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Noonletter, Nov. 27, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

A change is gonna come

A new governor. Some fresh faces in the Legislature. A long-awaited task force report. An expanded stable of private contractors. The coming fallout from a class-action lawsuit.

The Kansas foster care system is getting a makeover. The people running the troubled Department for Children and Families hope that by shaking up the system, they can spare added grief for children already in crisis.

But Madeline Fox reports that plans in the agency involve their own risks.

For starters, the intended fixes come with disruptions. They hold at least the possibility that life for children tangled in the system might still include continued and, seemingly unending, transfers from one place to the next. That could mean more overnights in contractors’ offices and stays in places that aren’t safe.

Agency officials do promise a better system for identifying places prepared to house children, with a clearinghouse that spots openings based on gender, age and special situations such as mental illness.

But people with experience in the Kansas foster system worry that even smart fixes will take time to develop, and that disruption in the meantime could create its own, fresh chaos.

Gotta serve somebody

When she ran for Congress to represent the suburbs of Kansas City, Sharice Davids was coy about whether she’d back Californian Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House if Democrats rose to power.

In her only debate with incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder, the Democratic challenger wouldn’t say if she’d vote to return the gavel to Pelosi. Yoder called it the “Davids Dodge.”

Like so many congressional leaders before her, Pelosi is a political bogeyman. Republicans use her as a symbol of what they see as the leftist tendencies of the Democratic Party and as an ominous threat of what its rise to power might mean. Meanwhile, some Democratic candidates ran for office vowing to vote for somebody else for speaker, as a signal to voters that they were hoping to inject a new spirit of politics onto Capitol Hill.

Davids kept mum, saying she’d see what alternatives arose. As rebel Democrats failed to rally behind some other leader, Davids said Monday she was convinced enough by Pelosi’s promises of legislative rule changes to support her return to the speaker’s chair.

Another brick in the wall

Davids isn’t in office yet. Yoder is. His last big push as a lawmaker looks to be helping build President Donald Trump’s promised border wall (as talk of Mexico picking up the tab has faded) with a $5 billion allocation of federal money.

A competing push in the U.S. Senate would offer just $2 billion for the task.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas supports Yoder’s pricier proposal. But he told KCUR’s Andrea Tudhope that there will likely be a compromise on how much to spend.

“There has to be a number somewhere in between,” he said. “That’ll be the biggest obstacle.”

Yoder’s spending bill splits with Trump orthodoxy on one point. It would prevent family separation at the southern border.

Pennies from heaven (or the internet)

Virtual currencies can be either a fantastic investment or a nightmare. (Lately, it’s been the latter.) It’s pretty much an environmental scourge. But cryptocurrencies are attractive to people who want to bank wealth in something that isn’t controlled by, or tied to, a central government.

So they turn to blockchain technology that keeps shared ledgers on sprawling networks of computers to trade currency.

Governments have worried about people using cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, to avoid taxes. The virtual bucks are also seen as a way to launder profits from crime.

But a handful of states — Kansas is not among them — have pondered how to fit virtual currencies into tax payment systems.

Ohio is actually doing it, hoping to send a signal that it’s a tech-savvy place and perhaps could draw businesses that prefer to pay the government with ones and zeros. For now, bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency it will take for tax bills.

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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