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Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has made a point to say he will not accept harassment and discrimination in his administration. But he won’t say if he’ll reinstate an executive order that would bar discrimination against LGBT state workers.

“What I have said is that we will not tolerate discrimination. If there’s an issue of discrimination, come to me,” Colyer said. “We’ll deal with it. It’s not tolerated by our administration, period.”

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A bill in the Kansas House would require children convicted of sexually violent crimes to register as sex offenders for life. That’s the same penalty adults face.

Under current law, juvenile offenders over 14 can be required to register as a sex offender for serious crimes. However, in many cases juvenile offenders are not required to register for the public offender list.

The bill was prompted by a double murder in Newton. The victims were 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and her 4-year-old daughter.

file phone / PublicDomainPictures.net

Listening to news reports while driving to the Statehouse on the day after the deadly high school shooting in Florida, Kansas Sen. Barbara Bollier decided to redouble her efforts to put a “red flag” law on the books in Kansas.

She wants a system for temporarily confiscating guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others.

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

 

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Wednesday still facing the largest challenge of this year’s session: balancing the budget and responding to a court order to spend more on schools.

In recent years, though, lawmakers plucked the low-hanging fruit when it comes to finding cash. That makes any revenue harvest ahead that much more difficult.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers head into the next stretch of this year’s legislative session after advancing bills offering tax breaks to some smaller businesses, compensation to people thrown in prison unjustly and a welcome mat to industrial chicken growers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Questions about a private company’s efforts to win a lucrative prison contract from former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have lawmakers looking to close a loophole in state lobbying laws.

Current law requires legislative lobbyists to register with the state and report their expenses. But there are no such requirements for those peddling influence in the executive and judicial branches of state government.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate voted 40-0 to pass a bill that would change that.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have forged a compromise to allow more access to video from police body cameras and vehicles.

Legislation debated in the Kansas House Wednesday followed recent shootings by police in the state.

The bill says people in the videos or their families must be given access to the recordings within 20 days.

In the past, it could take months for families to see a video and find out what happened in a fatal police shooting.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch said this plan would give families a definite timeline.

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Missouri’s execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital, is made by a compounding pharmacy in a St. Louis suburb, according to a BuzzFeed report published Tuesday.

The identity of the compounding pharmacy has been a state secret, despite lawsuits brought by media outlets and inmates, the latter claiming it was information they needed to know to ensure that executions will not inflict pain and suffering.

The Medicaid Gap

Feb 20, 2018

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have not expanded Medicaid. This has created a gap for patients who are too poor to afford insurance, but make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. Advocates say that expansion could give coverage to these people, but with consistent legislative opposition, what are the odds of a bill passing this year?

file photo / Kansas News Service

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

If you’re released from prison in some states after a wrongful conviction, you could be owed millions of dollars or a promise of a college education.

In Kansas and 17 other states, you get nothing.

On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from men who’d lost decades behind bars on bogus convictions. They emerged middle-aged and broke, with no work history or credit rating.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Legislation pending in the Kansas Statehouse would require police to release videos of shootings by police officers, stripping away wide discretion that law enforcement in the state now holds on when and what to make public.

Police, broadly speaking, oppose the bill. At a hearing on Tuesday, the measure’s supporters argued the public — and particularly families of those involved in police shootings — deserve easier access to police video.

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President Donald Trump unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal on Monday built on plans that would more heavily rely on state and local dollars being matched with money from Washington.

For Kansas, that poses both challenges and opportunities. The state is short on funding for new construction work, but it’s already begun looking at other options to pay for roads, bridges and the like.

The political divisions in America, and Kansas, appear deeper than ever. Republicans and Democrats can't seem to work together on anything. One candidate for Kansas Governor thinks an independent party might help our polarized politics. We talk with Greg Orman on this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A push to make more divorcing Kansas parents split custody evenly could, some critics contend, make the break-ups harder for children. What’s more, they worry a shift to a 50/50 custody standard could prevent a spouse’s escape from an abusive relationship.

A bill creating a new equal custody standard would significantly raise the standard needed for a judge to give one parent more time with the children than the other.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas sits in a shrinking pool of states with the strictest marijuana and hemp laws, surrounded by a wave of decriminalization and legalization that’s swept most of the U.S.

So it’s no surprise that the topic of cannabis keeps cropping up in the Kansas Statehouse, where some lawmakers and lobbyists want the Free State to jump on the bandwagon.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

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Kansas lawmakers may once have thought stiffer penalties for marijuana made sense, but in recent years crowded prisons forced them to take another look.

One of the changes, made in 2016, reduced the crime of being caught with marijuana a second time from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But on Tuesday, the Kansas Sentencing Commission said that change overlooked state law that still keeps harsher penalties on the books for getting caught with pot residue than for possession of marijuana.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer used his first executive order Monday to tighten sexual harassment rules for thousands of state workers.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced around the Kansas Legislature in recent months, much like the #MeToo movement that’s swept the country.

Colyer’s order requires that executive branch employees under his control undergo annual sexual harassment training.

How important is the tone a Governor sets in state politics? Can a tenor of optimism or the opposite affect policy? As Kansas transitions from former Gov. Sam Brownback to new Gov. Jeff Colyer, we discuss what practical difference this change in leadership might make in the statehouse.

file photo / Kansas News Service

After promising for months to change the tone when he took charge, new Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer spent his first days in office trying to deliver on that pledge.

He was sworn in late Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, he met with Democratic leaders that his predecessor, Sam Brownback, rarely consulted.

“We’re going to keep that dialogue open,” he said. “We’re going to keep working with people.”

That afternoon, he summoned Statehouse reporters to an already refurbished office for a chat.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Almost a month and a half ago, Edgemoor was on the verge of being dropped as the developer to build a new terminal at Kansas City International airport.

Nine city council members rejected a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland-based developer. A measure had been introduced to drop them from the billion-dollar project altogether and proceed with competitor AECOM.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Almost lost in the discussion about the 150 homicides in Kansas City last year is this: Why did the number of women murdered jump 52 percent between 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, 21 women were murdered in Kansas City. Last year the number was 32.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee tackled that issue on Wednesday.

You might think that most women died from domestic violence or during arguments (as KCUR documented in the series The Argument), but the motive for most of the murders is listed as "unknown." 

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Kansas has repeatedly dipped into its highway fund in recent years to balance the budget for all of state government.

Now lawmakers are contemplating a task force to study what that’s meant for the state’s roads and bridges.

Following the borrowing, road projects saw delays across the state. The task force would study the sidelined projects and suggest long-term transportation strategies for Kansas.

During his State of the State address, exiting Gov. Sam Brownback said his budget recommendations included an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. That left many lawmakers stunned, and Senator Jim Denning, a Republican representing the 8th District, angry. We sit down with Denning to talk about what he's expecting as Lt. Governor Colyer takes on a new role as governor, and discuss why an attempted ousting of a legendary state employee ignited a major backlash.

 

Barbara Washington
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Last November, Rep. Barbara Anne Washington became the newest legislator to represent Kansas City in the Missouri General Assembly. An attorney and former journalist, she has long been engaged with politics, but nothing could have prepared her for the onslaught of legislating, which she says is a full-time job, not to mention the political turmoil of her first month in office.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court, effectively ending a promising career. 

Sanders, 50, entered his plea in a loud and clear voice before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. 

Screen grab from the Kansas Secretary of State website

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office took a trove of public records offline Thursday after a technology website discovered that they reveal partial Social Security numbers for potentially thousands of state officials.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Next Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer goes from one of the most anonymous jobs in state politics to its most prominent.

Kansans, in turn, will find themselves with a new governor. Colyer’s politics may run as conservative as the man he’ll replace, Sam Brownback, just more low key.

Brownback is stepping away from the job with a year left in his term to work in the U.S. State Department for the Trump administration. That gives Colyer a chance to show that he’s up to the job and to catapult his prominence in this year’s race for a full term as governor.

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