Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Bookmark our homepage at ksnewsservice.org

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Forward Foundation. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Republican legislative leaders blocking a push to give Medicaid coverage to about 130,000 more Kansans say they fear the expansion’s impact on publicly funded abortions. Other Republicans and Democrats reject that argument as a red herring.

The Kansas News Service has learned that Medicaid has paid for a total of four abortions in the state between Jan. 1, 2013, and this month.

Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Room / Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

As the widening coronavirus outbreak stokes fears of a worldwide pandemic, it’s worth remembering that the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic may have started in Kansas. And it hit Kansas City particularly hard.

Lessons from that time still resonate today.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The number of suicides in northwest Kansas increased by more than half in recent years.

Shannon Lockwood / Courtesy of Emily Brown

Emily Brown runs a nonprofit in the Kansas City area. She is a black woman who wears her hair naturally. In 2016, she was invited to speak at a national conference, but one of the board members pulled her aside.

"'You know, I think you’re smart,'" Brown told the story recently on KCUR's Central Standard. "'But I’m concerned, you know, that people in the room may not fully hear you because of your hair. You should consider straightening your hair, you know, before you take this trip.'"

K-State Sports

Scott Frantz has been quietly preparing for what lies ahead since Kansas State’s football season ended at a bowl game on Dec. 31. It’s a future that could change NFL history.

Frantz, an offensive lineman from Lawrence, is gay. His teammates and the Wildcat faithful have known that for three years. But not since Mizzou’s Michael Sam has a college football player been out publicly before seeking a pro career. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

A crossing guard employed by the city of Kansas City, Kansas, died Tuesday after he pushed two schoolchildren out of the way of an oncoming car. 

The incident occurred just before 8 a.m. along the 5400 block of Leavenworth Road outside the Christ the King Catholic School. Kansas City, Kansas, Police have identified the victim as 88-year-old Bob Nill. 

Julie Denesha

A federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, who was publicly reprimanded last year for workplace misconduct is resigning after more than 20 years on the bench.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia tendered his resignation effective April 1, 2020, in a letter to President Trump that was released by the federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, on Tuesday afternoon.  

Screenshot from the Kansas Bureau of Investigations' website

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas is unmatched in its tracking of ex-convicts, resulting in more than 21,000 people convicted of sex, drug or violent crimes being registered on a public database.

One of them is Marc Schultz, who was convicted of manslaughter for hitting and killing a cyclist while driving drunk in 2010.

“I will forever live with the burden of taking a man’s life for a decision that I made,” Schultz said Monday. “But I didn’t intend for this to happen.”

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to cybersecurity, most Kansas counties are behind. Overall, only eight county websites end in .gov, a domain extension that’s only given to governments.

Most of Kansas’ 105 counties have websites ending in .org or .com. And 60 counties don’t use a basic security protocol called SSL; their website URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Both make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in an effort to install malware, trick citizens into giving out personal data or sway elections.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s transportation plan isn’t as bold as those that came before it.

Since the 1990s, Kansas has spent tens of billions of dollars on three successive 10-year programs. Each required a tax increase and launched with a commitment to complete a long list of new building projects.

But Kelly, a Democrat who won election on a promise to restore the state’s finances, isn’t proposing a bunch of new projects. And she isn’t seeking a tax increase to help pay for her plan.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas legislative session began with what seemed like a done deal for expanding Medicaid. Gov. Laura Kelly and a top Republican senator had forged a compromise to offer health coverage for up to 130,000 low-income Kansans.

About a month later, the deal has ground to a halt — and even the state budget could be held up — because of abortion politics. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A proposal to ban all fruity and sweet vaping flavors in Kansas has upset both pro-vaping and anti-tobacco groups.

Hundreds of popular flavors would disappear. Menthol would remain. The flavor restrictions wouldn’t apply to traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

On Feb. 6, 2018, Travis Claussen had his right hip replaced at Blue Valley Hospital in Overland Park.

The 40-year-old resident of Lawson, Missouri, had been experiencing severe back pain for years. Before then, he’d been a physical fitness buff who was into off-road motorcycle racing.

Kansas City Star Parent Files For Bankruptcy Protection

Feb 13, 2020
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This is a developing story and will be updated.  

The parent company of the Kansas City Star has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. 

McClatchy Co., which owns The Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, says it hopes to shed about 60 percent of its $703 million in outstanding debt obligations as it continues its transition to digital media.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

 

TOPEKA, Kansas — A flurry of proposals in the Kansas Statehouse this session take aim at rising medical costs, including one that may be the state’s first attempt to rein in “surprise bills.”

Courtesy of Loevy & Loevy law firm

TOPEKA, Kansas — Wendy Couser, a former juvenile intake officer at the Newton Police Department, has always believed in the importance of consequences. 

But Couser feels that she’s yet to see consequences for the law enforcement officials who beat, shot and killed her son, William “Matthew” Holmes, during an arrest in August 2017. That’s because, she said, police only conducted one investigation, the full details of which were not made public. 

“I couldn’t have gotten information on my own if I didn’t have attorneys,” Couser said. “I’m sure nobody would have told me anything.” 

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House of Representatives has stopped — at least temporarily — an all-out push by anti-abortion groups for a constitutional amendment that they say is needed to maintain the state’s ability to regulate the procedure.

Supporters fell four votes short Friday of putting an amendment on the August primary ballot to overturn a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision that declared abortion a "fundamental" right under the state's Bill of Rights.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas House narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment Friday that would have said there’s no right to abortion in the state constitution.

After the defeat, Republican leaders promised this “was just the beginning.”

“Don’t be surprised when it comes up again because it will come up again this session,” House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said after the vote.

The final count was 80-43, just short of the 84 votes needed to put the issue on a statewide ballot vote where Kansans could reject it or add it to the state constitution.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — When Christi Graber checked into the St. Catherine Hospital emergency room late last year, she thought she was having a heart attack.

Her left arm ached, she felt dizzy, and she experienced shortness of breath.

The hospital’s cardiologist wasn’t available that night or for the next three days, so Graber had two options: Travel by ambulance to see a cardiologist more than two hours away in Hays during a snowstorm; or simply go home. Ultimately, she and her husband drove home.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Curtis Sneden remembers what impatient investors did to Topeka-based Payless Shoes. Pressure for profits now and the bankruptcy that followed.

Now the president of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce looks at regional utility giant Evergy and worries what might come of pressure from activist investment firm Elliott Management Corp.’s demands for a higher stock price.

WICHITA, Kansas — Faculty at state colleges in Kansas find themselves armed with fresh ammunition in their ongoing plea for more pay.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansans will likely vote this August on whether to become the fourth state to enshrine in their constitution that abortion isn't a right.

Anti-abortion activists say Kansas needs the change to protect its current abortion laws against potential court challenges.  

Their abortion rights counterparts warn many of those laws already go too far, and the constitutional amendment would pave the way for making abortion illegal.

Where does Kansas law stand on abortion today?

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Rohingya refugees have made southwest Kansas home, but now a pipeline for family reunification could get cut off.

Myanmar is one of the latest countries where refugees face a new ban on immigrant visas. The country’s Rohingya Muslim minorities have been fleeing genocide since 2015

Last week, President Donald Trump announced a new list of six countries subject to travel restrictions.  

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas — Nikki Heiman was excited to learn that the state was sending a job counselor to work with her son, Trenton, a high school student with Down syndrome.

But that excitement fizzled when Heiman learned the specialist could only meet with Trenton once a month — and only for 15 minutes. That’s all the time the counselor could squeeze into her schedule while handling a large caseload that forces her to shuttle between multiple counties.

Hundreds of hospitals across the U.S., including a number with sterling reputations for cutting-edge care, will be paid less by Medicare after the federal government pronounced that they had higher rates of infections and patient injuries than others.

Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service

OLATHE, Kansas — Candidates determined to keep Kansas’ U.S. Senate seats in Republican hands quarreled Saturday over immigration, health care and federal spending, but no topic was more debated than who is the most friendly and in step with President Donald Trump.

In front of a standing-room only crowd at the 2020 Kansas Republican Party convention, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and state Senate President Susan Wagle argued over which of them was the most conservative and would be Trump’s most loyal foot soldier in the U.S. Senate.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are nearing decisions on two big issues — Medicaid expansion and a constitutional amendment on abortion.

They’re also talking about how to raise more money without increasing taxes. One idea is to legalize wagering on sporting events.

We talk about all that and with Republican state Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Committee on Rural Revitalization, on this edition of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

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.

Chiefs.com

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansans thinking about wagering a few bucks on the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl appearance this weekend would have to go to one of 14 states to do it legally.

But by later this year, sports betting could be legal in Kansas. This year’s bill is a compromise — allowing people over 21 to gamble on sports through the companies that run the state-owned casinos and via online apps. And it has some critical support.

Jose Lepe / AP Photo

Katie Sowers’ childhood passion for football has carried her from Hesston, Kansas, to Miami — and the Super Bowl, where she’ll be the first woman to ever coach in the title game.

Sowers is an assistant coach on offense for the rival San Francisco 49ers, and will be in the skybox with the other coaches strategizing against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the city she loves so much the skyline is tattooed on her left forearm. She’s also the first openly LGBTQ coach in the NFL and, thus, Super Bowl LIV.

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