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Noonletter, Nov. 26, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

It’s a family thing

An order issued by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer now offers paid parental leave to about 17,000 state workers to cover their time off with a newborn or newly adopted child.

Colyer, a lame duck Republican, said in a statement issued on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday that he made the change to recognize the importance of children and families in the state.

Stephen Koranda reports that the governor also acknowledged that paid family leave is fast becoming routine in the private sector. The change gives primary caregivers six weeks of fully paid leave and secondary caregivers three weeks.

It’s a legal thing

Kris Kobach’s time as secretary of state is coming to end. He chose to run for governor (won the Republican primary and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the general election) rather than seek re-election.

But at least one headache from his time as the state’s chief election official lingers on.

Kansas is one of just a handful of states that lets ordinary citizens, rather than just prosecutors, call for grand jury investigations. Steven Davis, who twice ran and lost for the Kansas House from Douglas County, started that process last summer.

On Tuesday, reported the Lawrence Journal-World, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a court order summoning a grand jury to look into whether Kobach failed to properly register some voters who filled out applications at driver’s license bureaus or online.

State election officials argue the allegations directed at Kobach turn on minor technical issues over how records are shared between computer systems, and that those problems have since been fixed.

Kobach has rejected the call for a grand jury as political gamesmanship. His office could still file another appeal before a final order convening a grand jury is issued.

It’s a tribal thing

A recent federal inspector general’s report concluded Haskell Indian Nations University’s president sometimes bullied people on campus and played a role that won a promotion for one of her relatives.

For years, the way President Venida Chenault ran the school stirred dissent on campus. Now some of those people who have complained about her tenure say they feel vindicated.

Theresa Milk, a former Haskell professor, was one of those who called on the U.S. Department of the Interior asking it to investigate.

“I’m glad to see there’s some accountability now because the healing can begin,” Milk told Celia Llopis-Jepsen. “There was a culture of fear out there.”

Federal investigators also found that school underreported crime statistics.

It’s a climate thing

On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report that challenges President Donald Trump’s contention about the seriousness of climate change and humans’ role in changing weather patterns.

It included a breakdown on the southern Great Plains region that includes Kansas. Brian Grimmett has pulled some of the key points:

  • Significant rainstorms and floods already happen more often. Paradoxically, so are droughts.
  • Floods are less common, but when they come they’re larger and more likely to break historical records.
  • Annual average temperatures are projected to increase by 3.6 to 5.1 degrees Fahrenheit by the mid-21st century compared to the average for 1976 to 2005.
  • Even in a more conservative prediction scenario, the number of days above 100 degrees will increase by 20 to 30 days a year.
  • Winters will be slightly wetter, summers somewhat drier, and that could breed more wildfires.
  • Rains that thoroughly soak the soil will be less common, something that could alter farming dramatically.
  • An increase in drought could trigger large social and economic consequences, including a rise in farm commodity prices.
  •  Higher temperatures will breed more mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.

It’s a campus thing

The University of Kansas, Wichita State and Kansas State University each had hundreds of more Hispanic students this fall. The proportion of white students, meantime, was either flat or falling.

Stephan Bisaha reports that Hispanic students remain underrepresented relative to their overall population in Kansas.

Wichita State’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research predicts more than half of Kansas' population will be non-white by 2066.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

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

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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