Government

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Missouri Department of Transportation engineers are warning policymakers that inadequate infrastructure funding could close bridges and snarl traffic in the Kansas City area.

“If a road degrades slightly, you can still drive on it. If a bridge is weight-posted, you can’t drive a heavy load on it,” says MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “That really disconnects communities all across the state.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ever since the Rock Island railway ceased operations in the 1980s, the town of Belle in central Missouri has been an isolated pocket, far from any city or major highway that might bring business through town.

“You’ve heard the term ‘one-horse town’? We’re pretty much there,” says Richard Huse, who grew up in Belle and is now a town alderman. “We’re 1,500 people. And like all the small communities around here, we struggle.”

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Physicians will have to meet with women seeking abortions three days before the procedure and Missouri’s attorney general will have the ability to enforce abortion laws under the bill headed to Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday.

Plantlady233 / Wikimedia Commons

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. to include the comments of the plaintiffs' attorney.  

A Leawood, Kansas, couple whose home was raided by a police tactical team in a bungled SWAT-like search for marijuana will get their day in court after all.

Courtesy Kansas Department of Corrections

Staffing shortages at the El Dorado Correctional Facility are creating unsafe working conditions, according to the head of the union that represents state workers.

JO MANNIES / St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Senate is scheduled to debate a bill this week that would add new regulations for clinics providing abortions. Its supporters, including Gov. Eric Greitens, say these will protect the health and safety of Missouri women, but abortion rights advocates say the legislation is designed to deny access to safe and legal abortion. We talk with both sides about this bill and how the abortion debate plays out in Missouri, year after year.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A 35-year-old man died overnight Thursday after being restrained to a chair at the Jackson County Detention Center.

The man was brought in on a parole violation around 11 p.m. According to Jackson County spokeswoman Marshanna Hester, he was evaluated by a nurse at intake.

Kansas City, Missouri

Another apartment project in Westport moved forward Thursday after gaining approval from the Kansas City Council. 

The plan, which includes 215 apartment units, a 120 room hotel and retail and office space, sits on about 4 acres between Mill Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, north of Westport Road. 

The project would wrap around the existing Manor Square garage between Mill Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and Char Bar at 4050 Pennsylvania.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Hackers who breached a Kansas Department of Commerce data system used by multiple states gained access to more than 5.5 million Social Security numbers and put the agency on the hook to pay for credit monitoring services for all victims.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s prized income tax exemption for businesses is gone.

Over the governor’s veto, in June lawmakers raised income tax rates and repealed the exemption that had benefited roughly 330,000 business owners, including about 53,000 farmers.

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

A task force established by Gov. Greitens to examine state tax credit policy has returned with recommendations that preservationists say would substantially cut the historic tax credit program and make it much more difficult to utilize.

There was a sense of urgency when Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the first special session on May 18, aimed primarily at reopening an aluminum-smelting operation that had been southeast Missouri’s largest employer.

But in the weeks since Republicans gave the new governor what he wanted, there’s been no communication between smelting-plant officials and the state agency tasked with approving lower utility rates for such projects. However, leaders in the area are pinning their job-creation hopes on the other issue in that special session — a new steel mill that could employ up to 200 people.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of an organization that represents Kansas state employees is criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration for using a state agency to deliver a political attack on the Legislature.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said it was inappropriate for the administration to send an email to employees of the Kansas Department for Children and Families that criticizes lawmakers for raising taxes.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaking to reporters last year.
Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. July 12 to reflect a response from Secretary Kobach's office. Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service are continuing to follow this issue.

Kansans who registered to vote at the DMV or otherwise used the federal voter registration form are eligible to vote in all races, according to court rulings, whether they’ve provided a citizenship document or not. But those voters might be confused by inconsistencies on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's website.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday refused to reconsider his order fining Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach $1,000 for misleading the court.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara said the reconsideration request raised arguments that Kobach should have made earlier.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are asking states including Kansas for information related to the National Voter Registration Act — a move made the same day that the president’s commission on voter fraud sent a request for “publicly available voter roll data.”

In a letter sent June 28, Justice Department officials requested data on how states purge registrations of people who have died or moved. The letter seeks information to confirm that states are complying with federal law and keeping voting lists updated.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens made a rare stop in Kansas City Wednesday to sign four bills into law.

One measure would start the process of creating four adult high schools around the state to help Missourians over the age of 21 get a high school diploma and job training.

CAROLINA HIDALGO / ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Governor Eric Greitens had a busy afternoon last Friday, June 30. He signed a major change to employment law, making it much harder for a fired employee to prove a discrimination case. He vetoed a bipartisan compromise that would have preserved a tax credit for low-income seniors and disabled people. And he signed the state budget—while also withholding more than $250 million in spending. Host Brian Ellison talks with KCUR's Kyle Palmer to catch you up on the political news of the weekend and give you an update on what might come next out of Missouri's Capitol.

Kansas News Service

Many Kansas workers will soon see a change in their paychecks because of an income tax increase that takes effect Saturday.

Lawmakers approved a $1.2 billion income tax increase to close a projected $900 million budget gap for the next two fiscal years. 

The new law raises income tax rates and reinstates income taxes on thousands of business owners.

“We’re encouraging everybody to just think about it,” said Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

After weeks of back and forth and lively discussion about what constitutes a "shovel-ready" project, the Kansas City Council on Thursday approved the first round of projects it will address with money from a massive, $800 million infrastructure bond package approved by voters in April. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. June 27.

Disability rights advocates are among the strongest opponents of the Obamacare replacement legislation that Republicans are attempting to push through Congress.

If anything resembling the bill that the U.S. House approved in May or the one the Senate is considering passes, they say it will roll back decades of progress. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers met briefly Monday for the ceremonial end of the legislative session. They considered overriding some vetoes issued by Gov. Sam Brownback but ultimately took no action.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle ended that chamber’s meeting quickly because she said some lawmakers were gone and overrides simply weren’t going to be possible.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Aubri Thompson has already had her share of challenges by age 21: She left the foster care system without a designated caregiver, lived without a steady home for more than a year and became a single parent before finishing college.

Thompson lived in the Kansas foster care system from age 14, when she was reported as a runaway, until she “aged out” at 18. During that time, she moved 21 times, staying in foster homes, group homes and mental health treatment facilities.

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Missouri church ultimately could make it easier for religious institutions to seek out state money for non-religious needs.

The justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied funding. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote it is “odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback denounced the level of spending in the Kansas budget, but he still chose to sign the bill into law over the weekend.

“I am signing the budget, despite my concerns about excessive spending, to avoid a break in core functions of government and to provide state workers with well-deserved pay increases,” said Brownback in a statement Sunday afternoon.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday signed a bill creating a task force to examine the Kansas foster care system.

The number of children in the Kansas foster care system has set records in recent years, passing 7,100 in April. The death of an abused boy in Kansas City, Kansas, also raised concerns about whether the system was protecting children. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

The foster care system in Kansas has problems, but a national child welfare group sees one area where it could lead the way for other states.

Tracey Feild, director of the child welfare strategy group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said work on childhood trauma by KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, could be a model for others. The Casey Foundation sponsors the annual Kids Count report and other child-focused research.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Safety concerns continue to prevent recertification of Osawatomie State Hospital, although a recent inspection didn’t find any evidence of the patient violence that prompted federal officials to decertify it in late 2015.

Staffing shortages and concerns about security and patient safety prompted the initial order. Certain they had addressed those issues, state officials appeared confident the state-run psychiatric hospital would pass muster. 

A Not-So-Extraordinary Session

Jun 18, 2017
Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Back in February, St. Louis passed a law that some say placed too many restrictions on anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. In April, a federal judge struck down many of Missouri's restrictive regulations on abortion clinics. And last week, Gov. Eric Greitens called lawmakers back for an "extraordinary session" to pass a bill in response to all of that. But these two lawmakers think the session, and the reasons for it, aren't so extraordinary.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed into law the state’s new school funding formula, which increases aid to schools by $284 million within two years.

In signing Senate Bill 19 into law, Brownback said it directs “more dollars into the classroom by limiting bond and interest aid, encouraging responsible financial stewardship at the local level.” 

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