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.

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Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Given all the controversy about KanCare – Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program – it would be reasonable to expect big crowds at public hearings about renewing the program.

But that wasn’t the case Wednesday when relative handfuls of health care providers and consumers turned out in Topeka for the first in a series of forums scheduled across the state.

The sparse turnout disappointed state officials and legislators who attended.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

It took 113 days instead of the scheduled 100, but Kansas lawmakers finally ended their 2017 session Saturday.

Their final act was to approve a two-year budget plan that supporters say will start the process of repairing damage done by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But the session’s climatic moment occurred a week earlier when lawmakers overrode Brownback’s veto of a bill that largely reversed those cuts. 

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The filing deadline isn’t until next June. But candidates already are lining up for what could be the toughest job in Kansas: succeeding Gov. Sam Brownback.

Four hopefuls are at least tentatively in the race and several more are thinking about getting in, including some Republican heavyweights.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers marked the fifth anniversary of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts becoming law by rejecting a bill that would have largely repealed them.

The bill defeated Monday night by the House was similar to a measure rejected May 10 by the Senate. Both would have raised more than $1 billion over two years to cover a projected budget shortfall of $900 million by increasing income tax rates and repealing a controversial exemption given to more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

They must satisfy members who want to set a school-funding target before voting on the tax increases needed to fund it and those who first want to close a projected $900 million gap between revenue and spending over the next two budget years.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A former Kansas legislator who also served as the state agriculture secretary and as a regional official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is running for governor.

Joshua Svaty, 37, launched his bid for the Democratic nomination Tuesday at the Ellsworth Co-op, not far from the farm where he grew up.

Dressed casually in jeans and an open-collared shirt, Svaty told a small crowd of supporters that he was running to “undo the damage” done to education, health care and the state’s transportation system by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies. 

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Private investigators and some other services that Kansas lawmakers consider “non-essential” may soon be subject to the state sales tax.

The House on Monday passed a bill 78-42 that would impose the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on a relatively short list of currently exempt services.

In addition to private investigation and security services, the list includes plumbing and pool cleaning, towing, non-residential janitorial services, debt collection and pet care excluding veterinary services.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

With a Monday deadline approaching, it isn’t clear whether all of the health insurance companies now participating in the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Kansas will continue in 2018.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest health insurer, has made a preliminary decision to continue and has filed initial paperwork with the Kansas Insurance Department, said Mary Beth Chambers, a company spokeswoman.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The drama unfolding in the Kansas Statehouse pales in comparison to the intrigue surrounding recent events in the nation’s capital.

But what’s happening — and not happening — in Topeka will determine the extent to which a group of new legislators elected last fall can fulfill the promises they made to voters to stabilize the state budget and adequately fund public schools.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

After several false starts, the Kansas Senate on Wednesday finally took up a tax bill.

But after a brief debate, Democrats and conservative Republicans voted for different reasons to reject it.

Two Democrats joined 16 moderate Republicans in voting for the bill, which failed 18-22.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Dennis Wright isn’t alone.

He’s one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kansas residents and public officials waiting for the state to solve its money problems so that dozens of highway projects that have been indefinitely delayed can get going again.

“People are incredulous,” Wright says. “Our roads are going to pot. You can drive anywhere in the state and see problems.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The University of Kansas Health System and a Tennessee-based for-profit hospital chain have agreed to rescue a troubled Topeka hospital despite possible changes in federal health policy that could hurt Kansas providers.

Officials from the KU Health System and Ardent Health Services, the nation’s second-largest privately owned for-profit hospital chain, announced Thursday that they had signed a letter of intent to acquire St. Francis Health.

Susie Fagan / KCUR 89.3

Kansas lawmakers are back from spring break with nothing but big issues to deal with before the end of the session: taxes, budget and school finance. When will it all get done? Two panels of legislators sat down with us live in the Capitol to work through the issues as we head toward the end of this legislative session.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

Republican leaders in the Kansas House say it is unlikely they will schedule another vote on Medicaid expansion in the final weeks of the legislative session.

But Democrats say they will attempt to force one.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said lawmakers facing tough votes on the budget, taxes and school finance don’t want to further complicate the final weeks of the session by adding Medicaid expansion to the mix.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers signaled Thursday that they could exempt Kansas psychiatric hospitals from a law requiring them to allow concealed handguns.

Gov. Sam Brownback has requested an additional $24 million in spending over the next two budget years on upgrades needed to provide security at state mental health hospitals and facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A third of the way to an end-of-year deadline, Kansas officials still do not have federal approval to extend KanCare.

In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the state’s request for a one-year extension of the waiver that allowed it to privatize its Medicaid program. The denial letter said neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was doing enough to hold the three private companies that run the program responsible for providing services accountable to Medicaid rules.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of the Kansas agency that oversees the state’s hospital system is working to jump-start the process of recertifying Osawatomie State Hospital.

Federal officials decertified the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in December 2015 due to concerns about patient safety and staffing.

The decertification order is costing the hospital approximately $1 million a month in federal funding.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner is replacing Ron Estes as state treasurer.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced LaTurner’s appointment to the soon-to-be vacant position Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several hundred people turned out Monday night to protest the possible closure of St. Francis Health in Topeka.

The financial struggles of the 378-bed hospital have taken center stage in the debate over whether to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Immigrants — both legal and undocumented — living in the metropolitan Kansas City area face unique barriers to health care, according to a report released this week by the REACH Healthcare Foundation.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor's note: This story was updated  at 10:30 a.m. April 14 to clarify that expansion supporters will attempt to pass a new bill, not override Gov. Sam Brownback's veto.

Advocates of expanding Medicaid eligibility are planning a another attempt to overcome Gov. Sam Brownback’s opposition to an expansion bill when lawmakers return in May to wrap up the 2017 session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

After sitting on the sidelines since his veto of a tax bill in February, Gov. Sam Brownback this week re-engaged with lawmakers working on a solution to the state’s budget crisis.

He needn’t have bothered.

The Senate on Thursday rejected the “flat” tax bill that he was lobbying for by a decisive 37-3 vote.

“This is bad tax policy,” said Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

Kansas Office of the Governor Photo

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas are preparing to mount an intense lobbying campaign over the weekend to get the votes they need to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of an expansion bill.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, March 28.

Buoyed by the failure of Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Kansas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a Medicaid expansion bill in a 25-14 bipartisan vote.

The Senate vote sends the bill to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, whose spokeswoman reaffirmed his opposition to expansion in tweets during nearly three hours of Senate debate Monday but did not say whether he would veto it.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are now a step away from what could be a showdown with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on the political football issue of Medicaid expansion.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A dispute about the cost and potential benefits of expanding Medicaid eligibility is heating up ahead of a Kansas Senate committee vote on a bill.

In testimony Monday to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, supporters of expanding eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, said expansion would more than pay for itself.

Kansas lawmakers know they are late to the Medicaid expansion party, but they appear determined to show up anyway.

"I feel like now is as good a time as any," says Anthony Hensley, the leader of the Democratic minority in the state Senate.

For the past three years, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders were able to block debate on expanding health care for the disabled and working poor via Medicaid, a component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Not anymore.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Sen. John Skubal, R-Overland Park, and Ed DeSoignie, Executive Director of the Heavy Contractors Association, discuss where Kansas could find funding for infrastructure projects as the legislature continues to talk about borrowing more money from KDOT's budget.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

With all of the talk in recent years about Kansas’ budget problems, it can be hard to keep track of what programs have been cut and by how much.

So, some Kansans may not remember that last summer Gov. Sam Brownback ordered more than $56 million in cuts to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Including the amount of federal matching funds lost, the cuts amounted to $128 million.

Kansas lawmakers remember the cuts, and they are taking steps to reverse them.

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