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Government

file photo / Kansas News Service

After promising for months to change the tone when he took charge, new Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer spent his first days in office trying to deliver on that pledge.

He was sworn in late Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, he met with Democratic leaders that his predecessor, Sam Brownback, rarely consulted.

“We’re going to keep that dialogue open,” he said. “We’re going to keep working with people.”

That afternoon, he summoned Statehouse reporters to an already refurbished office for a chat.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Almost a month and a half ago, Edgemoor was on the verge of being dropped as the developer to build a new terminal at Kansas City International airport.

Nine city council members rejected a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland-based developer. A measure had been introduced to drop them from the billion-dollar project altogether and proceed with competitor AECOM.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Almost lost in the discussion about the 150 homicides in Kansas City last year is this: Why did the number of women murdered jump 52 percent between 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, 21 women were murdered in Kansas City. Last year the number was 32.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee tackled that issue on Wednesday.

You might think that most women died from domestic violence or during arguments (as KCUR documented in the series The Argument), but the motive for most of the murders is listed as "unknown." 

file photo

Kansas has repeatedly dipped into its highway fund in recent years to balance the budget for all of state government.

Now lawmakers are contemplating a task force to study what that’s meant for the state’s roads and bridges.

Following the borrowing, road projects saw delays across the state. The task force would study the sidelined projects and suggest long-term transportation strategies for Kansas.

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.

 

Barbara Washington
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Last November, Rep. Barbara Anne Washington became the newest legislator to represent Kansas City in the Missouri General Assembly. An attorney and former journalist, she has long been engaged with politics, but nothing could have prepared her for the onslaught of legislating, which she says is a full-time job, not to mention the political turmoil of her first month in office.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court, effectively ending a promising career. 

Sanders, 50, entered his plea in a loud and clear voice before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. 

Screen grab from the Kansas Secretary of State website

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office took a trove of public records offline Thursday after a technology website discovered that they reveal partial Social Security numbers for potentially thousands of state officials.

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 / Heartland Health Monitor

Income that doesn’t come close to the poverty line. Persistent job insecurity. Shifting schedules and irregular hours. Cumbersome barriers to state assistance meant for the neediest Kansans.

A new report from the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities paints a stark picture of the Kansas welfare system.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio


“As Missouri goes, so goes the nation” — or so the saying goes. Yet, the state hasn’t lived up to its bellwether status for a long time, at least when it comes to predicting presidential elections: Missouri has chosen a Republican in every one since 2000, even though the national popular vote favored Democrats four out of five times.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats both made it hard for the public to know what goes on in the Statehouse. But in the wake of a Kansas City Star series highlighting the lack of transparency, some members of both parties are pushing for change.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity.

Palmer and Silvey
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Just days into the 2018 legislative session, after 13 years of service in the General Assembly, Kansas City Republican Senator Ryan Silvey was out of the statehouse and beginning a six-year term on the Missouri Public Service Commission. Silvey had frequently clashed with Governor Eric Greitens, and in this Statehouse Blend Missouri "exit interview," Silvey acknowledges that the governor may have nominated him partly to eliminate a "thorn in the side." 

Lasse Fuss / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri’s plans for fixing a stretch of Interstate 70 in Kansas City are now public; the only hang-up now is a lack of funding.

A final environmental impact statement released Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District spells out plans for I-70 just east of downtown KC. It addresses the stretch of highway between Troost Avenue near the downtown loop and Blue Ridge Cutoff near the Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.

Major problems include deteriorating roads and bridges, traffic delays and merging issues.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City, Missouri, officials will continue to be part of the planning process for a southern streetcar extension, despite a citywide vote prohibiting them from doing so. 

On Aug. 4, 2017, Kansas City residents passed an ordinance, brought to the city through an initiative petition, that prohibits city officials from moving forward with any streetcar extension without first gaining citywide voter approval. That included any planning or preparation for construction. 

The vote complicated a process that was already underway to extend the current streetcar south to UMKC. 

Wikipedia

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback abruptly postponed a meeting Thursday where lawmakers were expected to approve or reject a plan for a private contractor to rebuild the state prison in Lansing. Consideration of the proposal was already pushed off earlier this month. The additional delay raises questions that the project may not have enough support in the State Finance Council to advance.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Kansas City officials on Thursday weighed in on negotiations for an agreement with Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate to build an estimated $1 billion new terminal at Kansas City International Airport. 

A skeptical city council heard the latest changes to the Memorandum of Understanding — a development agreement that sets out terms, guidelines and landmarks for the project. A previous version of the MOU was rejected by the council late last year and Edgemoor was nearly booted from the project altogether.

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.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

As a push increases to hire a private contractor to build a new Lansing prison and then lease it to the state, some Kansas legislative leaders look warily at the idea.

This week, Gov. Sam Brownback stopped at the Lansing Correctional Facility to make yet another push for his administration’s plan to overhaul it. The visit came just days before a panel of lawmakers could decide the fate of his plan for replacing the deteriorating prison.

file photo / Heartland Health Monitor

If nothing else, Sam Brownback has marked his time as governor of Kansas with one bold approach after the next. And few remade the status quo as much as his approach to welfare.

That sprung from his belief that even a well-meaning government that fails to prod the poor toward self-reliance ends up creating more dependency and stubborn poverty.

Like his record on such issues as game-shifting tax cuts, the results are arguably mixed.

Capitol at night
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Missouri government is still reeling after a week that saw the State of the State address overshadowed by a report by KMOV in St. Louis that Governor Eric Greitens, a Republican, had an affair with an unnamed woman, as revealed in tapes secretly recorded by the woman's former husband. The governor has admitted the affair but denies allegations he attempted to blackmail the woman to keep it quiet.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Fellow Republicans on Wednesday characterized Gov. Sam Brownback’s spending plan — more than $6.6 billion a year — as a beeline return to deficits and an abdication of responsibility in a budding crisis.

The governor, poised to leave for a spot in the Trump administration, unveiled a five-year, $600 million increase in school funding Tuesday evening. When lawmakers dug into that proposal Wednesday, they griped about key details.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service


Gov. Sam Brownback, poised to leave Kansas after a generation of dominating its politics, on Tuesday called for steep infusions of money into public schools — spurring fellow Republicans to accuse him of raising hopes with a “fairy tale.”

Brownback said the state can add $600 million over the next five years — without a tax hike.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 


A task force formed to fix Kansas’ troubled foster care system relied largely on the ideas of a lone member to meet a deadline for preliminary suggestions, reflecting the daunting nature of its job and some troubles within the panel.

Icelandair

For the first time ever, Kansas City will have a regularly scheduled flight across the Atlantic Ocean. 

Starting May 26, Kansas City International airport will offer direct flights to Reykjavik, Iceland on Icelandair.

Deputy aviation director Justin Meyer says the new flight will bring down European fares, and allow for easy connections to other parts of Europe. 

The flight will be offered seasonally, from May to September three days a week. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The first part of the regular Monday meeting of the Jackson County Legislature was perfunctory, nothing but routine county business.

By the end voices had been raised, the county's lawyer was pacing and it appeared the Legislature and County Executive were going to court to settle who controls the anti-drug program known as COMBAT.

Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

It's a Republican season in the Missouri General Assembly. The GOP controls the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, and Republican Governor Eric Greitens is working hard to advance a conservative agenda. But Democrats press on, seeking to influence legislation where they can and, sometimes, taking their case directly to the people.

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.

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.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City branch of the NAACP on Friday voiced its opposition to the Kansas City Council's approval of a plan to privatize Westport sidewalks on weekends and vowed to fight the ordinance before it takes effect this spring.

The council's 8-5 decision earlier this month allowing privatization "amounts to failure to perform public duty," said Rodney Williams, president of the local NAACP and pastor at Swope Parkway United Christian Church.

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