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Kansas government

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas is slipping to the back of the pack on some critical economic measures. In this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, host Jim McLean talks with Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary David Toland about what the agency is doing to try to reverse those trends.

McLean also hears from Kansas News Service reporters about a proposal to ban the sale of vaping flavors, and he asks why Republicans resist Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal to create an independent office on energy policy.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The new Medicaid expansion bill, the product of a compromise between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and some Republican leaders, would change how state prisons and county jails fund health care for prisoners.

Kansas News Service file photo

TOPEKA, Kansas — The same kids who end up in trouble with the law often come from families in disarray.

Those families, in turn, regularly turn to the state for food assistance, foster care or mental health care.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — It typically took Walt Hill more than a year to recruit a psychiatrist to northwest Kansas. Now he doesn’t even bother.

Instead, the executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center relies on out-of-state doctors willing to work remotely, treating patients through video conference.

For years, the center has used remote appointments with local psychiatrists to reach patients in far-flung corners of its coverage area, which spans 20 largely rural counties.

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.

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.

Kansas News Service / Kansas News Service

One might think the end of her first legislative session as Kansas governor would give Laura Kelly some relief.

"Oh, not much," she said. "We've been extraordinarily busy."

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly

Jul 3, 2019

State's chief executive offers insights on her first session in office and her plans for moving Kansas forward

Governor Kelly explained how she is working with Republicans despite pushback from party leaders on everything from Medicaid to the budget. Kelly acknowledged that state prison conditions are a top priority and that she will entertain every alternative to avoid building a new prison "at all cost."

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

They may have each spent only a single session in their respective statehouses, but Kansas Rep. Rui Xu and Missouri Rep. Matt Sain have already learned some important lessons about how state government works, why it sometimes doesn't, and what their responsibilities are to the people back home.

Those lessons are colored by the fact that both lawmakers are in the minority party (Sain is in the superminority), but they're still worth paying attention to. Politics is cyclical, after all, and today's legislative rules will affect the way future politicians do their jobs.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday she’ll dispatch her lieutenant governor to a dozen small cities across the state in hopes of crafting a plan to aid rural areas.

Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity and named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to head it in January soon after taking office.

Rogers will travel to 12 rural communities this summer to “listen to Kansans” and develop “long-term, sustainable solutions” to problems that have spurred decades of population decline in all but a handful of the state’s 105 counties.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas senators met Tuesday to formally vote down Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination for a Court of Appeals seat. In a strange twist, even Kelly wanted her nominee rejected.

The outcome was already known before lawmakers returned to Topeka for the single vote.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The stakes run high for 130,000-some low-income Kansans who stand to gain from expanding Medicaid coverage — and for the political players who will decide the contentious issue.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly made expansion a centerpiece of the election that put her in office. Two Republican leaders — Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning — could see their elevation to higher office also turn on the issue.

Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

Segment 1: Snow removal has pushed some cities beyond their budget.

A rough winter has put both Leawood, Kansas, and Riverside, Missouri, over budget for snow removal, but lawmakers there say it shouldn't impact other programs. Today, we discussed how they're keeping ahead of the winter storms, and other municipal concerns, including a need for more police.

Erica Hunzinger / Harvest Public Media / KCUR 89.3

Whether it's corn, wheat or soybean, Kansas grows it. And given the importance of those crops to the United States economy, people who live in cities might be forgiven for thinking the Sunflower State's farmers have it made.

Paul Johnson, an organic farmer in Jefferson County, just northeast of Topeka, and a policy analyst for the Kansas Rural Center, says the situation in farmland is much more dire than most people know.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature is in the meat of its 2019 session. Not quite halfway through, but well into the “getting down to business” part.

As such, there are consequential conversations happening throughout the Statehouse. Some occur in hearing rooms. But far more take place out of public view — in offices, hallways and the many convenient alcoves tucked into the building’s less-trafficked spaces.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas Legislature handed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly her first defeat this week.

On Valentine’s Day, no less.

They soundly rejected her plan to extend the timetable for covering the unfunded liability of the state pension system, KPERS.

Kelly hoped to lower the state’s annual payments by extending the timetable for amassing 80 percent of the dollars needed to pay all future retirement benefits.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Ty Masterson finally said it this week. He gave voice to what many Republicans had been thinking since November. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s election was a fluke.

“Her presence in the governor’s office is a tragic collision of timing,” Masterson, a state senator from Andover, told Associated Press Correspondent John Hanna.

As a result, Masterson said Kelly lacks a mandate from voters.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers, lobbyists and citizens following the goings on in Topeka should buckle their seat belts.

The 2019 legislative session is going to be a bumpy ride.

It looks like an obstacle course of sorts that will test the political skills, patience and resolve of new Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Teachers fleeing the state? Promises to schools broken time and again?

Here’s some context for the statements you heard about Kansas education Wednesday night — both in Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s State of the State Speech and Republican Senate President Susan Wagle’s response.

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.

NOMIN UJIYEDIIN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

In a live broadcast from the south steps of the Capitol, Steve Kraske and Jim McLean hosted discussions about the political priorities of Kansas' 48th governor as she took her oath of office. State lawmakers and political watchers opined on her chances for turning her Democratic Party platform into law, and how hard a fight the Republican legislature will put up when it comes to Medicaid expansion, school funding and more. Then, Gov. Laura Kelly gave her inaugural address.

NOMIN UJIYEDIIN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Kansas swore a new governor into office on Monday and saw the end of eight years of Republicans in the office.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told supporters, and the Republican lawmakers she’s sure to clash with, that the state had lost its sense of community. That seemingly was a dig at predecessors Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Think of Laura Kelly as the fix-it governor.

As in she needs to fix what, by most accounts, is a state government in desperate need of repair.

For the first year or two of her administration, her biggest job will be restoring the capacity of state agencies crippled by budget cuts and the exodus of employees with the skills and institutional knowledge needed to keep the trains running on time.

Or, more to the point, balance the state budget, adequately fund schools and ensure that foster kids are placed in safe and stable homes.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

When Kansas State University Professor Sunanda Dissanayake and other researchers studied traffic fatalities in Kansas, they expected to find that more people had died on the roads.

After all, the state had increased speed limits on some highways to 75 miles per hour. Higher speeds lead to more severe crashes. But they did not expect such a deadly result.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Segment 1: An exit interview with the 47th governor of Kansas.

After just under a year in office, the outgoing Kansas governor sat down to discuss his time as leiutenant to Sam Brownback, his short tenure as the state's chief executive, and what he's looking forward to doing after Jan. 14 — both personally and politically.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly insists the state budget she’s preparing can fully fund the state’s schools, expand Medicaid coverage to another 150,000 people and begin to repair a troubled child welfare system — without a tax hike.

The Democrat said Wednesday night she’ll lean on experience and relationships built over 14 years in the Kansas Senate to carve out compromises with lawmakers on those priorities.

Yet she described her job as daunting and state government as broken in several key areas.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Leader talk

The newly elected and re-elected folks in the Kansas House got together on Monday to pick their leaders. Republicans, who hold an overwhelming majority, kept Ron Ryckman in the speaker’s chair. But they swapped out moderate Don Hineman for conservative Dan Hawkins.

Democrats replaced the sometimes-combative Jim Ward, who briefly flirted with a run for governor, for the more conciliatory Tom Sawyer.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature showed its tendency to be both more conservative and more liberal on Monday.

The selection of House leaders took the Republican and Democratic factions a bit more to the right and left, respectively, while creating a more polarized Legislature facing Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly.

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