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Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City officials agreed to a scaled-back tax incentive package Thursday for financial services firm Waddell & Reed to build a new $140 million headquarters in downtown.

It’s the second time in recent months the Kansas City Council has been able to renegotiate fewer incentives, and a sign it may approach economic development deals with higher scrutiny than councils in the past. The council also took action Thursday to curb the ability of the Kansas City Port Authority to grant incentives. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A Shawnee County district judge was named Monday to one of the vacancies on the Kansas Supreme Court.

Though the state’s most prominent anti-abortion group opposed Shawnee County District Court Judge Evelyn Wilson, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly Chose Wilson from among the three candidates recommended by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. It’s a choice that could fuel efforts to change how Kansas’ Supreme Court justices get their seats.

C-SPAN

The weeks of secret and public hearings in Washington, D.C., are over, the articles of impeachment have been drawn up and the U.S. House is set to vote next week on whether President Donald Trump obstructed Congress and abused power in withholding Ukrainian military aid over a sought-after investigation into a political rival. 

KCUR wanted to know how closely residents in the Kansas City metro were following what could be just the fourth impeachment in America’s history. Here’s what we found out. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Waddell & Reed will have a week to get city officials and Kansas City Public Schools on board with an incentive deal for its new headquarters.

The Kansas City Council on Thursday reduced the company's incentive package and delayed a vote on tax breaks for the project.

The financial services firm is seeking $40 million in incentives to move from its current headquarters in Overland Park to downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It  already has been awarded $62 million by the state of Missouri.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — One solution to Kansas prisons’ woes could come with a $35 million price tag for three new specialty prisons.

The state’s corrections system only treats half of its inmates who struggle with substance abuse. And as some people serve decades-long sentences, the system finds itself home to more elderly prisoners who need special care as they age.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is poised to become the largest city in the country to eliminate bus fares.

The Kansas City Council on Thursday enthusiastically endorsed the idea, voting unanimously to direct the city manager to identify up to $8 million from the city budget to fund free bus service.

Fourth District Councilman Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the measure along with Mayor Quinton Lucas, acknowledged the importance of the change.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

A consultant's report, written by two Los Angles murder investigation experts, is significantly changing the Kansas City Police Department's Homicide Unit.

It makes some fairly routine suggestions — create a "Murder Book" for each case and implement a 90-day unsolved investigation report, for example — but it also calls for more homicide detectives and a drastic change in the way suspects are given a Miranda warning.

The department received the 10-page report in July, but it has only now become public.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Updated Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. with additional data— Missouri’s reporting system for adult abuse and neglect is undergoing significant changes after an investigation by the state’s attorney general. 

The investigation ended Monday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office told KCUR. It recommended seven changes, including a new online reporting system in order to address the thousands of unanswered calls to the state’s hotline, as well as redirecting callers who are simply looking for information about local resources — not calling to report abuse. 

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

There is no doubt Jackson County has some monumental, vexing problems.

The county jail is in desperate need of being replaced. The downtown courthouse needs to be renovated after flooding earlier this year. And the property reassessment process is a mess, with appeals that will stretch into 2020.

Riding in to apparently try and fix all of this is Troy Schulte, who in September announced he was stepping down as Kansas City's city manager after a decade on the job. The county legislature will discuss a proposed contract with him on Monday.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Raytown’s city clerk “purposefully” violated the law when she spurned a request for public records related to a fatal traffic accident, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

The decision has far-reaching implications for citizens' access to public documents covered by Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

The appeals court upheld a trial court's ruling that ordered the clerk, Teresa Henry, to pay $38,550 in attorney fees and a $4,000 civil penalty to the plaintiff in the case, Paula Wyrick.

Missouri has already approved more than 17,000 patients for its yet-to-be-launched medical marijuana program — a stark contrast to neighboring Illinois, which had fewer than 3,000 patients in the first 10 months. 

Licenses for Missouri’s dispensaries are expected to be awarded by January, and cannabis should be available for medical card holders by spring. 

At their core, Missouri and Illinois programs do the same thing: They allow doctors to certify patients to use cannabis if they have a qualifying condition. But there are significant differences in the details of each law, including who has access, how they’re getting access and how the programs can be changed in the future.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansans reported more sexual assaults, domestic violence and stalking to the police in 2018, according to a report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Compared to the previous year, it’s a 6% increase in domestic violence incidents, a 9% increase in rapes and a 27% increase in stalking incidents.

But the numbers don’t necessarily reflect an increase in those crimes being committed, KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City could once again house inmates and detainees in the downtown Jackson County jail after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Sheriff Darryl Forté reached a deal in principle Thursday.

Since June the city has used a patchwork system to house prisoners. Some have gone to two county jails in Missouri and about a hundred have been housed at the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change.

“Our view is that this is in the best interest of public safety in our community,” Lucas said after a meeting at the sheriff's office in Lee's Summit.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to medical marijuana, Kansas may end up looking more like Ohio than Missouri — with edibles and topicals only, no smoking.

The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended potential regulations on Wednesday for the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. It’s far from the first time the legislature would consider medical marijuana: The Kansas Health Institute says 18 bills have been introduced since 2006.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A top Republican in the Kansas Senate said he’s designed a Medicaid expansion plan that aims to walk a fine line — one that can win over conservatives without losing support from moderate Republicans and Democrats.

But the proposal also risks satisfying neither faction.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning outlined a proposal this week that would grow the Medicaid health care plan to cover an added 150,000 or so low-income Kansans.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City, Missouri, city council committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would wipe out a municipal violation for anyone caught with 35g or less of marijuana after 180 days.

What started as an ordinance sponsored by Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington to decriminalize up to 100 grams of marijuana was changed considerably and passed without a second public hearing, angering dozens of supporters who showed up to speak.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Maria Galvan used to make about $25,000 a year. She didn’t qualify for welfare, but she still had trouble meeting her basic needs.

“I would just be working just to be poor and broke,” she said. “It would be so frustrating.”

When things got bad, the single mother and Topeka resident took out a payday loan. That meant borrowing a small amount of money at a high interest rate, to be paid off as soon as she got her next check.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas has approved a proposal to renew contracts with jails in other counties to house some of its inmates.

Wyandotte County Detention Center caps its in-house inmate population at 430, but over 500 inmates are in custody. Jail Warden Jeffery Fewell said space and a lack of staff contribute to the need to house inmates elsewhere, which he calls “farming out.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In the annals of Wild West lawmen, you may not know Thomas Speers, the first police chief in Kansas City, but he was a legend in the late 19th century.

“He was contemporaries with 'Bat' Masterson, Wyatt Earp, 'Wild Bill' Hickok," says his great-grandson Clay Speers. "They would hang around when he was town marshal at the City Market square."

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — On the last day of September, a bulldozer scooped dirt from an empty field between a hotel and a fence separating the land from a house-lined street in Garden City.

In 18-24 months, a massive $41 million sports complex, called Sports of the World, is slated to open at this site, with courts of all kinds — pickleball, basketball, volleyball. There’ll be a trampoline park and an outdoor recreation area with cornhole and a life-sized Battleship game. It’s expected to host cheerleading, wrestling and other sports tournaments, drawing in people from Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Even though it’s the offseason, Kansas Rep. Rui Xu says being a legislator is a full-time job.

Over the course of a week, on top of his part-time gig as a freelance marketer, the Democrat spends 20 to 30 hours meeting with constituents in Johnson County, going to events, working on legislation or helping city council candidates run for office.

Xu isn’t paid for that work. Like every other member of the Kansas Legislature, he only draws a salary from the state during the legislative session, from about January to May. This year, his first in office, he got $19,300.

Barbara Shelly

A growing coalition of groups and citizens wants Wyandotte County to become the first place in Kansas to issue local identification to residents.

Advocates estimate a municipal ID program could potentially benefit about 30,000 persons by making it easier for them to open bank accounts, enroll children in school and access health care.

Michael Barrett

The head of the embattled Missouri Public Defender System is stepping down after more than four years on the job.  

Michael Barrett said he’s resigning effective early or mid-November and taking a job in New York state.

It’s “more family driven than anything else,” he said in an email to KCUR. “Son is in 8th grade. If we were going to move, it was before he got into high school.”

Barrett said he had a job in hand, although he didn’t specify what it is, but he stressed it was not the reason for his departure.  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Underwire bras may still be setting off the metal detectors at the Jackson County jail, but the standoff over the issue, nicknamed “bra-gate,” has ended — at least for attorneys.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Tens of millions of years ago, an inland sea covered parts of western Kansas. Today, chalk columns measuring 70 to 100 feet high tower above the arid terrain in Kansas’ newest state park.

What’s At Stake In The Guns Case At The Supreme Court?

Sep 26, 2019
noclip / Wikimedia Commons

Dave Hardy, an attorney in private practice in Arizona, thinks this is the term when the Supreme Court finally decides whether a constitutional right to carry a firearm extends beyond the front door.

Gun rights advocates like Hardy, who’s been writing about the Second Amendment since the 1970s, have waited for years for the Supreme Court to hear a new challenge to a gun control law.

“You don’t do much work in the field, in terms of earning money, but it’s been something that interests me,” Hardy said.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The federal public defender's office in Kansas says it’s entitled to nearly $224,000 in legal fees because of prosecutor misconduct in an explosive case over the taping of attorney-client phone calls at the Leavenworth pretrial detention prison. 

In a court filing this week, the public defender says it incurred nearly $1.7 million in fees and expenses litigating the case but is seeking only the amount “required to litigate the Government’s contemptuous conduct.”

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