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

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas 2nd District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins was jeered Monday at a town hall meeting in Lawrence for defending President Donald Trump and the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers appear poised to pass a Medicaid expansion plan despite objections from Gov. Sam Brownback and uncertainty about the future of federal funding.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, doesn’t hesitate when asked if the expansion bill, which passed the House in late February, will clear the Senate later this month.

“I believe the bill passes on the Senate floor,” Wagle says, adding that she believes it will be approved by a wide margin.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Reports that Gov. Sam Brownback may soon be leaving the state to take a United Nations post have lawmakers and others at the Statehouse talking about how things might change with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer in charge.

Courtesy Photo / Office of U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall

Kansas freshman Republican Congressman Roger Marshall is getting a baptism of fire as he campaigns for the American Health Care Act — the bill Republicans introduced this week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

It is not hyperbole to say the challenges that members of the 2017 Kansas Legislature face are among the most daunting in state history.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Members of the Kansas congressional delegation are under fire — like many of their colleagues across the country — for ducking town-hall meetings with their constituents.

At the Kansas GOP convention earlier this month, two of them explained their reaction to raucousness at their offices. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas was out in front of just about every other state in 2013 when it fully privatized its Medicaid program and renamed it KanCare.

The switch to managed care was one of the first big policy changes made by Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised it would both improve health care and lower costs.

KanCare was immediately controversial.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans succeeded Wednesday in a last-gasp effort to advance a measure, overpowering opponents who thought they had blocked it earlier in the week.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: Due to the illness of a committee member, the vote on Medicaid expansion has been postponed until Monday, Feb. 20. 

Kansas lawmakers are getting ready to do something they have never done before: vote on a Medicaid expansion bill.

For the past three years, conservative Republicans who controlled the Legislature refused to allow a vote on the issue.

Things are different this session due to the ouster of several conservative incumbents by moderate Republican and Democratic challengers.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Not only is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the thick of the latest national debate over immigration policy, he remains under consideration for a high-level job in the Trump administration.

The state’s chief elections officer told Kansas Republicans gathered Saturday in Manhattan for their 2017 state convention that he was advising President Donald Trump and key members of his national security team on how to overcome a recent federal court ruling blocking the administration’s ban on travel from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

File photo

The message delivered to a legislative committee Thursday by opponents of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas boiled down to this: Expansion has been a disaster in the states that have enacted it, so don’t do it.

Gregg Pfister, legislative relations director for the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability, ticked through a list of expansion states where costs and enrollment significantly exceeded projections.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A yearlong campaign aimed at building support for Medicaid expansion culminated Wednesday in a show-of-force lobbying effort aimed at convincing Kansas lawmakers that they still have time to act.

A crowd of approximately 200 filled the north wing of the Statehouse for a rally before the House Health and Human Services Committee convened a hearing on a bill that would expand eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to more low-income Kansans.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

KanCare expansion advocates say confusion in Washington, D.C., is helping their cause as they gear up for Statehouse hearings this week on an expansion bill.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are trumpeting new poll numbers that show them gaining ground despite what appear to be long odds of success.

The poll, conducted in December just before the start of the 2017 legislative session, indicated that 82 percent of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which commissioned the survey.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is hoping the federal government can rescue several critical infrastructure projects that the state can no longer afford.

The Brownback administration recently sent what amounts to a wish list to President Donald Trump for inclusion in his planned infrastructure initiative. It includes the following $240 million in highway and bridge projects delayed or abandoned because of the state’s ongoing budget problems:

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

Kansas lawmakers seeking to keep university campuses, hospitals and government buildings off limits to firearms are facing a familiar argument from opponents.

Namely, that such restrictions infringe on the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s a Second Amendment issue,” says Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican. “It’s a right to bear arms issue.”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas legislative session is not yet two weeks old, but there are already signs of the change that many voters called for in the recent elections.

New legislative leadership and an aggressive group of newcomers are pushing back against many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal, which they say won’t fix structural problems with the state budget.

Message From Voters

From the earliest days of the campaign season it was evident that many voters were frustrated about the “budget mess” in Topeka.

Kansas News Service File

It very well might be too late, but some Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead on a plan to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Thursday to introduce an expansion bill at the request of Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback began a quest to preserve his legacy with Tuesday’s State of the State address.

Facing an immediate budget crisis and a Legislature rendered more oppositional with the ouster of dozens of allies in last year’s elections, Brownback used the 30-minute speech to try to reassure Kansans that the right-wing policy path he has blazed the last six years is worth maintaining.

Kansas News Service

Think twice and don’t be in such a hurry to repeal Obamacare.

That’s the message that an alliance pushing for Medicaid expansion in Kansas is sending to members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There will be a political shift in the Kansas legislature with the new leaders lawmakers selected Monday. Conservatives will hold on to the very top jobs for 2017, but more moderate Republicans also picked up key positions. There is turnover among some of the Democratic leadership posts too.

All the change reflects gains made by moderate Republicans in the August primaries, and gains by Democrats in November, especially in the House. The move to the center on the Senate side is more subtle, but nonetheless notable.

“Elections have consequences and this election pretty much showed it’s going to be a fairly blended leadership team,” said Rep. Dan Hawkins, a conservative Republican from Wichita who lost a bid for leadership job.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates in Kansas say they’ll move forward with legislation despite national election results that signal a repeal of Obamacare.

But they are a lot less optimistic about their chances than they were before last week.

Click here to read about a Kansas City family's growing anxiety about Obamacare's repeal

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

At the end of the balloting today, the complexion of both the Kansas Legislature and the state’s highest court could be radically different.

There’s less suspense about the top of the ticket, at least as far as Kansas goes. Unlike the razor thin margins in some presidential battleground states, polls show Republican Donald Trump well ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the reliably-red Sunflower State.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

New campaign finance reports are calling into question Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s insistence that he’s not involved in an effort to oust several Kansas Supreme Court justices.

Reports filed this week show that Brownback’s Road Map PAC contributed $65,000 to Kansans for Life in September and October, bringing the total since the first of the year to $110,300.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

There is widespread, bipartisan support for eliminating or reducing the sales tax on food among candidates for the Kansas Legislature, according to survey results released Monday by an advocacy organization.

However, when the winners of next week’s election show up at the Statehouse in January, they may again decide the state can’t afford to do without the revenue it generates.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Out on the campaign trail, there are a couple of competing narratives about what’s going on with the Kansas budget.

Both acknowledge that plummeting revenues have delayed road projects, increased the state’s bond debt and forced cuts in higher education, healthcare and safety net programs for poor Kansans.

But that’s where the stories diverge.

Moderate Republicans and Democrats running for the Legislature are blaming the 2012 income tax cuts championed by Governor Sam Brownback for crashing the state budget.

CNN

This year’s presidential race may be one for the history books. But it’s not the contest Kansas voters wanted.

When Republicans caucused in March they overwhelmingly preferred Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over eventual nominee Donald Trump.

Kansas Democrats gave Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders one of his biggest primary victories – a 68 percent to 32 percent drubbing of Hillary Clinton.

Hannah Figgs-Hoard was among a group of Sanders supporters at a Topeka caucus site that literally overwhelmed Clinton’s smaller contingent.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Several Kansans are scheduled to meet Tuesday with federal officials and counterparts from across the country to discuss issues related to the privatization of state Medicaid programs.

Stormont Vail Health of Topeka is closing two regional clinics because of financial pressures created by recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursements and the decision by state leaders not to expand the health care program.

Stormont will close Cotton O’Neil clinics in Lyndon and Alma, according to a news release issued Thursday. The Lyndon clinic will close Dec. 31. The clinic in Alma will close Jan. 31, 2017.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says members of Congress should set aside partisan differences and fix problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Failing to do so, she warns, could hasten consideration of a single-payer system.

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