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Noonletter, Nov. 30, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Falling through the cracks

At best, from 2016 to 2017, states kept the number of children without insurance stable.

Most did worse than that.

Kansas saw 5,000 more kids fall into the uninsured category in that year.

Madeline Fox reports that researchers at Georgetown University say the increases in uninsured rates across the country reflected uncertainty about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (aka CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s signature achievement loomed during the year, but ultimately failed. The stability that’s followed has seen premium prices fall in many states since then.

The Georgetown group calculated that 4.3 percent of the state’s children were uninsured. Of those who had coverage, about a fourth got it through the government’s CHIP program. Some 12 percent of adults lacked health insurance.

Seat filler

The state’s voters chose a Democratic state senator, Laura Kelly, as their next governor. That left a vacancy in her legislative seat, and a chance for local Democratic Party officials to pick a replacement.

On Thursday night, Madeline Fox reports, officials in Shawnee County tabbed state Rep. Vic “T-Bone” Miller to take over Kelly’s Topeka-based seat in the Kansas Senate.

So now those same local Democrats will have to pick someone to replace Miller. (Miller ran unsuccessfully for that seat 34 years ago. He wouldn’t say whether he’d run for the office again in two years.)

Two more state senate vacancies are yet to be filled by party committees. They’ll replace Democrat Lynn Rogers, who was elected lieutenant governor, and Republican Vicki Schmidt, who was elected insurance commissioner.

Highways and high costs

A transportation task force figures Kansas needs to catch up on $600 million worth of delayed road projects and stabilize funding for transportation infrastructure.

Its big recommendation to the Legislature: Stop your “sweeps” of the state’s highway fund to pay for other parts of state government. But the panel is stopping short of a “lock box” approach that would all but outlaw such borrowing of road money for non-road work.

“If you want to preserve those dollars,” said Republican state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, “you have to have an administration that cares about that and that’s going to be a priority for them.”

The task force, reports Stephen Koranda, wants lawmakers to consider a small increase in the gas tax and special fees on electric vehicles that don’t have to pay for petrol.

Holding pattern

The prospect of a re-made terminal for Kansas City International Airport keeps getting hazier.

First, the major airlines were on board with the latest design, but the smaller carriers thought they’d get priced out of the market. Now the big guys are having second thoughts about a $1.6 billion single terminal plan.

On Thursday, reports Lisa Rodriguez, City Aviation Director Pat Klein said larger airlines also have some sticker shock. And if Southwest, American and United aren’t in, well, the thing gets grounded a little longer.

The shelter kitties are cheaper

A Kansas man will pay $5,000 fine for illegally importing endangered leopard cats. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister announced Thursday that 34-year-old Lawrence Payne, of Olathe, was fined after pleading guilty to a single count of violating the Endangered Species Act.

The leopard cat is a small, wild cat native to Asia and federal law classifies it as an endangered species.

Investigators served Payne’s home and found three Asian leopard cats. Payne admitted importing the animals.

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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