Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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file photo / Kansas News Service

Changes in federal tax law could actually cost some Kansans more in state taxes.

Kansas lawmakers might turn down that revenue windfall and add an election year tax cut instead. A bill they’re backing would cost roughly the same amount as a court-triggered boost to school spending.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Department for Children and Families is opening up child protection services jobs to people who aren’t licensed social workers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A federal judge has held Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt for failing to fully register and notify eligible voters he’d blocked.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach failed to get standard postcards sent out to those would-be voters confirming their registrations and failed to update the County Election Manual used by local election officials processing voter applications, as she had ordered him to do in May 2016.

Three men were found guilty Wednesday of conspiring to blow up an apartment complex in western Kansas that housed Somali immigrants.

Attorneys for two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex filled with Somali Muslim immigrants in Garden City argued their clients were bit players not interested in actually carrying out the plan.  

Blue Valley Hospital opened in 2010 and provides weight-loss surgery and other medical services.

An Overland Park hospital that specializes in weight-loss surgery is suing government health officials after they cut off its participation in Medicare.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

They dueled with pens and camera-ready events. The two men split over what could become a defining issue in their battle to win this year’s governor’s race, and over whether Kansas needs to spend more to fix its public schools.

Gov. Jeff Colyer went to a Topeka high school early Tuesday — a performance he planned to repeat later in the day in Wichita — to sign into law a plan to balloon the money sent to local districts by $500 million-plus over the next half-decade.

File photo

The owner and operator of 15 Kansas nursing homes has consented to be placed in receivership after defaulting on payments to vendors and failing to meet payroll.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has been appointed receiver and will oversee operations of the homes, which are scattered across the state.

The owner, Skyline Health Care LLC of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, previously acknowledged that it had insufficient funds to pay basic utilities and food service vendors.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Alissa Eckert / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Update, April 19: This story includes newly identified cases and exposure sites (previously identified exposure sites and dates that are now past the time for symptoms to develop have been removed).

Eighteen measles cases have now been identified in Johnson, Linn and Miami counties since March 8, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Wheat producers in Kansas are worried about the potential for freeze damage after temperatures stayed below freezing for much of the weekend.

While it’s not unusual for Kansas to see spring freezes, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind over the weekend likely caused some damage to the state's wheat crop.

screengrab / Kansas Republican Party Facebook page

Being the incumbent may give Jeff Colyer a leg up in the Republican race for governor, but it also makes him a target.

His chief rivals, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, used a forum sponsored by the Kansas Republican Party In Atchison to characterize Colyer as a poor manager and weak leader on conservative causes.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers voted last weekend to increase public school funding over the next half decade — the latest chapter in a long and winding court battle.

            Five things about Kansas’ school finance fight

The story is far from over. Here’s what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months, and where it could all spin out of control.

The Wichita Police officer who killed a man during a swatting incident last December will not face criminal charges.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to fix a costly mistake in the school finance bill passed after midnight on the last day of the regular session.

“It needs to be taken care of,” Colyer said Wednesday. “We’ll work with the Legislature on doing that.”

The error — a byproduct of confusion and deal-making in the session’s final hours early Sunday morning —makes re-engineering the state’s school finance formula more difficult than usual.

Screengrab / Kansas Department for Children and Families

Kansas is looking to prod parents to catch up on their child support, arguing that doing so could chip away at the the cost of welfare.

The Department for Children and Families website launched a child support evaders Web page Wednesday that features pictures of 10 delinquent parents. It includes notes on what they owe, where they were last seen, and a link to report their whereabouts.

Gov. Jeff Colyer said delinquent parents shift child support costs on to taxpayers.

Attorneys defending three Kansas men accused of a bomb plot in Garden City are arguing there wouldn’t have been a plot without FBI manipulation.

Jim Persinger tells the story with a little frustration.

A school administrator saw school psychologists — his field — as interchangeable with counselors and social workers.

Photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Younger people could carry guns even as local authorities gain new powers to take guns away in some situations. Police videos could become more available and people held in prison wrongfully could expect payments from the state.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A bill to update state adoption law was sailing through the legislature. Until it wasn’t.

It’s been gummed up because of a faith-based protection provision that would allow adoption agencies to receive state funding while turning away prospective parents who don’t fit with an organization’s religious beliefs.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers may not know for months whether a deal to pump half a billion dollars into schools goes far enough to end seven years of court battles over whether the state shortchanges Kansas children.

If it falls short, the Kansas Supreme Court could call them back to Topeka this summer with yet another ultimatum to send even more money to local districts.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges related to the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on a 17-story waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas. Judge Robert Burns made Jeff Henry  surrender his passport, but he declined to make Henry wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

Arm wrestling over a final deal on Kansas school spending begins in earnest Friday after the Senate settled on a figure that’s much lower than the House’s position.

The bill squeaked through after hours of discussion, winning the last vote necessary only after leaders forced lawmakers who initially abstained to weigh in.

Earlier, with the bill’s fate unclear, Republican leaders in the Senate issued stern direction to members of their party. Some were called into a closed-door meeting with Senate President Susan Wagle.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas officials have received a court order Friday to expedite their takeover of 15 financially troubled nursing homes. State regulators say they need to move quickly to protect hundreds of elderly and disabled Kansans who reside in the facilities.

Normally, the state would need orders from 15 separate judges to take control of the facilities, which are scattered across the state. But the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was granted an order from the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday  consolidating all the cases under a single Johnson County District Court judge.

Funeral services were held in Topeka on Thursday for civil rights icon Linda Brown, the schoolgirl at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case that declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A push to elbow the judiciary out of school spending by rewording the Kansas Constitution cleared a legislative committee Wednesday.

Yet the effort likely won’t get a full House vote this week and could be doomed on a roll call.

It’ll need two-thirds support in both the House and Senate, something that may prove even harder after Democrats and moderate Republicans swept up more seats in the 2016 elections.

Defense attorneys for two of the men charged in an alleged bomb plot in western Kansas argued their clients were manipulated by the FBI into remaining part of the conspiracy.

Cross examination of Dan Day, the paid FBI informant in the case, wrapped up Wednesday, with the defense asking him why he didn’t put a stop to the plot earlier when he had the chance.

The public submitted more than 100 comments to Kansas regulators about the proposed merger of Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy. Almost all of them were negative.

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