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An appeal filed by a Kansas man on death row has caught the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court and could change how Kansas and other states prosecute people who commit crimes while mentally ill.

Nobody disputes that James Kahler murdered four family members in 2009. But Kahler’s attorneys argued at trial and in subsequent appeals that he had spiraled into a mental health crisis in the months preceding the murders and was psychotic during the attack. The murders took place in Burlingame, about 30 miles south of Topeka.

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The Missouri Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case challenging the legality of one aspect of Missouri’s death penalty statute.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Let’s say you’re arrested. You’re booked into your local jail and the district attorney decides to press charges.

The next day, you make your first court appearance in front of a judge, who then has to make a decision. Let you go home before trial — or keep you in jail?  And under what conditions?

File photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ new governor wants to fix the state’s foster care. Fast.

Laura Kelly isn’t the first governor to highlight a crisis in child welfare, or to inject cash into the Department for Children and Families.

Expectations run high for Kelly, who sat on a task force examining the child welfare system for more than a year. She’s made fixing foster care a high priority — it was one of just three topics she homed in on in her State of the State address last week.

file photo / Kansas News Service

In her first budget as governor, Democrat Laura Kelly aims to inject cash into what she calls critical state services.

The proposal unveiled Thursday also would start to wean the state off money diverted for years from highway construction and upkeep.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The cast of characters may be new, but the script taking shape at the outset of the Kansas Legislature’s 2019 session rings familiar. 

The new governor — Democrat Laura Kelly — proposes a budget that pays for her priorities. It highlights things that she believes her election shows that voters also want. Republican legislative leaders respond with what amounts to, Thanks, but we’ve got a better handle on what Kansans want.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is planning to close Crossroads Correctional Facility in Cameron and transfer prisoners to the nearby Western Missouri Correctional Facility.

Missourians who are eligible for Food Stamp benefits will receive their February Food Stamp benefit early.  The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamp program, informed states that payments for the February Food Stamp or SNAP benefit must be issued on January 20 due to the partial federal government shutdown.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It's pretty much unanimous now: The Jackson County Detention Center needs to be replaced. That's according to two new, separate studies released Friday afternoon.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach and independent Greg Orman both funded much of their losing races for governor of Kansas through self-financing, campaign finance reports filed Thursday show.

Orman spent $1.28 million of his own cash on his campaign and raised about another $1 million from donors.  He also spent several thousand dollars on in-kind contributions, including software and staff lunches.

Missouri lawmakers gaveled themselves into session on Wednesday, marking what could be a legislative session full of complex policy with the usual politics thrown in the mix.

As was the case in the past two years, Republicans hold commanding majorities in the House and Senate. And the leaders of both chambers have similar priorities, including paring down business and lawsuit regulations.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Members of the Kansas City council hoped that the New Year would bring good news about the progress of the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

As it turned out, things are very much the same as when they left in December.

The airlines serving the airport still haven’t signed on to the final price of the terminal, nor have they agreed how to split fairly the $20 million annual cost of a shared baggage claim system.

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A federal appeals court has thrown out a class action lawsuit against Missouri and its governor that seeks to fix the state’s chronically underfunded and overworked public defender system.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that both the state and governor are immune from the suit on sovereign immunity grounds.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Even breweries are feeling the pinch of the partial federal government shutdown.  

“The regulating body that we have to submit all of our labels to, to get approved by is shut down,” says James Stutsman, founder of City Barrel Brewing.

Stutsman shared his story on KCUR's Central Standard Wednesday.

SpaceX

As President Donald Trump prepared to address the nation about the partial shutdown of the federal government, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran huddled with staffers this week talking about rocket launches.

They fretted over whether the furlough of workers at NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration could force the delay of satellite and experimental rocket launches.

Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3 file photo

The Missouri General Assembly convenes this week and Republicans are still in charge, with supermajorities largely unaffected by the 2018 election. They’re united with Gov. Mike Parson, who's a decidedly less controversial leader than predecessor Eric Greitens, who resigned in June.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio file photo

All over Kansas City, its suburbs and outlying areas, new Missouri lawmakers will be taking their seats this week in Jefferson City. Who are the people representing you? Read on.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Missouri’s lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jefferson City this week for the first session under Gov. Mike Parson. There’s a host of issues on the agenda for General Assembly’s 100th session, and here’s a look at the major ones.

Chris Haxel / KCUR 89.3

Lawmakers this week are reintroducing federal legislation that would require background checks on nearly all gun purchases — what they call "universal background checks." But what are universal background checks, and how could they affect gun sales in Kansas and Missouri? Let's take a look at what they would — and would not — entail.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

After three years of investigation and review, a dark chapter in the history of the Kansas City Police Department appears to have come to a close.

An internal investigation, uncovered two years ago by the Kansas City Star, showed a massive failure in KCPD's Crimes Against Children's unit.

It’s going to be awhile before medical marijuana will be available to Missouri patients.

The timetable imposed by Amendment 2 – which Missouri voters overwhelmingly backed in November – will likely give the state close to a year before pot in its various forms will be legally available for patients.

Dr. Patricia Hurford, a Kirkwood-based physician, is optimistic that the wait will be worth it. She also practices in Illinois, which has had a medical-marijuana program in place for several years.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Depending on where you live in Missouri, the amount of sales tax you pay can vary widely.

Those discrepancies exist within Kansas City, where you could pay anywhere from 8.6 percent to 11.6 percent sales tax based on where you are.

St. Louis-area Senator Andrew Koenig wants to limit the total amount local governments can collect.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

The $2.9 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the federal government could bring newer buses to Missouri’s roads, but it’s up to local transit authorities and bus companies to apply. 

Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse

Though the criminal justice reform bill signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump affects only prisoners charged with federal crimes, it could have an outsized effect in states like Kansas and Missouri, where repeat drug offenders are more likely to face harsh prison sentences.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Updated 7 p.m. Dec. 20 to reflect the city council’s vote — The full Kansas City Council approved four proposals Thursday to address the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

After months of tense negotiations behind closed doors, the Kansas City Council passed a series of changes Thursday that it hopes will cut into bad scrap yard behavior. 

Several times in the past months, a deal was said to be close but it ultimately fell part.

Gov. Mike Parson selected House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick to be state treasurer.

The 31-year-old Barry County Republican will succeed Eric Schmitt, who Parson selected to be Attorney General. It’s the third statewide vacancy that Parson has filled since taking office on June 1.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

When the 100th Missouri General Assembly starts Jan. 9, more than 30 percent of the seats will be filled by new lawmakers. Many are finding that it’s one thing to run for state office, it’s another to actually serve. 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)

Kansas City officials got another look on Thursday at what a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport might look like, although the design is still in the early phase. 

Although the two-story fountain featured in the original conceptual design is still absent, the architect from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) assured city councilmembers that they’re working on one, possibly in the retail area.

The first thing that Kansas City residents will see approaching the airport is… the parking garage.

A Washington, D.C. based think-tank has released a report showing just how hard Saudi Arabia is trying to influence the American government using lobbyists and PR campaigns. One senator from Missouri made the top 10 list of politicians taking campaign contributions from firms representing the Persian Gulf kingdom.

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