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Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, reporters from the Kansas Statehouse dissect what we've seen so far and what we can expect as the session heads into overtime. 

Guests:

Hyatt Hotels

Plans for an 800-room, $300 million downtown convention hotel continues to advance at a whirlwind pace. 

The full Kansas City council approved the basics of the deal Thursday, including a contribution of $13 million in city-owned land and $35 million in cash. 

Mayor Sly James said the hotel was part of his pre-election vision, but the plan is not about personal aggrandizement. 

“This was done because everybody on this council, I think, agrees that this was something we needed to get done,” he said.

The Kansas City Council delayed a vote Thursday on raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The council came to an agreement after nearly four hours of public testimony in committee. Petitioners in favor of raising the minimum wage had submitted a ballot initiative in conjunction with Councilman Jermaine Reed introducing an identical ordinance.

The issue is complicated by an Aug. 28 deadline for a bill on Gov. Jay Nixon's desk that would prohibit cities from raising the minimum wage. Mayor Sly James summed up the council's difficulty with the measures.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A Kansas City Council committee gave initial approval to a plan for a new downtown convention hotel Wednesday.

The city's Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee approved an outline for a $300 million, 800-room Hyatt hotel. The plan puts the city on the hook for $35 million, which would come from the city's existing tourism funds that currently go to Kemper Arena.

Allagash Brewing / Flickr-CC

Craft breweries and distilleries in the Kansas City area could soon have a new venue to sell their libations.

The Kansas City council's Public Safety & Emergency Services Committee advanced an ordinance Wednesday that expands liquor sales in the City Market area near downtown Kansas City.

Currently, only wineries can bring their products to the farmer's market, but the new ordinance would allow state-licensed breweries and distilleries to do the same.

Only one major piece of legislation passed the Missouri General Assembly during its final day of the 2015 session, capping a surreal and strange week that saw the House speaker resign and the Senate paralyzed.

After days of delay, both chambers found time Friday to swiftly approve a must-pass bill necessary for the state to accept its annual $3.5 billion in federal money to pay for the existing Medicaid program and related health care expenses.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Sen. Kay Wolf from Prairie Village, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

(Updated 11 a.m. Friday, May 15) Missouri Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, was elected and sworn in as new House speaker Friday, and swiftly got the House back to the business at hand — passing bills in the final hours of a surreal last week of session.

"This is not the time for speeches,'' Richardson said, ending tumultuous applause from the packed chamber. "This is a time to get back to work."

With the August ballot deadline a week away, a group of faith-based and social justice organizations presented more than enough petition signatures to send a “living wage” initiative to Kansas City, Missouri voters.

That would allow it to pass before a Missouri bill forbidding cities from raising the minimum wage could take effect, assuming Gov. Nixon signs the bill into law.

The initiative would raise Kansas City's minimum wage to $10 an hour this year, and to $15 by 2020. 

A Kansas City, Missouri city council committee has endorsed a plan to require owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet to audit their energy consumption each year.

The ordinance requires calculating energy usage and making the data available to the public.

Supporters say that will encourage energy efficiency, but not mandate it.

Still, it would require owners of buildings over 100,000 square feet to start calculating energy usage in 2017 or face fines.

The smaller buildings between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet would have an additional year to comply.

Updated 1:40 p.m. Thurs, May 14: Missouri House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, has announced he's resigning as speaker and as a member of the Missouri House.

His statement was issued less than 28 hours after news broke that he had been exchanging sexually salacious texts with a college-age female intern earlier this spring.

Diehl's statement does not say, however, when he will step down. The General Assembly's legislative session officially ends at 6 p.m. Friday. State Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, told reporters the House's GOP caucus will select a new speaker tonight.

Republican Kansas Rep. John Rubin from Shawnee, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here.

Guests:

A Kansas House committee has voted to undo part of the tax cuts pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback. The committee voted to reinstate some business income taxes, which were completely eliminated by the 2012 tax cut.

Republican Rep. Mark Hutton says the current law creates an unfair system and may not be spurring much job growth.

“I would argue, as a business owner, that the federal code takes precedent far ahead of any consideration that I get from the state on this issue,” says Hutton.

Kansas Legislature

Republican Kansas Rep. John Rubin from Shawnee, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

Cody Newill / KCUR

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stopped by the recently closed Missouri River bridge on Highway 291 in Sugar Creek, Missouri Thursday to call on state lawmakers to pass a fuel tax hike for transportation funding.

The northbound bridge was closed Wedensday when a Missouri Department of Transportation inspection found a rusted hole through a support strut. 

Nixon said the bridge is indicative of a larger problem with state transportation funding.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Kansas Rep. Nancy Lusk from Overland Park, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Guests:

The idea of a unified metro-wide emergency dispatch system for area law enforcement got a first hearing in a Kansas City council committee Wednesday. 

Assistant City Manager Mike Schumacher told the public safety committee that with existing separate dispatch systems, a crime can occur within a block of a police car, but those officers don't get a call because the need is in a different municipality. And the dispatcher for that municipality doesn't even know the officers are close.

The ride-hailing service Uber has suspended operation in Kansas. That comes after lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that puts new regulations on Uber and similar services. The bill adds new insurance mandates and requires background checks for drivers.

In a statement, Uber says Kansas shut them down, cost jobs and blocked consumer choice. Senate President Susan Wagle calls Uber’s decision to halt service “political theatre.”

Sen. Jeff Longbine says they pursued the override as a solid base for negotiations.

Updated 5 p.m., Wed., May 6 -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had harsh words for the General Assembly’s action to override his veto of a bill that shortens the period for low-income families to receive welfare benefits. The bill also imposes new work requirements.

During a stop in St. Louis, the governor said he didn't object to changing the work requirements. But he did object to the way it was done, which his administration says will result in about 6,500 children getting knocked off the state's welfare rolls.

"You don't move the state forward by taking benefits away from 6,500 kids,'' Nixon said. He explained that there were ways, such as a "protected payee program" that would have penalized the parents, but not the children.

"What did a 5-year-old do wrong?" he asked. "There were a lot of ways where kids didn't have to suffer here."

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Kansas Rep. Nancy Lusk from Overland Park, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

Some digital signs will be allowed in Kansas City, Missouri residential neighborhoods under an ordinance passed Thursday. 

The battle went on for nearly two years, according to ordinance sponsor Councilman Ed Ford. Churches and schools said the new signs were modern, convenient and efficient. Homeowners worried that they could be glaring, garish and constantly changing.

Ford said the compromise ordinance allows the signs at institutions with 15-acre sights (10 acres on busy thoroughfares).

A proposal to require Kansas City, Missouri building owners to make energy efficiency figures on the buildings public met mixed reactions at a city council committee hearing Wednesday. 

The plan would require owners to compile energy usage figures and submit them to the city or face a fine for not doing so. Proponents representing environmental groups, civic groups and some building owners said the ordinance would further enhance Kansas City's image as a sustainability-focused community while helping to improve air quality, reduce energy use and make lower rents possible for many low or fixed income apartment dwellers.

Americasroof / Wikimedia -- CC

A Kansas City council committee took the next step in an attempt to sell Kemper Arena Wednesday. 

The plans, zoning and economic development approved a basic schedule for sending out requests for proposals. The invitations would go out next month, with 90 days for responses to come in. 

Chair Ed Ford said to try to get as many offers as possible the city shouldn't put many restrictions on intended use for the old arena.

"We may get someone who wants to put in a beer garden or a mega-church or move it to the riverfront and make an aquarium," he quipped.

Democrat Kansas Rep. Jim Ward from Witchita, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

Kansas Legislature / Kansas Legislature

Democrat Kansas Rep. Jim Ward from Wichita, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

Kansas City and Uber have come to terms on regulations for the ride-hiring network and its drivers. 

The compromise ordinance was unveiled at the council business session Thursday and passed shortly after 5 p.m. It replaces one passed two weeks ago that prompted Uber to say it was being forced out of Kansas City.

The city agreed to drop the permit fee for individual drivers for companies willing to pay a $45,000 annual blanket fee. 

After more than five hours of talks that stretched into the early morning hours, House and Senate negotiators have signed off on next year's $26 billion state budget.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton from Overland Park, provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session underway in Topeka. 

Guests:

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas has more laws restricting access to abortion than almost any other state. Most of these laws restrict the women seeking the abortion or the clinics providing the abortion. But until recently, the anti-abortion movement hasn't had much success in restricting the abortion procedures themselves. 

Until last week, when Kansas was the first state to ban "dismemberment abortions." While there is no medical procedure by that name, the law seems to ban "dilation and extraction" abortions, also called D&E. 

Rendering courtesy of Cordish Co.

A second Power and Light District apartment tower at Truman Road and Grand has won big dollar incentives from the Kansas City council.

The council Thursday approved underwriting construction of the 24-story Two Light luxury apartment tower and its parking garage for up to $17 million and endorsed what amounts to 50 percent property tax abatement for 25 years.

Councilman Jim Glover told colleagues to think of it not as a subsidy, but an investment.

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