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Noonletter, Dec. 13, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Read her lips

A month away from becoming the next governor of Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly says she’s deep into budget preparation.

Although she’s been as steeped in the workings of state government as any Kansas wonk during her 14 years in the state Senate, the Topekan says agencies find themselves in worse repair than she imagined.

“The problems are broad,” she said, “and they’re deep.”

Still, she said her team can find enough money to repair the Department for Children and Families, to recover ground on a crumbling infrastructure, to expand Medicaid to cover 150,000 more people and to adequately fund local schools.

Kelly conceded she’ll need to compromise with conservatives in the Legislature and that nothing will come easy. Still, she said the state won’t need to hike taxes any time soon. (Republicans argue not returning a windfall to taxpayers in the wake of the federal Trump tax cuts would, indeed, count as a tax increase.)

In one of her few public appearances since beating Kris Kobach last month, Kelly spoke at a Kansas News Service event that capped off its season of the “My Fellow Kansans” podcast.

Look here to see more of what she said.

Spread ’em out

Any family that’s dealt with mental illness can tell you that when a crisis hits, help is needed now.

But people in Kansas who don’t have the fortunes that can disappear paying for private psychiatric care increasingly must wait … and wait.

For three years, Osawatomie State Hospital has been limiting the number of new patients it will take. The state’s other psychiatric hospital, in Larned, is similarly overwhelmed. Keeping and recruiting staff from the relatively small cities where those facilities are located doesn’t help.

So now, reports Madeline Fox, the state’s mental health agency is fielding proposals for overnight psychiatric care across the state. A bed here, a bed there, closer to a sizable workforce and to the homes of people in care.

A state task force has called for doubling the number of psychiatric beds in the state to nearly 600.


Few states have laws so friendly for gun-totin' than in Kansas. In Kansas, you can have a pistol tucked in your waistband, and adults don’t need a special permit to do so, almost everywhere you go.

Yet Kansas is a pretty average American state when it comes to actually owning a gun. A click-luring feature from CBS News ranks Kansas 26th in the country in gun ownership. Roughly a third of Kansans owns a firearm.

Mostly red, some blue and … green?

The Kansas Green Party — think environmentalism and social justice with a Euro vibe — is pushing to stake out some guaranteed slots on ballots across the state.

It’s already trying to gear up enthusiasm among its rank and file, or to create a rank and file, for a petition drive that will start in April. The party needs 18,000 signatures for ballot access in Kansas.


Still making green

The Associated Press reports the Fremont, Nebraska, City Council has approved its annual agreement to pay soon-to-be-former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach $10,000 a year to defend its immigration ordinance. The last legal challenge to the ordinance wrapped up in 2014.

A little less green

Kelly got called out for charging $10,000 for 10-person packages to attend her inaugural ball. Seems that would bust the state’s limit on campaign contributions.

The Kelly camp, along with the state’s ethics commission, took a closer look and said, yeah, don’t do that.  So she’s slashed prices. 

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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