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.

Members of the group Keep Reno Heavenly showed a mix of emotions after the Reno County Commission denied NextEra Energy a permit to build a wind farm in the southeastern part of the county.

On one hand, all of its efforts had paid off. Members of the group had worked for months to organize and participate in public hearings, and they finally got the result they wanted — the proposed 220 megawatt wind farm with more than 80 turbines reaching 500 feet in the air would not be built.

Bigstock

A Kansas law that caps jury awards for noneconomic damages — things like pain and suffering — violates the right to a trial by jury, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

“This is huge,” said attorney Thomas M. Warner Jr., who represented Diana K. Hilburn, the plaintiff in the case. “We’ve had these caps on the books since 1986 in Kansas. Basically, the politicians decided that they would be in a better position to determine the amount of damages for noneconomic damages than juries. And so this decision allows juries to make that decision again.”

Charlie Riedel / Associated Press pool photo

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday effectively ended a nearly decade-long lawsuit by ruling that state lawmakers finally sent enough money to local school districts.

Chris Neal for the Kansas News Service

Education officials in Kansas are taking a two-pronged approach to reducing teacher shortages: raising pay and fast-tracking teaching assistants and other professionals to the front of the classroom.

Vaping at Kansas schools is reaching epidemic proportions, prompting the Kansas State Board of Education to launch a concerted campaign against it.

“This thing hit us like a tsunami,” said Jeff Hersh, assistant superintendent at Goddard Public Schools. “Quite honestly it’s very alarming.”

Allen Brewer / Flickr-CC

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

Ed Uthman, Creative Commons (bit.ly/31qRfnM)

Kansas can no longer put off care for Medicaid patients with hepatitis C because of a recent legal settlement. But hundreds of the state’s prison inmates not covered by that lawsuit will have to wait another year for the pricey treatment.

Every summer since 1922, locals and tourists have flocked to Garden City’s Big Pool. Once promoted as “the world’s largest outdoor free concrete municipal swimming pool,” it holds around 2 million gallons of water. “Holds” might now be an overstatement.

The month of May was an all-timer in Kansas, as sites across the state recorded rain on all but two days. The deluge broke state and local rainfall records as well as setting several high water marks in Kansas’ rivers, streams, and reservoirs.

Mike Mozart / Creative Commons - Flickr

Wells Fargo has agreed to a second round of payments to more than 400 members of the military whose personal vehicles the banking giant repossessed while they were on active duty.

Each service member victimized by the bank will receive $12,300 from a $5 million-plus settlement fund Wells Fargo has agreed to set up. The settlement resolves a federal class action lawsuit filed in Topeka in 2017 by Jin Nakamura,  a soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Creative Commons-CC0

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.

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.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For more than 100 years, Eudora had a weekly newspaper.

“We were able to have a sports reporter, somebody that would come out when we had a structure fire and report on it,” said Mayor Tim Reazin, who moved to Eudora in 1997. “We had somebody that sat through the city commission meetings with us.”

But since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have folded, a third of them in rural communities. Eudora residents lost their paper in 2008. Reazin says the result is citizens are less informed – and starved for coverage.

Max Pixel / Creative Commons - Google Images

Nine nursing homes in Kansas and 14 in Missouri are among nearly 400 nationwide with a “persistent record of poor care” whose names had been withheld from the public, according to a U.S. Senate report released Monday.

The facilities are not included on a shorter list of homes that get increased federal scrutiny because of health, safety or sanitary problems.

In the 1990s, the near future looked like a place where distance would no longer matter.

In an increasingly online economy, location would matter less than connection. The internet appeared destined to make working from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, much the same as tackling a job from Pittsburg, Kansas.

Yet three decades later, location matters as much as ever.

Kansas Churches Wipe Out Millions In Medical Debt For Others

Jun 3, 2019
Lydia Zuraw / KHN illustration; Getty Image

The leaders of Pathway Church on the outskirts of Wichita, Kan., had no clue that the $22,000 they already had on hand for Easter would have such impact.

The nondenominational suburban congregation of about 3,800 had set out only to help people nearby pay off some medical debt, recalled Larry Wren, Pathway’s executive pastor. After all, the core membership at Pathway’s three sites consists of middle-income families with school-age kids, not high-dollar philanthropists.

Battles over a Republican tax cut proposal and Medicaid expansion persisted through the last day of the Kansas Legislature's 2019 session … and remain unresolved. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says he plans to address healthcare and tax policy next session, when maybe he'll be Senate President. 


Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Exactly 10 years ago, on May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion zealot gunned down ob/gyn and reproductive rights advocate George Tiller as he was distributing literature in the foyer of his Wichita church.

His murder marked the culmination of 18 years of militant anti-abortion protests that began with massive demonstrations in Wichita in June 1991. Protestors blockaded abortion clinics for weeks during the “Summer of Mercy,” police made more than 2,600 arrests and a judge ordered U.S. marshals to keep the gates of Tiller’s clinic open.

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.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) 

With trees shredded into tinder and homes ripped asunder, scores of families in and around Lawrence and Linwood, Kansas, surveyed lives that forever will be marked by the time before and after Tuesday’s tornado.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 9:49 p.m. with tornado warnings canceled — A large tornado caused damage south of Lawrence and in the small town of Linwood, Kansas, on Tuesday night, but looked to miss the majority of the Kansas City metro area.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

A teenager wakes up, gets ready for school. Slips a smartphone into her pocket on the way out the door.

Her day may well include some biology or chemistry, history, algebra, English and Spanish. It likely won’t include lessons on how that smartphone — more powerful than the computers aboard the Apollo moon missions — and its myriad colorful apps actually work.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Overflowing rivers and reservoirs across Kansas are already producing significant flooding, particularly in the southeast corner of the state.

But, forecasters say, things could get much worse over the next several days as slow-moving thunderstorms develop over central and northeast Kansas.

Andrea Allen / Wikimedia Commons, bit.ly/2M4AQBz

In April, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s constitution gives women a right to abortion.

That landmark ruling bolsters an ongoing lawsuit to expand access to abortion in Wichita. The case aims to clear the way for a clinic there — unable to find any willing, local doctors — to lean more on physicians in other states.

Passenger trains will keep rolling through rural communities in Kansas, for now. But Amtrak still hasn’t committed to operating the long-distance routes that connect small towns to larger cities long-term.

Earlier this year, Congress agreed to an additional $50 million to keep the Southwest Chief, which travels from Chicago to Los Angeles with stops in several small Kansas cities, running through September.

File photo

A day after Kansas notified Planned Parenthood in May 2016 that it would cut off its participation in Medicaid, the nonprofit group sued to block the move.

So Kansas hired three high-powered East Coast law firms to defend it in a case that would slog on for nearly three years before Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration agreed to drop the termination effort in April.

Standing near the corner of his property in southeastern Reno County, Nick Egli looked east and pointed to the proposed locations for several 500-feet-tall wind turbines.

Egli is standing on a grass airstrip he’s spent the last 10 years building. He pictures a few more homes, some hangars and, eventually, a residential community for pilots of small planes.

“If there’s turbines there, you’ve completely killed everything I’ve been working on the last 10 years,” he said.

FILE PHOTO / Chris Neal for the Kansas News Service

Rethink those planned tuition hikes. That’s the word from the Kansas Board of Regents, which is considering tuition proposals from universities not long after lawmakers approved a state funding boost meant to hold down student costs.

 

Regent Mark Hutton, a former state representative himself, said lawmakers won’t be happy to see tuition rise after adding around $30 million for higher education in the state budget.

 

The Atkins-Ingram family

Garden City Community College Trustees voted Tuesday to spend $100,000 on an independent investigation into the exertional heatstroke death of a football player last August.

The family and friends of 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth from Neptune, New Jersey, have been calling for an independent probe since the teen died after a conditioning practice.

GARDEN CITY — In the 1940s and ’50s, people of color couldn’t use the public swimming pool here. If they went to the movie theater in Garden City, Hispanic patrons could only sit in the balcony.

A few generations later, Garden City School Board member Tim Cruz served on the city commission and as mayor. He played a role in dealing with leaks in the city’s swimming pool, known as The Big Pool.

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