Severe drought has been gripping much of Kansas, but in some parts of the state that grip has been easing; much of central and eastern Kansas is back to normal. As recently as three months ago, around 97 percent of the state was experiencing drought.
Mary Knapp with Kansas State University calls the turnaround “exceptional.”
“In central and southeastern Kansas we’ve actually gone from drought to deluge," she says. "We’ve got a number of locations that have seen incredible amounts of rain in the last three weeks.”
Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins held a town hall meeting in Topeka Wednesday to hear opinions from voters in eastern Kansas, and many of them had immigration on their minds. Jenkins fielded several questions and comments about immigration and the discussion became quite heated.
Renee Slinkard from Parker said the U.S. should close the borders and increase immigration enforcement.
“Our immigration system is not broke,” said Slinkard. “Our immigration system is fine. What is broken is the enforcement of that immigration system.”
The American Civil Liberties Union says in a letter that it's ready to go to court over a voter registration law in Kansas.
The law requires people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to prove their citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate. More than 12,000 voter registration applications have been put on hold because of that requirement.
Doug Bonney is with the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. He says the law, which was strongly championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, puts unnecessary hurdles in front of voters.
Voter registration applications for more than 12,000 people in Kansas are on hold because of missing documents that could prove U.S. citizenship. A state law that took effect this year requires people who register to vote for the first time in Kansas to prove their citizenship.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he's considering a rule change that could allow some of those voters to cast ballots in certain elections.
Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts say funding for a federal lab to be built in Manhattan has passed an important hurdle.
The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, will study diseases that could be used to attack the nation's food supply. A Senate subcommittee voted earlier this week to approve more than $400 million for the lab.
Moran says that a full Senate committee has now also voted to approve the funding.
“It is a determining factor in NBAF’s future,” says Moran.
A state regulatory board has rejected a proposed change to voter registration rules requiring Kansans to show proof of citizenship.
The rules took effect in January. Since then, around 12,000 voter registration applications have been missing citizenship documents. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach pushed for the citizenship law, and for the proposed rule change.
Common Core educational standards were once again a topic at Tuesday’s meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education.
Opponents are targeting the standardized tests used in meeting Common Core Requirements.
Megan King is a parent from Lawrence. She said the costs of the tests will be too high and will require technology updates. King wants the state to keep using tests developed by the University of Kansas.
The Kansas State Board of Education will be asking lawmakers to increase school funding by more than $600 million in the coming fiscal year. That would be an increase of more than 20 percent. That decision came at a meeting in Topeka Tuesday.
The board members voted 7-3 to make the request for increased funding. More than $400 million would go to the base state aid per student that is paid to districts. The money would also increase funding for professional development and school lunch programs.
The state is recognizing eight nursing home facilities for offering innovative ways of caring for older Kansans. The PEAK awards recognize facilities that focus on providing better quality of life for seniors.
“For the longest times, nursing homes and senior living communities have been patterned after hospitals and warehousing-type structures that were very rigid and very structured environments and gave very few limited number of choices to those that live there,” said Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says the state is serious about attracting investments from aircraft and aviation companies.
Brownback attended the Paris Air Show last month to meet with industry representatives. He says the air show, which bills itself as the world's largest, provides an opportunity to showcase Kansas as a place for aviation business.
A task force looking for ways to reduce childhood poverty in Kansas wrapped up a series of meetings Monday. The governor appointed group discussed three so-called "pathways out of poverty," which include ways to improve education, get more Kansans working and strengthen families.
The committee was told that in 2011 around 19 percent of Kansas kids lived in poverty, and they’re hoping that focusing on some key areas can reduce that.
Gov. Sam Brownback is leading a trade delegation to the Paris Air Show this week. The trip to France is aimed at attracting aviation business to Kansas and drumming up sales for the aircraft industry in the state.
"You could travel all over the world for a month to try and get these meetings that you can get in three days at these major air shows, " says Brownback.
"And, it is such a major industry for us as a state that we need to push it and we need to make sure we're on everybody's front and center mind if they're looking to expand."
Teachers and school district superintendents lined up before the Kansas Board of Education Tuesday to support Common Core reading and math education standards. They argued the standards will help students transfer more easily between schools and create students who are better at critical thinking and problem solving.
Sarah Berblinger is a teacher in the Buhler School District. She said the standards also help build a strong foundation for education.
Lawmakers and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback disagreed on higher education funding this legislative session.
Legislators passed a budget with more than $60 million in cuts over two years for the state's universities. In Kansas, the governor has the power of line item veto, which can sometimes be used to block cuts, but it looks like Brownback can't block the higher ed cuts.
University leadership from around the state met with the Kansas Board of Regents today to discuss how to adjust to nearly $49 million in cuts from the state’s higher education budget.
The move was approved by lawmakers over the weekend, and include cuts to the state’s six universities in addition to community colleges, technical colleges and Washburn University. Cuts were also made to student financial assistance programs, the Board of Regents Office, and adult education programs Board Spokesperson Vanessa Lamoreaux said.
The chair of the Kansas House Tax Committee is responding to claims from Democrats about the tax plan passed by the Legislature last weekend. The Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill that will cut income tax rates, but will also keep the sales tax elevated and reduce income tax deductions.
The Chair of the state Democratic Party, former revenue secretary Joan Wagnon, says legislators broke their promise to let a temporary sales tax expire, and put a bigger burden on working Kansans, amounting to a more than $750 million tax increase.
Kansas Lawmakers wrapped up the 2013 session in the early hours of Sunday morning, narrowly passing a budget that reduces spending through major cuts, particularly to higher education.
The biggest responsibility lawmakers have every year is to pass a state budget. It was questionable whether this proposal could pass the House. The chamber’s leadership was putting pressure on Republicans to pass the budget, saying if they didn’t pass one over the weekend the state could miss payments, like a payment for state worker health insurance.
It's looking more like Kansas lawmakers may not work through the weekend to finish the legislative session and could instead leave and return next week. It's getting to the point where lawmakers may not be able to finish by the end of the weekend, even if agreements on taxes and the budget are reached soon.
After a budget compromise is formed, there's a delay to prepare the bill before the chambers can vote on it. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says it would be a stretch to wrap up the session this weekend.
After making little progress for weeks, public negotiations on taxes have continued in the Kansas Statehouse. Legislative leaders and the governor had been meeting behind closed doors, but this week it appeared those talks had stalled. House and Senate negotiators held a public meeting Wednesday, and House members offered a new compromise.
The chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court and a prominent legislator are butting heads. At issue are allegations made the the justice. He says the legislator, who's an attorney, tried to make a deal tying a pay raise for court workers to a constitutional amendment.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is set to sign a proclamation Monday to raise awareness of the need for foster care homes in the state. There's also an event planned on the Statehouse grounds where the Department for Children and Families will provide more information about how Kansas families can get involved in foster care. Gina Meier-Hummel, with the department, says there is a shortage of foster homes.
The House Appropriations Committee has approved an amended version of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to issue more bonds for a federal lab in Manhattan. They delayed a decision Wednesday on the governor's proposal to help fund the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, but after a briefing from Brownback's chief of staff, the committee approved the plan for $200 million in bonds.
Lawmakers just returned to the Statehouse after a break, but already it looks like a disagreement on taxes could push the session past the 80 day deadline. To meet the 80 day mark they'd have to be done early next week, but House and Senate Republicans disagree on whether to extend a temporary sales tax increase. It's set to expire later this year, and House leaders want to let it end as planned.
A new report projects an increase in the rate of job growth in Kansas this year. There are some economic forces that could temper that growth in the future.
The report from Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research projects modest job growth in Kansas this year. It’s driven partially by the energy, construction and services sectors.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback visited the University of Kansas campus yesterday, where he met with school officials and student leaders as part of a tour promoting higher education in the state.
Brownback called KU a "great innovation institution" and highlighted its role in the Kansas economy.
“We’ve really got some momentum moving forward in job creation off of our universities, providing excellence in education, which is a primary issue for us, and we want to keep that momentum growing,” said Brownback.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed into law a bill to combat human trafficking and exploitation of underage sex workers.
The governor signed the bill Monday saying it will provide increased criminal penalties and services for victims of sexual exploitation.
“This will not only strengthen our ability to severely punish traffickers, but it will give us valuable new tools to protect vulnerable young victims so they can have hope of a new life and break the cycle of exploitation,” says Brownback.