Fri October 4, 2013
Top Stories Of The Week
The Missouri Supreme Court looked at the state's school transfer law. Day traffic on the health insurance exchanges. And the shutdown idled thousands of Kansas City federal workers. Steve Bell recaps those and other top stories of the week on the KCUR Saturday News Review.
Shutdown furloughs most of KC's 27,000 federal employees
“Nonessential” government services were curtailed as partial shutdown of the federal government began, and with Kansas City one of ten regional centers where federal services are concentrated, more workers here felt the pinch than in most cities.
Among the first to close were National Parks sites and federally operated outdoor recreation areas. The Truman Library and the Gateway Arch were not accepting visitors. National Guard training weekends were canceled in both Missouri and Kansas.
Republican Missouri Senator Roy Blunt called the stalemate “Harry Ried's shutdown,” but also opined that he didn't think the shutdown would work when it was proposed by members of his own party.
Going into the weekend, more furloughs of 263 more Kansas National Guard non-government employees were announced. The partial shutdown continued.
First day health exchange shoppers face server overload delays
As federal employees languished without paychecks, the legislation that was the focal point of the shutdown rolled ahead with the opening of the health care exchanges of the Affordable Care Act. There was more interest than capacity, with long delays and requests for patience. Kansas exchange interpreter Rosilyn Wells expressed the frustration mid-afternoon, saying she had been trying to log on since early morning with no success..
Missouri school transfer law scrutinized by legislators and high court
In Missouri's capital, a House-Senate committee discussed whether to change the states law allowing student transfers out of unaccredited school districts. Education commissioner Chris Nicastro explained that having to pay tuition and transportation expenses of the transferees created a hardship on unaccredited districts, limiting the funds they have to improve performance. One suggestion was more funding for those districts to meet the transfer-cost needs.
As the committee debated, the Missouri Supreme court heard a Kansas City area suit against the transfer law that contends it is an unfunded mandate for accredited neighboring districts.
Duane Martin, attorney for the Blue Springs school district argued that the law is an unfunded mandate.
High court hears Chastain's arguments in suit against city.
The Missouri Supreme Court also heard Clay Chastain's lawsuit challenging the Kansas City council's right to sideline his light rail initiative. Chastain maintains that the council had no authority to refuse to submit his plan to voters after he had garnered the required number of valid petition signatures.
The court is expected to rule on the Chastain suit and the school transfer matter later this month.
Nixon spending cut authority upheld
The high court dismissed a suit by Republican state auditor Tom Schweich contesting whether Gov. Jay Nixon has the authority to make spending cuts when lowered revenues are predicted. Nixon says it is the governor's right and obligation to keep the state on track for a balanced spending plan as required by law.
The court ruled that the state auditor lacks the authority or standing to challenge the governor's budget actions.
Kansas SUPCO revokes coal-fired power plant permit
The Kansas Supreme Court trampled conservative toes again, ruling that the state should have required a Holcomb power plant to meet federal air quality standards that would take effect before its completion.
Sierra Club attorney Bob Eye said the state let Sunflower Electric get by with outdated standards.
Gov. Brownback said the court had “joined Obama's war on American energy.” He is seeking more power for the governor in the appointment of state supreme court justices.
The power company said it would not immediately scrap plans for the Holdomb plant, but hasn't announced its next move.
Priest-abuse suit settled out of court pending approval
A civil suit over former priest Sean Ratigan, who has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for producing child pornography was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The attorney for the plaintiffs said because the suit involves a minor child, no disclosure of the amount can be made until the court approves the settlement.
Controversial billboard art piece taken down
A dual-billboard showing a man pointing a gun at the Penn Valley Indian Scout statue was taken down after complaints from American Indian groups. They said no matter what the intent or “statement” the artist was trying to make, the billboard was offensive to Native Americans.
Developers sue Prairie Village for nixing senior living complex
Joe Tutera, developer of the Mission Chateau, a proposed senior living community sued the city of Prairie Village for rejecting the project. Neighbors had complained that the complex was too large. Tutera said city leaders did not follow the law in making their decision.
Mayor announces streetcar vehicle contract, appearance
Mayor Sly James announced that the contract for the streetcars to run on the downtown starter line goes to the American subsidiary of a Spanish firm. Kansas City's vehicle order will be piggy-backed on an in-progress order from Cincinnati. The mayor unveiled a picture of the planned streetcars, which are white trimmed in red and black.