Top Stories Of The Week | KCUR

Top Stories Of The Week

Feb 2, 2013

Kansas moved toward changing the way Supreme Court members are appointed. The philanthropist some called “Kansas City's first lady” died. And the GM Fairfax plant was notified of a sizeable expansion. KCUR's Steve Bell recaps on those and other top stories of the week on the KCUR Saturday News Review.

GM Announces $600 Million Fairfax Expansion

General Motors CEO Dan Ackerson was joined by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Wyandotte County Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon for the Monday morning announcement of a sizeable plant expansion.

Ackerson said the $600 million investment will be one of the largest ever made by GM except in some cases if building an entirely new assembly plant.

There was no mention of adding more jobs at Fairfax, which now employs more than 3,700. An autoworkers union executive said for every job at the plant, there are 7 related jobs at other area companies.

Kansas Senate Passes Change In High-Judge Selection Method

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's agenda rolled ahead. The state Senate passed a proposal like the one the governor asked for in his State of the State address to have the governor appoint appellate and state Supreme Court judges. They would then be confirmed by the Senate.

Kansas Supreme Court and appellate court judges are currently nominated by a panel composed mostly of attorneys, which Republicans say is undemocratic, giving a non-elected special interest group “unprecedented power.”.Democrats say the current system ensures the selection of judges who are qualified, and are calling the change proposal a “power grab.'

The proposed change is in the form of q constitutional amendment would require a public vote.

Curb On Union Political Contributions Clears Kansas House

The Kansas House passed a bill prohibiting automatic payroll deductions for public employee union political contributions.

Republican sponsors said it was about protecting workers from being pressured into making contributions to political causes they don't support, and GOP Representative Marvin Kleeb said, “It's really about the silent majority.”.

Democrats contended that the bill is “a solution to a non-existent problem” that is really designed to reduce the power of unions, Several Democrats and Kansas NEA members also accused Republicans of seeking to unfairly limit the process of collective bargaining with another bill. That bill, which is still in committee, would, among other things, end the right of unions to negotiate how teachers are evaluated.

Nixon Calls For Medicaid Expansion, School Funding, Campaign Donation Limits

In his State of the State address, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon again called for the expansion of Medicaid in the state. The governor questioned whether it is fair to Missourians to have the federal government collect taxes for such an expansion, but spend Missourians' contributions in other states.

Nixon also asked for more education spending, a longer school year and campaign contribution limits.

Republican leadership balked at any additional Medicaid spending. They said Missourians' medical needs would be better served by passing a constitutional amendment allowing a cap on medical malpractice damages.

New Non-Violence Program Kicks Off As Homicide Rate Soars

Kansas City, Missouri law enforcement agencies joined forces as the No Violence Alliance (NoVA). Coordinator Captain Joe McHale said the program will focus on about 360 individuals who are members of loosely organized networks at the core of violent crime.

McHale said police will be contacting those individuals with the message “we want to help.”

Kansas City recorded the most January homicides in 20 years.

Philanthropist Adele Hall Dies

The city lost the woman some called the its “first lady.” Adele Hall was the first woman president of the area United Way, chaired the boards of Children's Mercy Hospital and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, and supported of hundreds of area causes and charities. She was very active in support of the arts.

Adele Hall is survived by her husband of nearly 60 years, Donald J. Hall (of Hallmark), two sons, a daughter, and nine grandchildren.