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Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There seem to be two competing groups in Kansas City when it comes to deciding how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A petition drive, backed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, seeks to rename The Paseo, an iconic Kansas City boulevard, after the slain civil rights leader.

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The Kansas City council voted Thursday afternoon to allow more bars into the city's Historic 18th and Vine district. 

Councilman Jermaine Reed, who represents the district, sponsored the proposal, which makes it easier to obtain a liquor license in the historic district.

KC Pet Project

Kansas City’s over-crowded animal shelter is a step closer to becoming a state-of-the-art animal “campus.”

Kansas City's Finance and Governance committee advanced an ordinance Wednesday to begin design and construction for the new animal facility.

The $26 million dollar project is partially funded with $18 million in GO KC bonds from the city. Voters approved the $800 million infrastructure bond package last year.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A roiling debate over how to assess big box stores — their worth when occupied, or their value as vacant properties — could upend property tax systems across Kansas.

At the heart is the “dark store theory,” as critics call the strategy. It contends property valuations should look at what an empty store could fetch on the open market.

That would dramatically cut their property tax bills, forcing county and local governments either to get by on smaller budgets or shift a heavier burden to other property owners.

The clock is ticking for the Kansas Legislature to agree on a new school finance formula. One lawmaker in the middle of the debate says while progress is being made, it’s not happening fast enough. On this episode, the story of the legislature’s increasingly frantic efforts to meet the court’s end of the month deadline.

 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas House has had its say on school finance — putting the ball in the Senate’s court. But Senate leaders say they won’t move forward on increasing K-12 funding to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court without a deal to prevent schools from suing again in the future.

 

The message from Senate President Susan Wagle and Republican Leader Jim Denning was loud and clear Tuesday: Kansas must amend the state constitution to put an end to the cycle of litigation over school funding.

 

Updated May 8 at 8:30 a.m. with new recommendations —

Some degrees slated to be dropped at the University of Missouri-St. Louis appear to have been saved.

UMSL administrators released final recommendations Monday on a restructuring effort designed to save the public institution money. The entire University of Missouri System is going through a similar process at the direction of President Mun Choi.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Last year was a busy one for elections in Kansas City, Missouri.

Between approving a new airport terminal, deciding the future of a streetcar extension, and agreeing to property tax hikes for a 20-year, $800 million infrastructure package, Kansas City voters made some big decisions about the city's future.

Next week's election is much more low-key. On Tuesday, voters will be asked to renew a one percent sales tax for 20 years to fund capital improvements across the city.

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A polarizing debate over the role of faith-based adoption organizations, and their ability to exclude same-sex couples, has tangled an update of Kansas adoption and foster care laws.

A bill needed to revise the rules passed the House without a dissenting vote in late February. But it drew opposition in the Senate this week when a controversial amendment was added.

file photo / KCUR

Schlitterbahn, the amusement park under indictment over the 2016 death of a lawmaker’s son on its signature waterslide, now finds itself subject to a full state audit.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Labor said Wednesday the audit is set to take place before the park’s scheduled opening for the summer season on May 25.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Coming off of a weekend where gun violence dominated headlines, Mayor Sly James didn't shy away from the topic at his seventh "State of the City" address Tuesday at Westport's Plexpod.

James touted the city's progress on infrastructure over the past year, including groundbreakings for both the new airport and new convention hotel and plans for a new Buck O'Neil Bridge underway.

Is this the right time for a new political party in Kansas? Can an independent candidate win the governor’s race? The coming election could give us answers to both questions. The viability of independent candidates and parties in this edition of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Even in the wake of national and local protests, students and others pushing for tighter gun laws say, state and federal lawmakers from Kansas refuse to tackle even “common sense” firearm rules.

Thousands rallied across the state over the weekend. They called for stronger background checks. They pushed an assault weapons ban. And they pleaded for laws to extract guns from homes where suicide and domestic violence appear imminent.

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The Kansas City Council has paved the way for a third new luxury apartment building downtown as well as more moderately priced units. But downtown shoppers, drinkers and diners will be paying an extra penny on the dollar.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Council on Thursday approved a $1.66 billion dollar budget for the coming fiscal year. 

As it did last year, the city boosted funding for public safety, which includes the police and fire departments and the municipal court, and which takes up more than three-quarters of the city's general fund. Most other city department budgets will remain flat next year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

For decades, city officials say Kansas City police would write about 300,000 traffic tickets a year. The last few years that's dropped below 120,000, according to Kansas City Police Department records.

While that may be good for drivers, it’s bad for the city’s bottom line.

“So what we’re seeing is, not only a decline in the number of tickets but a decline in the corresponding revenue that are used to support city operations,” says Kansas City City Manager Troy Schulte.

file photo / KCUR 89.3 FM

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a tongue lashing Tuesday from the judge who will decide whether he violated federal law by blocking tens of thousands of voter applications.

Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in “gamesmanship” and skirting her orders.

DCF

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are considering creating a watchdog based outside the state’s child welfare agency, but with access to inside information.

A bill to create a child advocate to review the Department for Children and Families comes after years of horror stories of abused children who ended up injured, missing or dead.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ child welfare agency wants to hire a second full-time investigator to track down kids missing from the state’s foster system.

The move comes in the wake of reports last October, when the Department for Children and Families was run by Phyllis Gilmore, that the agency had lost track of three sisters who’d run away from a Tonganoxie foster home.

Last year the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't adequately funding its public schools. What the justices didn’t say was how much more money would be enough. But a new development has potentially changed the debate to the tune of $2 billion dollars. 

 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It's already a challenge to run the Jackson County Jail. It's overcrowded and understaffed. Everything from the elevators to the plumbing needs fixing.

Now, add to that, the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) is $1.7 million in arrears for housing state prisoners in the downtown jail, the most owed to any county in the state.

file photo / Sam Zeff KCUR 89.3

March madness has many Kansans filling out their NCAA brackets. Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that could tap into that market by legalizing sports gambling in the state.

A bill before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would allow sports betting through the Kansas Lottery. At least one major professional league says it wants some input on the rules, and a cut of the winnings.

Former Wichita Congressman Mike Pompeo is poised  to be the next U.S. secretary of state.

Elijah Haahr
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Ever since Congress passed major changes to U.S. tax policy, Missouri leaders have been mulling their own changes to the state tax code that might leave your tax bill looking very different next year. We talk with House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, a Republican representative from Springfield, about how his 429-page plan can call itself "revenue-neutral."

Are Kansas’ strict voter registration laws necessary protections against fraud, or are they a nakedly political attempt to disenfranchise certain voters? That question is at the heart of a federal trial going on in Kansas. We explain this complicated issue and get the latest from the Statehouse. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas House on Tuesday unveiled a plan they say will make schools safer.

Really more of a plan to get a plan, it calls for the Kansas State Department of Education and state emergency response and law enforcement agencies to develop statewide standards for “safe and secure school buildings.”

Courtesy Ruins Pub

Ryan Cavanaugh has a vision for downtown Topeka: a restaurant and pub called Brew Bank, where customers can access a wall of 20 electronic, self-serve beer taps as a way to mingle and try local brews.

“It’s just about a community experience,” he said. “For the patrons to be able to try all of these beers and try them responsibly in small amounts is just an exciting thing.”

The devices let customers use an electronic card to dispense brews.

“Let’s face it,” Cavanaugh said, “the technology’s just really cool.”

In the weeks since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, student activists and others have taken to the streets in an effort to spur policy makers to talk about how we regulate guns. But, is that debate happening here in Kansas?

Gina Mitten
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's last impeachment proceeding was in 1994, and it's never happened with a governor. That could change this year as a House committee begins an investigation of Gov. Eric Greitens following his indictment on a felony invasion of privacy charge. Host Brian Ellison talks with a member of that committee, Rep. Gina Mitten of St. Louis.

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