Jim McLean | KCUR

Jim McLean

Reporter and Editor, Kansas News Service

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas. 

Jim was previously news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

Ways to Connect

file photo / Kansas News Service

Josh Svaty picked a political no-name to team with in his run for governor.

But the pick is someone who checks off boxes that Svaty can’t with voters in the Democratic primary and, if things play out right for him, in the general election.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have struck a deal to end their session-long battle over Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer's plan to tighten eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The compromise, detailed in the final budget bill of the 2018 session, blocks Colyer from implementing a work requirement and lifetime benefit cap as part of his planned “KanCare 2.0” makeover of the program. 

Down To The Wire

May 2, 2018

It's the end of the line for Kansas lawmakers. The curtain comes down on the 2018 legislative session Friday — maybe before. We'll talk about the fate of the big tax-cut bill we discussed last week and the school funding plan. Plus, what is the "Truth Caucus" and what are their plans for 2018?

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a Statehouse rebuke Friday from lawmakers even as they avoided mentioning the combative candidate for governor by name.

During a lengthy debate on a budget bill, state Rep. Russ Jennings offered what at first appeared to be just another in a series of amendments.

file photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

A high-stakes gambit initiated by Kansas lawmakers Thursday could prove to be the checkmate move that blocks Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer from imposing new Medicaid eligibility restrictions.

All the commotion around a school funding plan may have overshadowed the fact that Kansas lawmakers are also working on a controversial tax cut bill. Some say it simply returns a federal windfall to Kansas taxpayers. Others argue it’s unaffordable at a time when the state is still recovering from former Governor Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Lawmakers and Governor Jeff Colyer have written another chapter in the story of this ongoing debate by authorizing a $500 million increase in school funding over the next five years. But will that be enough to end the litigation? If not, are we headed for another showdown like the one that rocked the Statehouse in 2005?  

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

They dueled with pens and camera-ready events. The two men split over what could become a defining issue in their battle to win this year’s governor’s race, and over whether Kansas needs to spend more to fix its public schools.

Gov. Jeff Colyer went to a Topeka high school early Tuesday — a performance he planned to repeat later in the day in Wichita — to sign into law a plan to balloon the money sent to local districts by $500 million-plus over the next half-decade.

screengrab / Kansas Republican Party Facebook page

Being the incumbent may give Jeff Colyer a leg up in the Republican race for governor, but it also makes him a target.

His chief rivals, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, used a forum sponsored by the Kansas Republican Party In Atchison to characterize Colyer as a poor manager and weak leader on conservative causes.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to fix a costly mistake in the school finance bill passed after midnight on the last day of the regular session.

“It needs to be taken care of,” Colyer said Wednesday. “We’ll work with the Legislature on doing that.”

The error — a byproduct of confusion and deal-making in the session’s final hours early Sunday morning —makes re-engineering the state’s school finance formula more difficult than usual.

After months and months of debate, it’s finally happened. The Kansas Legislature has passed a school funding plan. Now, the questions are whether lawmakers can fix a mistake in the plan and, once fixed, whether it increases funding enough to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers may not know for months whether a deal to pump half a billion dollars into schools goes far enough to end seven years of court battles over whether the state shortchanges Kansas children.

If it falls short, the Kansas Supreme Court could call them back to Topeka this summer with yet another ultimatum to send even more money to local districts.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas officials have received a court order Friday to expedite their takeover of 15 financially troubled nursing homes. State regulators say they need to move quickly to protect hundreds of elderly and disabled Kansans who reside in the facilities.

Normally, the state would need orders from 15 separate judges to take control of the facilities, which are scattered across the state. But the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was granted an order from the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday  consolidating all the cases under a single Johnson County District Court judge.

The clock is ticking for the Kansas Legislature to agree on a new school finance formula. One lawmaker in the middle of the debate says while progress is being made, it’s not happening fast enough. On this episode, the story of the legislature’s increasingly frantic efforts to meet the court’s end of the month deadline.

 

file photo

A polarizing debate over the role of faith-based adoption organizations, and their ability to exclude same-sex couples, has tangled an update of Kansas adoption and foster care laws.

A bill needed to revise the rules passed the House without a dissenting vote in late February. But it drew opposition in the Senate this week when a controversial amendment was added.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials are moving to protect more than 800 vulnerable residents of 15 financially troubled nursing homes across the state.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is seeking court orders to put the facilities — currently operated by a New Jersey company — into receivership.

file photo / Kansas News Service

At school, Kansas students learn what to do in case a shooter attacks. Lock classroom doors. Turn out the lights. Huddle out of view from the window in the door.

In the Statehouse, lawmakers are searching for consensus on better ways to prevent, or cut short, school shootings. Arm teachers? Fortify schools? Train kids about guns?

On Tuesday, the feelings clashed in a committee hearing and on the floor of the Kansas House just days after gun control activists drew crowds to March for Our Lives protests in Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and across the country.

Is this the right time for a new political party in Kansas? Can an independent candidate win the governor’s race? The coming election could give us answers to both questions. The viability of independent candidates and parties in this edition of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Even in the wake of national and local protests, students and others pushing for tighter gun laws say, state and federal lawmakers from Kansas refuse to tackle even “common sense” firearm rules.

Thousands rallied across the state over the weekend. They called for stronger background checks. They pushed an assault weapons ban. And they pleaded for laws to extract guns from homes where suicide and domestic violence appear imminent.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

For an increasing number of voters, choosing between red and blue feels like no choice.

Elections in Kansas this year could serve as a proving ground for a fed-up electorate made up of folks who might be disgusted enough to form a new political party.

That possibility drives Scott Morgan to travel the state in search of converts to his Party of the Center, what he calls “a safe and sane alternative to the craziness” of the Republicans and Democrats.

Distinctively, candidates of the new party wouldn’t need to agree much with each other about the issues that typically distinguish Republicans from Democrats — just hold a common desire to break from the way politics works now.

Last year the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't adequately funding its public schools. What the justices didn’t say was how much more money would be enough. But a new development has potentially changed the debate to the tune of $2 billion dollars. 

 

file photo / Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas House committee on Thursday recommended the legalization of medicinal supplements containing cannabidiol, CBD, a marijuana extract used by some to control seizures and pain.

It also moved to keep an herbal stimulant, kratom, legal in Kansas.

Are Kansas’ strict voter registration laws necessary protections against fraud, or are they a nakedly political attempt to disenfranchise certain voters? That question is at the heart of a federal trial going on in Kansas. We explain this complicated issue and get the latest from the Statehouse. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The new head of Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency got a unanimous vote of confidence from a legislative committee Friday.

Even the agency's staunchest critics think Gina Meier-Hummel will sail through a confirmation vote from the full Senate to head the Department for Children and Families.

“I can’t imagine that she will” face any serious opposition, said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat running for governor, and one of several lawmakers who called for the ouster of Meier-Hummel’s predecessor, former DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore.

Orman campaign

(An earlier version of this story mistakenly suggested Doll was removed from committees. He actually gave up those posts.)

State Sen. John Doll, a one-time Democrat, started the week as a Republican holding leadership posts on influential legislative committees.

Then he agreed to be a candidate for lieutenant governor running in the second spot on an independent ticket with Johnson County businessman Greg Orman.

Orman for Kansas

Independent candidate for governor Greg Orman picked a running mate Wednesday with middle-of-the-road credentials who balances the ticket geographically.

Orman’s choice is state Sen. John Doll. He’s a former mayor of Garden City who lost a bid for Congress in 2006 running as a Democrat. He later changed parties and won a seat in the Kansas House as a Republican.

Doll advanced to the Senate in 2016 by narrowly defeating conservative incumbent Larry Powell in the GOP primary before swamping Democrat A. Zacheria Worf in the general election.

Williams Campaign

Update March 7 at 4:30 p.m.: Chris Haulmark has dropped out of this race and is now running against state Rep. Erin Davis, according to a Tweet.

The original story appears below.

There is yet another Democrat in the race for Rep. Kevin Yoder’s seat in the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas.

Sylvia Williams from Leawood is the seventh Democrat and second woman in the race.

Like the other six candidates, Williams has never held public office.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas House on Tuesday unveiled a plan they say will make schools safer.

Really more of a plan to get a plan, it calls for the Kansas State Department of Education and state emergency response and law enforcement agencies to develop statewide standards for “safe and secure school buildings.”

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