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Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Beyoncé tickets. Pricey steak dinners. Royals games. 

Lobbyists used to be able to spend thousands in an effort to influence Missouri lawmakers. Voters approved a $5 dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. A KCUR analysis of data released this month by the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there’s been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. 

In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That’s a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session. 

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Across Missouri, hundreds of people have applied to grow, manufacture and sell medical marijuana. On Thursday, the Kansas City Council decided how far the businesses can be from schools, churches and day cares.

Under the constitutional amendment Missouri voters approved in November, the buffer zone for cannabis cultivation farms, testing sites and dispensaries can be no greater than 1,000 feet.

“When you close down such a large part of the city with the distances, you have almost no landlords left to lease to. And the ones that want to, want to charge $30- to $40,000 nonrefundable,” said Bianca Sullivan, an attorney looking to get into the medical cannabis business.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Crews are hard at work at Kansas City International Airport tearing down Terminal A and recycling its components to make way for a new, greener single terminal.

There have been no explosions, no big building collapse — and for good reason, says deputy director Justin Meyer.

Sam Zeff

In a move that caught the Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) off guard, one member proposed Monday that the entire reassessment should be tossed out.

“It’s essentially a do-over,” said Preston Smith who represents Blue Springs schools on the BOE.

Under Smith's plan any property whose market value increased by more than 200 percent would see a hike in valuation of 14 percent.

If the property jumped 100 percent to 200 percent, the valuation would increase 13 percent.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

In baseball circles, the St. Louis Cardinals organization is known for its so-called “The Cardinal Way,” a manual of sorts that players and managers adhere to in the quest for consistency. 

Since August 2018, Missouri state government has been teaching “The Missouri Way,” a leadership training program that’s already indoctrinated more than 1,000 employees from the 16 executive departments. Statewide-elected officials like the secretary of state, auditor and attorney general are not required to take the training, and neither is their staff. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County property owners may have more time to appeal their valuations as the reassessment mess in the county rolls on with no solution in sight.

At the urging of a half dozen county legislators, the Board of Equalization (BOE) at its meeting Wednesday decided to consider extending the appeals deadline past Monday, July 8.

File phto

A Johnson County judge on Tuesday tossed out a defamation lawsuit brought by Kansas Sen. Majority Leader Jim Denning against The Kansas City Star, finding Denning failed to prove malice.

Judge Paul Gurney also ordered Denning to pay the newspaper’s attorney fees, which could run as high as $40,000.

Gurney ruled that Denning had not met the requirements of the Kansas Speech Protection Act, which is designed to end meritless lawsuits that target the exercise of free speech.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Members of the Jackson County Legislature on Friday unanimously called on the county executive to discard all recently issued property reassessments.

It was the newest move in an ongoing controversy surrounding Jackson County's reassessment of the 300,000 parcels of land in the county.

"It's become clear there are numerous grave errors in the 2019 reassessment values," legislators wrote in a statement to County Executive Frank White on Friday afternoon. They said White should "provide a resolution to this situation" although no specifics actions were suggested.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There are now 22,000 informal appeals related to the growing reassessment mess in Jackson County.

The Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE), which decides formal appeals of property valuations, is now bracing to hear the cases from people who believe their property was overvalued in the recent reassessment.

"Twenty thousand cases is overwhelming," board vice chair Marilyn Shapiro said at a BOE meeting Thursday in Independence.

BNIM and HOK

A new office tower and parking garage may be on the way to the Power & Light District after the Kansas City Council's Finance and Governance Committee passed a development financing agreement.

Sam Zeff

Jackson County says the reassessment of 15,000 pieces of property are now being disputed."We're now looking at the entire Westside," said Gail McCann Beatty, the county's director of assessment. 

On Tuesday, the county clarified its plans for the neighborhood.

“It is important that everyone know that no area of the county is getting a ‘redo,’” Jackson County spokesperson Marshanna Hester said in a statement. She noted the county was reviewing some residential properties with adjoining vacant lots, which are mainly situated in the city’s urban core, including the Westside.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Kansas has agreed to change its policy and allow transgender people born in the state to update the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Friday entered into a consent decree that ends a lawsuit brought by four native Kansans and the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, Inc. (K-STEP).

The policy change is significant because birth certificates can determine access to education, employment, health care, travel and the ability to obtain other identification documents.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The day after Quinton Lucas defeated his fellow Kansas City Council member, Jolie Justus, in the city's mayoral election, Lucas said he had a roadmap for what he would consider a successful tenure. His three criteria are based on his major campaign issues of crime, infrastructure and housing.

Number one on his priorities list, he said, is creating a safer city.

“I want to see us get below 100 homicides for like two years in a row, not just one,” Lucas said. “I want to see us out of the top 10 most dangerous cities list.”

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

“A Clockwork Orange.” “Invisible Man.” “Twelve Years a Slave.” 

Issues of Bloomberg Businessweek, Us Weekly, Elle.

“Excel 2016 for Dummies.” “Tarot Fundamentals.” “Electrical Theory.”

Over the past 15 years, the Kansas Department of Corrections banned those titles, and about 7,000 others, from its prisons across the state.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

When it comes to fighting blight in his east Kansas City neighborhood, Dale Fugate sometimes takes matters into his own hands during neighborhood clean-ups.

“I'm a little bolder than a lot of people, and I just take a trash bag up and clean the front yard up and somebody might complain, I don't know,” said Fugate, who helped start the McCoy Park Neighbors group. “But usually in a situation like that, it's an abandoned house. There's nobody there. And actually the neighbors are all glad you do it.”

Under a bill passed by the Missouri General Assembly with just hours left in this year’s session, Fugate would have the ability to do those clean-ups without any legal consequences.

Updated at 4 p.m. on Thursday with the filing of the ACLU's lawsuit:

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected bids to place a newly signed abortion ban up for a statewide vote in 2020, citing the fact that a provision in the measure goes into effect right away.

At least one group seeking to overturn the eight-week ban has gone to court against the GOP statewide official’s action.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is taking aim at YouTube after The New York Times reported it was recommending videos of minors to users who watch sexually suggestive content.

The GOP senator wants to ban video-sharing services like YouTube from queuing up videos of minors to users — which he said would “place children’s safety over profits and pedophiles.”

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The state spending review panel is freeing up some of the money the Kansas Department of Corrections asked for to place inmates in county jails and private facilities. Prison officials say it’s a last resort.

Lawyers for Missouri’s only abortion provider told a St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Wednesday that it has been unable to renew the clinic’s annual license because state health officials have not followed proper procedures.

Planned Parenthood has asked Judge Michael Stelzer to issue a temporary injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Jamie Boyer, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, told the judge during a hearing that the department’s efforts to interview independent physicians who work at the clinic have been an obstacle.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

The House has approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid package despite earlier objections from Republicans.

The legislation was approved 354-58. All those who opposed it were Republicans. The Senate already passed the bill overwhelmingly and it heads to the president's desk for his signature.

After Gov. Mike Parson signed an eight-week abortion ban into law, opponents vowed to put the measure up for a statewide vote — similar to a successful effort in 2018 to repeal Missouri’s right-to-work law.

But there could be an obstacle: A clause making one part of the proposal go into effect right away.

Wind farms have been sprouting across Kansas horizons for nearly 20 years, planting ever-more-giant turbines capable of transforming breezes into clean-energy megawatts and remaking the plains-and-prairie landscape.

The rules about how close those towering structures can stand to a road, to a home, or to a property line vary by project and from one county after the next.

Chris Haxel / KCUR 89.3

For the second straight legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly didn't pass any pro-gun legislation, while one bill backed by anti-gun groups saw a sliver of success.

Does that mean legislators’ stance on guns is shifting? It depends on whom you ask.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:05 p.m. May 24 with comment from Parson spokesman — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed strict abortion regulations into law Friday, just hours after one of the biggest GOP donors encouraged him to veto it. 

Last year, Missouri's hotline for reports about abuse of elderly adults, as well as abuse of residents with disabilities, answered only half of its calls.

More than 17,000 callers heard the message, "All agents are busy, please call back," and the calls were disconnected.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Counties across Missouri hoped this was the year that the Department of Corrections would make headway on the $20-$30 million they’re owed for housing inmates who eventually go to state prisons.

But legislators allocated only $1.75 million more to address the backlog. Missouri's practice of reimbursing counties in this way is unique in the United States, and local sheriffs and county leaders say it’s time for a better solution.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3 file photo

In this very special episode of KCUR’s Statehouse Blend Missouri podcast, we joined forces with St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking podcast to round up the 2019 session of the Missouri General Assembly.

State Rep. Bruce Franks will step down from his St. Louis-based seat, citing a need to deal with his anxiety and depression.

The Democrat said he still wants to make his mark on St. Louis’ politics, even though he’ll no longer be in elected office. He’s also hoping his spotlight on mental health will resonate.

After a week that featured titanic battles over high-profile legislation, Missouri lawmakers are heading into the final day with a lot on their plate.

The unfinished business set for Friday includes final passage of abortion legislation that’s made national headlines, as well as a bill to overhaul the low-income housing tax-credit program.

Updated at 6 a.m. May 16 with Senate passage — Missouri is a step closer to having some of the strictest limits on abortion in the country.

The measure approved by the state Senate early Thursday bans abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, usually around six to eight weeks. There is no exception for rape or incest and there are also complete bans on abortion if a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome, or based on race or gender.

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