It goes to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

GOP leaders saw the measure as crucial to resolving budget issues because it would reduce the state’s costs in providing health coverage to poor and disabled residents by nearly $11 million a year.

It would allow Medicaid to use “step therapy” with prescriptions and require participants to try a less expensive drug before being allowed to get a more expensive one.

The measure also would reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance to 24 months from 36 months and make other welfare changes.

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1:15 a.m.

The Kansas House has approved a plan for balancing the state budget that gives Republican Gov. Sam Brownback broad discretion to cut spending across state government.

The House’s 63-59 vote early Monday morning sent the measure to the Senate, where a debate was expected to start soon after.

The state faces projected shortfalls totaling more than $290 million in the current budget and the one for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. It assumes Brownback would follow through on plans to cut higher education spending and delay major highway projects.

The plan also anticipates Brownback would make up to $92 million in as-yet-unspecified spending cuts but bars the governor from touching state aid to public schools of more than $4 billion a year.

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12:15 a.m.

The Kansas House is debating a plan for balancing the state budget that would require Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to do most of the work of closing shortfalls in the state’s current and next state budgets.

The House expected to vote on the measure early Monday morning. If House members approved the plan, the Senate would start debating it almost immediately.

The state faces projected shortfalls totaling more than $290 million in the current budget and the one for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. It assumes Brownback would follow through on plans to cut higher education spending and delay major highway projects.

The plan also anticipates Brownback would make up to $92 million in as-yet-unspecified spending cuts but bars him from touching state aid to public schools.

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12:05 a.m.

The Kansas House has approved a bill that would make changes to welfare policies and reduce prescription drug costs within the state’s Medicaid program.

The vote late near midnight Sunday night was 79-43 and sent the bill to the Senate for a vote almost immediately.

Republican leaders saw the measure as crucial to resolving budget issues because it would reduce the state’s costs in providing health coverage to poor and disabled residents by nearly $11 million a year.

It would allow Medicaid to use “step therapy” with prescriptions and require participants to try a less expensive drug before being allowed to get a more expensive one.

The measure also would reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance from 36 months to 24 months and make other welfare changes.

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11:55 p.m. Sunday

Kansas legislators have approved two anti-abortion proposals.

One measure approved Sunday night explicitly prohibits midwives from performing abortions or administering abortion-inducing drugs. The proposal was part of a comprehensive health care regulation bill that included new rules for acupuncture.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously and House passed it, 115-7, sending it to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The other measure makes permanent an annual budget policy in place since 2011 that prevents the state from providing federal family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood. The funds are used to cover the costs of non-abortion services for poor patients.

The votes on the bill were 87-34 in the House and 32-8 in the House.

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9:25 p.m.

Kansas legislators have authorized selling off the assets of the Kansas Bioscience Authority a dozen years after creating it to nurture emerging biotechnology companies.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill Sunday, and the House passed it on an 89-32 vote to send it to Gov. Sam Brownback. He’s expected to sign the measure because he’s pushed for the sale.

The bill was a key part of a plan for balancing the state budget, and Brownback believes the sale will raise $25 million.

When lawmakers established the authority in 2004, they viewed its creation as a major economic development initiative.

But Brownback and some lawmakers thought it ultimately had only a mixed record. They also argued its activities could be better handled by private companies.

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9:10 p.m.

The Kansas commission that names three finalists for each state Supreme Court vacancy would be subject to the state’s open records and meetings laws under a measure approved by legislators.

Senators voted 35-3 for the bill Sunday evening, sending it to Gov. Sam Brownback. House members voted 72-50 for the measure Saturday.

A provision in the bill also would require the governor to disclose information about each person applying to fill a Court of Appeals vacancy. He’s previously declined to release the names.

The governor names Court of Appeals judges subject to Senate confirmation, but the Supreme Court Nominating Commission screens applicants for vacancies on the state’s highest court. The governor must appoint one, and lawmakers have no role.

The commission interviews candidates in public but discusses their merits privately.

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7:35 p.m.

The Kansas House plans to work past midnight as Republican leaders in the GOP-dominated Legislature look to pass a plan for balancing the state budget.

The House has a rule against working past midnight. But members suspended the rule Sunday evening on a 75-45 vote.

Republicans are trying to pass not only the budget-balancing plan but multiple other measures.

House Majority Leader and Louisburg Republican Jene Vickrey said it’s time for lawmakers to wrap up their work for the year.

But House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City said working past midnight denies most Kansans the opportunity to follow debates live at the Statehouse or online. He also said it’s not fair to the Legislature’s staff.

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7 p.m.

The Kansas House has rejected a bill that would make changes to welfare policies and reduce prescription drug costs within the state’s Medicaid program.

The vote Sunday was 69-52 against the measure. The House’s move will force lawmakers to draft a new version or abandon the bill.

Republican leaders saw the measure as crucial to resolving budget issues because it would reduce the state’s costs in providing health coverage to poor and disabled residents by nearly $11 million a year.

It would allow Medicaid to use “step therapy” with prescriptions and require participants to try a less expensive drug before being allowed to get a more expensive one.

The measure also would reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance from 36 months to 24 months and make other welfare changes.

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6:10 p.m.

Kansas legislators are trying to prevent cities in counties from regulating work schedules at private businesses and popular but unhealthy foods.

A bill limiting local officials’ power went Sunday to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback when the Senate approved it on a 32-6 vote. The House approved the measure Saturday on a 76-45 vote.

The measure would prohibit cities and counties from setting regulations that affect the schedules of workers for private employers unless the restrictions are required by federal law. The measure would void existing local rules.

The bill also would block cities and counties from imposing food labeling requirements or limiting the sale of food products.

Business groups argued that such policies should be consistent statewide. Critics said lawmakers shouldn’t attack cites’ and counties’ control over local affairs.

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5:35 p.m.

Republican legislators in Kansas are hoping to pass a bill that would make changes to public assistance programs.

The bill up for debate Sunday in the House would reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance from 36 months to 24 months.

The Department of Children and Families also would be required to monitor welfare recipients who repeatedly replace benefit cards. Winners of lottery prizes of more than $5,000 would be investigated to determine if they’ve been eligible for public assistance.

If the bill passed the House, the Senate would consider it.

Supporters of the measure in the GOP-dominated Legislature say it would help move poor families out of poverty, and it follows up on a welfare law enacted last year. Critics contend that poor children are being denied basic help.

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4:15 p.m.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director says the administration is not yet committing to any specific spending cuts to help balance the state’s budget.

The GOP-dominated Legislature hoped to finish work on a plan for keeping the budget balanced through June 2017. The plan would require Brownback to do most of the work.

The plan assumes the governor makes up to $92 million in cuts during the fiscal year beginning July 1. The figure is tied to a list Budget Director Shawn Sullivan provided earlier this month in outlining budget-balancing options.

Sullivan said then that the cuts could touch social services, including Medicaid. But he said Sunday that the administration would need to see what passes before making decisions.

Legislators stressed that the plan would not pin Brownback down.

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3:25 p.m.

Kansas legislators have approved a bill increasing vehicle registration fees to provide extra funds for the state Highway Patrol to hire additional troopers.

The House approved the measure Sunday on a 92-27 vote. The Senate passed it Saturday, 36-4, so the bill goes to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The bill also includes another fee increase to provide additional funds for a center in Hutchinson that trains law enforcement officers.

Vehicle registration fees would increase a total of $3.25. Most vehicle owners now pay $35.

A $2 increase would raise $5.4 million a year for the patrol so it could hire an additional 75 troopers. Thirty-five of the state’s 105 counties have no assigned trooper.

An additional $1.25 fee increase would raise $3.4 million annually for the training center.

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12:20 p.m.

A plan for balancing Kansas’ budget also would provide an additional $17 million to the state’s two mental hospitals.

Legislators expected to consider the budget package Sunday.

The extra funds for Osawatomie State Hospital and Larned State Hospital will provide pay raises and offset lost federal funds over the next 15 months.

Most of the funds would be spent at Osawatomie State Hospital, about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area. The federal government decertified the hospital in December over the reported rape of an employee and other safety issues.

But legislators also have been concerned about staffing shortages at Larned State Hospital in western Kansas.

The extra funds would cover pay raises for registered nurses at Osawatomie and for mental health technicians at both hospitals.

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11:35 a.m.

Kansas legislators expect to consider two additional bills that Republican leaders consider necessary companions to a separate budget-balancing plan.

Lawmakers hoped to wrap up work Sunday by passing the budget-balancing plan.

One companion bill on the Legislature’s to-do list would allow the state to sell off the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s assets to raise $25 million. The agency was set up in 2004 to nurture emerging biotechnology companies but has had a mixed record.

The other bill is aimed at cutting prescription drug costs for poor and disabled Kansans receiving health coverage under Medicaid by nearly $11 million a year.

It would allow Medicaid to use of “step therapy” with prescriptions. Participants would be required to try less expensive drugs and have the treatment fail before obtaining more expensive drugs.

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1:35 a.m.

Top Republicans in the Kansas Legislature hope to finish work on a plan for balancing a state budget that would require GOP Gov. Sam Brownback to do most of the work.

The House was taking the measure up first Sunday. If its members approved the bill, the Senate would decide whether to send it to Brownback.

Rejection in either chamber would require the legislative negotiators who drafted the plan to write a new one.

The plan would only partially close shortfalls totaling more than $290 million in the current budget and the one for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

The plan assumes Brownback follows through with announced plans to cut higher education spending and delay major highway projects so road funds can be diverted to general government programs.

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