Sat March 2, 2013
Top Stories Of The Week
The Kansas Supreme Court stayed a lower court order for more school funding. Conflict continued over the possible sale of North Kansas City Hospital. And Kansas City got another major snow storm. KCUR's Steve Bell recaps on those and other top stories of the week on the KCUR Saturday News Review.
Second Snow Storm Shuts Down The Town
The second major snow storm in a week dumped up to another foot of snow on Kansas City Tuesday.
Unlike the snow of a week ago, this time the precipitation was heavy and wet. It snapped tree branches and owned power lines, leaving 98,000 KCP&L customers without power at one point. Roofs sagged and some collapsed. The Macy's store at Metcalf South and a large daycare center were evacuated because of roof concerns. Snow removal was efficient, considering that during the heaviest snowfall, a number of plows became stuck or skidded off the roads.
Snow Disrupts Kansas Primary Elections
Primaries were scheduled in 26 Kansas counties on the day that was forecast to be (and was) the worst of the storm. Johnson and Wyandotte counties were among those with elections scheduled. At a storm-related news conference with Governor Sam Brownback Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach explained that there was no provision under Kansas law for for the rescheduling of an election..
Early voting hours on Monday were extended. Polling places were consolidated on Tuesday.
Holland, Murgia Win KCK Mayoral Primary.
Few voters showed up for what turned out to be one of the snowiest Kansas primary election days in recent memory. Among the races was one to narrow the field of candidates for mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City Kansas. Mark Holland and Ann Murguia won the rights to face off in the general election..
Kansas High Court Issues Stay Of School Funding Order
Governor Sam Brownback got his way. The Kansas Supreme Court late Friday ordered a stay on a lower court order that the state has to increase public school funding, A lower appellate panel had ordered the Legislature to increase funding to a level promised in the settlement of another school funding lawsuit. One of the two orders signed Friday by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss also honored the governor's request that a mediator intervene in the current funding lawsuit.
Plans To Change Kansas Judge Selection Process Advance
The Kansas House had already endorsed more power for the governor in selecting appellate judges, and the Senate had similarly passed a constitutional amendment to do the same thing with state Supreme Court justices. Both were said to be reactions to the frustration of the school funding order. Olathe Representative Lance Kinzer called the proposed changes a “democratic process” that would “restore faith in the courts.” His fellow Republican Steven Becker, a former judge, disagreed, saying the change would end the consistent interpretation of Kansas laws and subject them to the “political winds”of the moment..
Kansas Lawmakers Pass Dozens Of Bills Before “Turnaround Day.”
There was a flurry of bill passings leading up the the weekend start of the General Assembly's mid-session break. Custom says that bills that have not passed at least one chamber by the mid-point “Turnaround Day” are doomed. Among the bills passed by the Senate was one calling for “probable cause” drug testing for welfare and unemployment benefit recipients.
Missouri Republicans Unveil Their Medicaid Expansion Alternative
Two Missouri House committees said “no” to expanding Medicaid and House Republicans proposed their alternative. The plan would cover more lower income adults, but fewer people overall, including 44,000 fewer children. Its sponsor, Representative Jay Barnes, said the parents of those children were making incomes above the federal poverty level and should be able to afford private health insurance.
Workplace Discrimination Bill Advances In Missouri
The Missouri House passed a bill narrowing the state's definition of workplace discrimination. GOP sponsors said the purpose was to bring Missouri's definition into line with that of federal law. Democratic opponents called the bill a regressive change to a superior piece of legislation.
Tax Credit Limits Advance, But Face Uncertain Future
The Missouri Senate passed a bill reining in some tax credits for developers. Its future in the House was doubtful. Speaker Tim Jones commented that he, personally, had never been able to understand why anyone would consider any program that reduces tax rates “bad.”
Trust Fund Established In JJ's Blast, Contractor Permit Becomes An Issue
The owner of JJ's, the Plaza area restaurant destroyed by a gas explosion last week, announced that a trust fund had been set up for injured, jobless and traumatized staff. The building was leveled, one employee was killed and 15 others were injured. Meanwhile the Kansas City city manager's office said the contractor that broke the gas line involved didn't have a permit to dig at the site, and had not applied for one until after the disastrous incident. The contractor, Heartland Midwest, contends that a permit application was faxed to the city two weeks before the drilling started, but the city never responded.
Shows Of Force, Power Plays In NKC Hospital Sale Controversy
Sentiment at a North Kansas City town hall meeting was overwhelmingly against selling the city's hospital. The hospital board has filed suit against the city to stop any sale negotiation. State Senator Ryan Silvey, who was present at the meeting, introduced a bill to and make the hospital a separate nonprofit entity, which would mean it could not be sold to a for-profit company for 15 years, and then only after a public vote. The same day the North Kansas City city council released a statement saying it would soon appoint new hospital board members more amenable to the idea of selling so they could continue to explore the possibility of a sale.