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More pessimistic state revenue estimates released this week could breathe new life into tobacco and alcohol tax increases that lawmakers thus far had ignored.

The state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group said Monday that Kansas should expect to collect about $5.71 billion in taxes in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s almost $100 million less than the group of economic experts estimated in November, making a difficult budget puzzle even more vexing for legislators.

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network quickly seized on the new projections as evidence legislators should increase the tobacco tax.

“Making tobacco significantly more expensive is a powerful economic tool that will save lives and cut health care costs while also addressing Kansas’ budget shortfall,” said Reagan Cussimanio, the group’s government relations director in Kansas.

Cara McClain / KCUR

Rebecca Koop stood by Saturday watching as workers carted away the boards painted with images of gigantic playing cards. The artwork had covered the windows and doors of an abandoned apartment building at 702 Indiana in Kansas City's Historic Northeast neighborhood.

Study: Alcohol Tax Hikes Beneficial To Public Health

Apr 21, 2015

Increasing alcohol taxes decreased alcohol-related car crashes and related health problems, according to researchers from the University of Florida.

The same researchers say Kansas could see similar benefits if legislators approve Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed tobacco and alcohol tax increases. The increases are part of a package to help the state close a deficit of about $750 million. 

Tony Cenicola / Michael Moss

For decades, food companies have been deliberately bumping up the salt, sugar and fat levels in processed foods to get us hooked. And those unhealthy foods have played a big part in our current epidemic of health problems, including obesity and diabetes. So argues Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Moss in his 2013 book “Salt, Sugar and Fat: How The Food Giants Got Us Hooked.” KCUR caught up with Moss recently when the author was in town to speak at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The Vatican announced Tuesday that Bishop Finn had offered his resignation under a law that allows bishops to resign if they are ill or have another "grave" reason. The announcement did not include a reason for Bishop Finn's resignation.

In 2013, Finn plead guilty to charges that he failed to report suspected child abuse. It was the first case where a pope sanctioned bishops for covering up pedophilia.

In 2012, he was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge for failing to report suspected abuse.

Danny Danko / Flickr--CC

The case of a medical marijuana activist in Garden City who lost custody of her son after the boy spoke up at a school anti-drug event has stirred legalization advocates.

Shona Banda had a custody hearing Monday after police went to her home and seized suspected marijuana that she said she used to treat her Crohn’s disease. She was stripped of custody, at least temporarily, and may yet face charges.

Banda previously lived in Colorado, where marijuana is legal not only for medical use but for recreational use as well.

Garden City is only about an hour’s drive from the Colorado border but a world away in terms of state marijuana laws. In Kansas, possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony on the second offense.

Legislative efforts to change that have gained little traction in recent years, with broad-based medical marijuana legalization bills generally not even getting a hearing.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

While Kansas schools are paying close attention to the state budget, they’re also tracking an ongoing court case that could drastically change the education funding picture in the state.

On the same day the new consensus revenue estimate for the next three years was released Monday, a three-judge panel in Shawnee County once again made it clear it was a player in school finance.

In an email sent to lawyers in the case, the panel reminded them that it will hear testimony at a May 7 hearing on all outstanding K-through-12 finance issues. That includes block grant legislation passed this session and how much the Legislature will spend on public schools.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Sherri Calderwood’s Obamacare story isn’t unique.

It’s probably similar to those that could be told by many of the nearly 100,000 Kansans who have so far purchased coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplace known as healthcare.gov.

Calderwood looked into signing up for an Obamacare plan during the first enrollment period but concluded she and her husband couldn’t afford it. 

Chris Potter / StockMonkeys.com

Doctors in Kansas City rake in more money from pharmaceutical companies than physicians in any other U.S. city, according to a survey by BetterDoctor.com.

The San Francisco-based company, a web and mobile-based physician search service, found that Kansas City doctors were paid an average of $2,945 by drug makers, the most in the nation.

Tyler, Texas, physicians were just behind, at $2,679, while Dallas doctors took in the next biggest amount – although, at $1,574, they were paid little more than half the KC average. No. 8 were Columbia, Missouri, physicians, who received average payments of nearly $841.

John Spertus / KCUR

A Kansas City-Oakland rivalry conjures up the thought of the Chiefs vs. the Raiders in the National Football League — but nothing in Major League Baseball. At least until this weekend.

The Raider’s withering performance on the football field in recent years hardly stirs up the glorious memories of the classic matchups against the Chiefs that dates back to the old days of the AFL in the 1960s — no matter how much the Chiefs attempt to manufacture a menacing growl.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Big farms are collecting taxpayer dollars that they haven’t necessarily earned by taking advantage of a loophole in government subsidy rules, according to regulators, members of Congress and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking aim at what is known as the “actively engaged” loophole, which has been gaping for nearly three decades, by changing the qualifications for some subsidy payments. But many watchdog groups say a proposed fix fails to address the problem.

Michael Zupon / Flickr--CC

Two Kansas City Royals players, their manager and two coaches were kicked out of Sunday's series finale against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium.

When it was all said and done, the Royals won the game, 4-2, and the series.

A’s starting pitcher Scott Kazmir says they left town angry.

“It leaves a bad taste in our mouth. It really does,” said Kazmir.

But Kazmir started the day by hitting Lorenzo Cain.

“I definitely didn’t like it,” said Cain.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas has reopened for the 2015 season after a lengthy hiatus.

The roughly 150-acre facility was first chartered by Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 and opened its doors in 1965, nearly 50 years ago. 

But the Ag Center has never received governmental funding, and for nearly 10 years has struggled to keep its doors open. It even had to close early last May due to a lack of sponsorship.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Hundreds of uninsured citizens flooded into Bartle Hall in Kansas City Saturday for one reason: to see a doctor.

The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics collaborated with KC C.A.R.E. to bring 1,300 doctors, nurses and other volunteers to the city for a one-day free clinic.

The most common ailments doctors saw were high blood pressure, complications due to diabetes and severe dental problems. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There’s probably not an educator in Kansas who isn’t waking up this morning with a bit of queasiness.

Monday is the day of the consensus revenue estimate, an awful bureaucratic phrase that has far reaching, real-world effects.

Economists from state government and academia will lock themselves in a room in Topeka and they will look into the future.

Laura Spencer

Chris Selby reads his work at poetry slams, where he goes by the name TOASTER — he says that’s slang for “awkward and old-fashioned.”

He’s seen several people close to him deal with the challenges of cancer, and he wrote this poem after the breakup of a toxic relationship a friend diagnosed as “emotional cancer.”

AP Photo

The public should expect to see significant evolutions in Medicare and Medicaid in coming years, a national health care expert told a Kansas City audience Friday.

Genevieve M. Kenney of the Urban Institute said an inevitable component of Medicare’s need to save money will be talk about raising the eligibility age. The current age of eligibility is 65, but life expectancy has increased since enactment of the program 50 years ago.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Former Kansas City Royals All-Star Billy Butler is back at Kauffman Stadium Friday — but in a different uniform.

He's in his first season with the Oakland Athletics and getting used to wearing the green and gold uniform colors of his new team.

"Yeah, it's one of those things. It's my locker. I just knew what to put on," said Butler. "Yeah, it's different. I put on a royal blue shirt on this morning. I didn't realize I actually put a royal blue shirt on."

Mayra Chiachia/Flickr -- CC


Niecie's peach cobbler, Glacé's sweet corn ice cream, Winstead's skyscraper milkshake ... what makes for an unusual dessert that you can only get at a specific place in town? Is it in the presentation, an interesting take on a traditional classic, something totally original — or all of the above?

 

On this week's show, KCUR's Patrick Quick reminisces about the Peach Nehi float, a treat from Osceola, Missouri, and then our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza and Jill Silva weigh in on the best signature desserts in Kansas City.

  

  The last time the Oakland A’s came to town, the result was one of the wildest come-from-behind victories in Kansas City sports history. Tonight’s rematch at the K marks an historic comeback of another sort, at least for one longtime fan favorite. Commentator Victor Wishna explains in “A Fan’s Notes.”

In the history of Kauffman Stadium, only a handful of men have stepped up to the plate more often than William Raymond Butler, Jr. His 2,422 appearances include seven home openers, one All-Star debut, and, of course, the bottom-of-the-ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. Tonight, he’ll be there again for the first time since. And, for the first time ever, this home plate won’t be home.

The Royals have started this year with the same intensity that electrified the city in October. It’s as if they don’t realize the season ever ended. Which makes it even harder to believe that Billy Butler, the man known as “Country Breakfast,” is now an Oakland Athletic. It’ll be tough to see him in that green-and-gold, only in part because no one looks good in those colors. The A’s will come in here looking to avenge their Wild-Card humiliation. But for Butler and fans, the sure-to-be-bittersweet reunion calls for a warmer brand of payback.

Mid-America's vast prairies have inspired countless artists. But in a place so wide open, there's always the danger of a person's voice getting blown away by the wind. Perhaps that's one reason 'Lost Writers of the Plains,' a new multimedia literary project, captured the imagination of Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

An updated computer lab at the Mattie Rhodes Center in the Historic Northeast will help Kansas City's Latino community access the technology they need for work and school.

The League of United Latin America Citizens, or LULAC, runs the Empower Hispanic America technology center housed at Mattie Rhodes, 148 N. Topping Ave, Kansas City, Missouri. AT&T donated $200,000 to LULAC to update seven of its community technology centers.

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. 

Paul Sableman / Flickr-CC

 

When hungry Kansas Citians need a lazy night in, they often reach for the phone. They know a wide variety of local pizza places are ready to deliver cheesy goodness to their doorsteps. 

Unless they live east of Troost Avenue.

While national chains Papa John's and Domino's will deliver east of Troost, many local pizza places won't.  

Minsky's on Main Street won't go there. Pizza 51 sits three blocks away from Troost at 51st and Oak — it won't deliver there either. Neither will Pickleman's. Sarpino's Pizza in Midtown will, maybe.

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.

Jake Jacobson

Louis Meyers has heard a lot of music.

He's a banjo player. He’s also one of the co-founders of Austin’s South By Southwest music, film and tech festival, and he spent ten years as director of Folk Alliance International – he was the one responsible for moving the organization and its annual conference to Kansas City. But there’s one record he’s heard only in his imagination: a bluegrass version of The Who's classic rock opera "Tommy."

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Approximately 350 low-income families will be dropped from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program after a new welfare reform measure takes effect July 1, state officials said Thursday.

The measure, signed into law Thursday by Gov. Sam Brownback, lowers families’ lifetime eligibility for TANF from 48 months to 36.

Families that have reached or exceeded the 36-month threshold when the law takes effect will be cut from the program. They will remain eligible for food stamps but will lose their cash assistance.

Kelly Magerkurth

Kansas has a new poet laureate. The responsibility has fallen to the widely published and award-winning Eric McHenry, an associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka.

Poets laureate earn the honor after a rigorous application process involving a selection panel of their literary peers. When we asked McHenry why he wanted to be poet laureate, he expressed his feelings in the language of the common man:

“It sounds really cool.”

Kansas will not, for the time being, change the way it licenses teachers in a half-dozen districts around the state.

Those districts have what’s known as innovative status.

The Legislature passed Innovative District legislation two years ago. It allows those districts the state has granted innovative status to ignore most state laws and regulations to see if they can come up with new programs to boost outcomes.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

When Sister Berta Sailor called Kansas City Mayor Sly James' cell phone a couple of weeks ago, he picked up.

The director of the child care and social service agency Operation Breakthrough told the mayor some of her patrons wanted to participate in events marking the one year anniversary of the shootings at Jewish sites in Overland Park — but there was a problem. The march and candlelight vigil were to start at the Jewish Community Center, and she didn’t have a way to get her people there.

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