Jim McLean | KCUR

Jim McLean

Reporter and Editor, Kansas News Service

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas. 

Jim was previously news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

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Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Jeff Colyer rose to the top of the Kansas executive branch Wednesday with events staged not just around his swearing in as governor, but in concert with his dash to get elected to the office and a possible inauguration next year.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Proposed changes to KanCare — the taxpayer-funded health care program that more than 400,000 poor, elderly and disabled Kansans depend on — face increasing resistance from key players in the Kansas Capitol.

A week ago, incoming Gov. Jeff Colyer promised to back off a plan that would have imposed a work requirement and benefit caps on some of the Kansans enrolled in the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Yet the administration he’ll inherit, when he takes over for Gov. Sam Brownback this week, hasn’t retreated from its call for tougher eligibility rules.

During his State of the State address, exiting Gov. Sam Brownback said his budget recommendations included an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. That left many lawmakers stunned, and Senator Jim Denning, a Republican representing the 8th District, angry. We sit down with Denning to talk about what he's expecting as Lt. Governor Colyer takes on a new role as governor, and discuss why an attempted ousting of a legendary state employee ignited a major backlash.

 

Courtesy of U.S Coast Guard Academy/U.S. Congress

This week, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens introduced what he considers to be "the boldest state tax reform in the nation," looking to reduce the income and corporate tax rates, among other things.

The Republican may have learned a thing or two in putting together his plan from almost-former Gov. Sam Brownback in neighboring Kansas, where legislators almost completely rolled back the aggressive 2012 tax cuts that left Kansas cash-strapped.

KCUR's Kyle Palmer spoke with fellow reporter Jim McLean, who covers the Kansas Statehouse, to break down where the proposed Missouri plan intersects and differs from the Kansas tax experiement. 

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Next Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer goes from one of the most anonymous jobs in state politics to its most prominent.

Kansans, in turn, will find themselves with a new governor. Colyer’s politics may run as conservative as the man he’ll replace, Sam Brownback, just more low key.

Brownback is stepping away from the job with a year left in his term to work in the U.S. State Department for the Trump administration. That gives Colyer a chance to show that he’s up to the job and to catapult his prominence in this year’s race for a full term as governor.

file photo / Kansas News Service

With help from Vice President Mike Pence, short-handed U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday made Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback President Donald Trump’s ambassador for religious freedom.

Pence twice broke ties on nail-biter, party line, votes to ultimately confirm Brownback after months of delay.  With the governor being whisked away from his Statehouse job, soon enough, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be ushered into an interim stint as governor.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Plans for KanCare 2.0, the proposal to keep management of the state’s Medicaid program in private hands for years to come while adding new eligibility restrictions, halted Wednesday.

At least that’s what Republican Gov. Sam Brownback indicated in a mid-day news release, which said the plan was being scrapped after lawmakers worried about cost increases nearing $100 million a year.

file photo

Four years ago, Greg Orman made an independent and notable challenge to Republican U.S. Pat Roberts’ run for re-election.

Now the wealthy businessman has his sights set on the governor’s office, contending that voter frustration with the two-party system gives him a path to victory in November.

“What is clear to me is that voters want real alternatives,” Orman said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.

His bid for the governorship holds the potential to alter the dynamics of the general election.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Brownback administration may soon throw in the towel on a plan to lock a more restrictive version of Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program in place for another five years.

A top Republican lawmaker in talks with Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, the administration’s point person on extending that privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the effort to create a longer-lasting version referred to as KanCare 2.0 appears in jeopardy.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Nursing homes in Kansas find themselves in crisis, say the people who run them.

Where to fix blame or how to remedy things remain matters of debate.

A parade of nursing home operators and their lobbyists pleaded with members of a Kansas House health committee Thursday to fully restore cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates. They also called for pressure on Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to repair a long-broken Medicaid enrollment system.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Roughly 80 politicians gathered Wednesday for an early morning meeting at the Kansas Statehouse.

The session wasn’t technically mandatory, more encouraged by legislative leaders determined to be seen as doing something in response to the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations.

Several of the women in attendance nodded at what they heard — that four in five women and one in five men have suffered some form of sexual harassment.

file photo / Truman Medical Centers

A push by the Brownback administration to keep turning to private firms to run its Medicaid program for years to come faces resistance from key Republican lawmakers.

Those legislators have signaled they want existing problems repaired with KanCare — particularly application backlogs, delays in provider payments and disputes over services for Kansans with disabilities. Only then should the state go ahead with Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to launch KanCare 2.0 and its new lifetime limits, work requirements and other policy changes.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

Campaign reports filed this week show a bunched field breaking from the starting gate in the Kansas race for governor.

Some handicappers’ favorites — notably Secretary of State Kris Kobach — trail at the rear of the pack. Still, only a few of the dozen candidates thought to hold potentially winning pedigrees appear in danger of fading fast.

KCUR

Lawmakers arrived in Topeka Monday with monumental money problems facing the state and an executive branch stuck in a confusing transition.

It’s the start of a roughly 90-day session in which they, once again, must juggle the state’s checkbook to meet multiple pressing needs. That includes an ultimatum from the Kansas Supreme Court to find more tax dollars for schools.

It’s a tough job made that much harder by unusual political circumstances.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The White House may have scrapped the controversial national election integrity commission that he was helping to lead, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still rooting out alleged voter fraud in his home state.

Armed with powers not usually assigned to a secretary of state, Kobach filed a pair of criminal complaints Thursday against two people he said voted when, and more, than they had the right to.

Wikipedia

A deal to farm out the next new prison in Kansas to a private firm -- one that would replace the outdated facility in Lansing and lease it to the state -- hit a delay Thursday.

The State Finance Council, which would have to sign off lease-to-buy contract, said it needs two weeks to further study the details of a plan to pay CoreCivic Inc. $362 million over 20 years.

Several members of the council said they didn’t want to approve the deal until the state and the company finalized their contract negotiations.

KDHE

A lawyer who spearheaded Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to block Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood will take charge of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment next week. 

Darian Dernovish will become interim head of the agency on Jan. 8, Brownback’s office said Wednesday. He will replace Susan Mosier, who has held the job since December 2014. 

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

As long as Sam Brownback waits for Congress to approve his at-large ambassadorship for religious freedom for the Trump administration, he’ll continue to meet his responsibilities as governor.

That, his office said Tuesday, includes giving the annual State of the State address next week and submitting a budget to lawmakers.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A crowded field of candidates running for governor in Kansas gained its first woman Friday with the entry of state Sen. Laura Kelly.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

At first glance, the Alabama Senate race doesn’t appear to offer many clues about what the 2018 election has in store.

There isn’t likely to be another campaign in which a marginal candidate attempts to hold serve for a sharply divided party while fighting unprecedented allegations of sexual misconduct under a national spotlight.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A discrimination complaint filed earlier this year by a Tennessee woman who claims a former Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services official sexually harassed her is still pending before the Kansas Human Rights Commission.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Political forecasters attempting to gauge the chances for a power shift in Congress are watching several key 2018 races across the country, including two in Kansas.

In the 3rd District, several Democrats are competing for the right to challenge four-term Republican Kevin Yoder, and in the 2nd District, a former Democratic candidate for governor hopes to claim an open seat.

File Photo / KCUR

Olathe businessman Greg Orman launched an independent campaign for governor Wednesday, ending months of speculation about his political plans.

Orman’s entry sets up a three-way contest that some say neither he nor the Democratic nominee can win.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder is offering a vigorous defense of the Republican tax cut bill as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on its version of the controversial measure.

In a lengthy news release posted Thursday that Yoder touted as separating myth from fact, the 3rd District representative said the bill does not favor wealthy taxpayers over middle-class families, as Democrats and other critics claim.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Donald Trump Jr. appeared at a fundraiser Monday night in Overland Park, Kansas, for Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is one of 11 people running for the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran candidly discussed his reservations about President Donald Trump’s tax cut bill Wednesday at a town hall meeting in the small north-central Kansas community of Frankfort.

But in response to prodding from some in the crowd of approximately 100, he declined to commit to voting against the bill if Republican leaders don’t address his concerns.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials seeking to renew KanCare are asking people covered by the privatized Medicaid program to trust them to make it better.

In a series of recent public hearings, state officials have assured providers and beneficiaries that KanCare 2.0 will fix the administrative and service-delivery problems that have plagued the current program since its inception.

Courtesy Sunflower Foundation

Progressives deride supporters of President Donald Trump as willfully ignorant reactionaries, even racists.

Fans of the president respond in kind, dismissing liberals as snowflakes and worse.

The escalating war of words is a clear and present danger to American democracy, said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, in a presentation sponsored by the Topeka-based Sunflower Foundation’s Advocacy in Health speaker series.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates say Kansas policymakers should take notice of elections this week in Maine and Virginia.

In Maine, lawmakers sent five expansion bills to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in recent years. He vetoed them all. So Maine voters took matters into their own hands Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a ballot initiative authorizing expansion.

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