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Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It's already a challenge to run the Jackson County Jail. It's overcrowded and understaffed. Everything from the elevators to the plumbing needs fixing.

Now, add to that, the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) is $1.7 million in arrears for housing state prisoners in the downtown jail, the most owed to any county in the state.

file photo / Sam Zeff KCUR 89.3

March madness has many Kansans filling out their NCAA brackets. Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that could tap into that market by legalizing sports gambling in the state.

A bill before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would allow sports betting through the Kansas Lottery. At least one major professional league says it wants some input on the rules, and a cut of the winnings.

Former Wichita Congressman Mike Pompeo is poised  to be the next U.S. secretary of state.

Elijah Haahr
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Ever since Congress passed major changes to U.S. tax policy, Missouri leaders have been mulling their own changes to the state tax code that might leave your tax bill looking very different next year. We talk with House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, a Republican representative from Springfield, about how his 429-page plan can call itself "revenue-neutral."

Are Kansas’ strict voter registration laws necessary protections against fraud, or are they a nakedly political attempt to disenfranchise certain voters? That question is at the heart of a federal trial going on in Kansas. We explain this complicated issue and get the latest from the Statehouse. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas House on Tuesday unveiled a plan they say will make schools safer.

Really more of a plan to get a plan, it calls for the Kansas State Department of Education and state emergency response and law enforcement agencies to develop statewide standards for “safe and secure school buildings.”

Courtesy Ruins Pub

Ryan Cavanaugh has a vision for downtown Topeka: a restaurant and pub called Brew Bank, where customers can access a wall of 20 electronic, self-serve beer taps as a way to mingle and try local brews.

“It’s just about a community experience,” he said. “For the patrons to be able to try all of these beers and try them responsibly in small amounts is just an exciting thing.”

The devices let customers use an electronic card to dispense brews.

“Let’s face it,” Cavanaugh said, “the technology’s just really cool.”

In the weeks since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, student activists and others have taken to the streets in an effort to spur policy makers to talk about how we regulate guns. But, is that debate happening here in Kansas?

Gina Mitten
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's last impeachment proceeding was in 1994, and it's never happened with a governor. That could change this year as a House committee begins an investigation of Gov. Eric Greitens following his indictment on a felony invasion of privacy charge. Host Brian Ellison talks with a member of that committee, Rep. Gina Mitten of St. Louis.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has made a point to say he will not accept harassment and discrimination in his administration. But he won’t say if he’ll reinstate an executive order that would bar discrimination against LGBT state workers.

“What I have said is that we will not tolerate discrimination. If there’s an issue of discrimination, come to me,” Colyer said. “We’ll deal with it. It’s not tolerated by our administration, period.”

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A bill in the Kansas House would require children convicted of sexually violent crimes to register as sex offenders for life. That’s the same penalty adults face.

Under current law, juvenile offenders over 14 can be required to register as a sex offender for serious crimes. However, in many cases juvenile offenders are not required to register for the public offender list.

The bill was prompted by a double murder in Newton. The victims were 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and her 4-year-old daughter.

file phone / PublicDomainPictures.net

Listening to news reports while driving to the Statehouse on the day after the deadly high school shooting in Florida, Kansas Sen. Barbara Bollier decided to redouble her efforts to put a “red flag” law on the books in Kansas.

She wants a system for temporarily confiscating guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others.

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

 

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Wednesday still facing the largest challenge of this year’s session: balancing the budget and responding to a court order to spend more on schools.

In recent years, though, lawmakers plucked the low-hanging fruit when it comes to finding cash. That makes any revenue harvest ahead that much more difficult.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers head into the next stretch of this year’s legislative session after advancing bills offering tax breaks to some smaller businesses, compensation to people thrown in prison unjustly and a welcome mat to industrial chicken growers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Questions about a private company’s efforts to win a lucrative prison contract from former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have lawmakers looking to close a loophole in state lobbying laws.

Current law requires legislative lobbyists to register with the state and report their expenses. But there are no such requirements for those peddling influence in the executive and judicial branches of state government.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate voted 40-0 to pass a bill that would change that.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have forged a compromise to allow more access to video from police body cameras and vehicles.

Legislation debated in the Kansas House Wednesday followed recent shootings by police in the state.

The bill says people in the videos or their families must be given access to the recordings within 20 days.

In the past, it could take months for families to see a video and find out what happened in a fatal police shooting.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch said this plan would give families a definite timeline.

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Missouri’s execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital, is made by a compounding pharmacy in a St. Louis suburb, according to a BuzzFeed report published Tuesday.

The identity of the compounding pharmacy has been a state secret, despite lawsuits brought by media outlets and inmates, the latter claiming it was information they needed to know to ensure that executions will not inflict pain and suffering.

The Medicaid Gap

Feb 20, 2018

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have not expanded Medicaid. This has created a gap for patients who are too poor to afford insurance, but make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. Advocates say that expansion could give coverage to these people, but with consistent legislative opposition, what are the odds of a bill passing this year?

file photo / Kansas News Service

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

If you’re released from prison in some states after a wrongful conviction, you could be owed millions of dollars or a promise of a college education.

In Kansas and 17 other states, you get nothing.

On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from men who’d lost decades behind bars on bogus convictions. They emerged middle-aged and broke, with no work history or credit rating.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Legislation pending in the Kansas Statehouse would require police to release videos of shootings by police officers, stripping away wide discretion that law enforcement in the state now holds on when and what to make public.

Police, broadly speaking, oppose the bill. At a hearing on Tuesday, the measure’s supporters argued the public — and particularly families of those involved in police shootings — deserve easier access to police video.

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President Donald Trump unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal on Monday built on plans that would more heavily rely on state and local dollars being matched with money from Washington.

For Kansas, that poses both challenges and opportunities. The state is short on funding for new construction work, but it’s already begun looking at other options to pay for roads, bridges and the like.

The political divisions in America, and Kansas, appear deeper than ever. Republicans and Democrats can't seem to work together on anything. One candidate for Kansas Governor thinks an independent party might help our polarized politics. We talk with Greg Orman on this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A push to make more divorcing Kansas parents split custody evenly could, some critics contend, make the break-ups harder for children. What’s more, they worry a shift to a 50/50 custody standard could prevent a spouse’s escape from an abusive relationship.

A bill creating a new equal custody standard would significantly raise the standard needed for a judge to give one parent more time with the children than the other.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas sits in a shrinking pool of states with the strictest marijuana and hemp laws, surrounded by a wave of decriminalization and legalization that’s swept most of the U.S.

So it’s no surprise that the topic of cannabis keeps cropping up in the Kansas Statehouse, where some lawmakers and lobbyists want the Free State to jump on the bandwagon.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

File photo

Kansas lawmakers may once have thought stiffer penalties for marijuana made sense, but in recent years crowded prisons forced them to take another look.

One of the changes, made in 2016, reduced the crime of being caught with marijuana a second time from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But on Tuesday, the Kansas Sentencing Commission said that change overlooked state law that still keeps harsher penalties on the books for getting caught with pot residue than for possession of marijuana.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer used his first executive order Monday to tighten sexual harassment rules for thousands of state workers.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced around the Kansas Legislature in recent months, much like the #MeToo movement that’s swept the country.

Colyer’s order requires that executive branch employees under his control undergo annual sexual harassment training.

How important is the tone a Governor sets in state politics? Can a tenor of optimism or the opposite affect policy? As Kansas transitions from former Gov. Sam Brownback to new Gov. Jeff Colyer, we discuss what practical difference this change in leadership might make in the statehouse.

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