Government

Government
8:52 am
Fri November 21, 2014

Kansas Transportation Funding Might Help Balance State Budget

Kansas lawmakers may dip into highway funding to help balance the state’s budget.

The state Senate’s top budget officials say transportation money could help fill the gap. Andover, Kan., Republican Senator Ty Masterson chairs the Ways and Means Committee. He says transportation is a big expense to the state and Kansas has already built a healthy system.

"Pulling back to a point of preservation, and not this aggressive expansion, wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing," Masterson said. "And it wouldn’t be prolonged."

Read more
Government
4:18 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Brownback Won't Allow Marriage Rights To Gay Couples In Kansas

A lesbian couple apply for a marriage license at the Douglas County (Kansas) Courthouse last week after a federal court ruled that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.
Credit Peggy Lowe / KCUR

Although gay and lesbian couples are getting married in at least 24 Kansas counties, Gov. Sam Brownback won’t allow any state recognition of the unions.

Brownback said Thursday that he won’t offer any of the benefits heterosexual couples get, such as name changes on a driver’s license or employee benefits for gay and lesbian state workers.

“There is still considerable legal ambiguity on the topic of same-sex marriage,” said Eileen Hawley, a Brownback spokeswoman. “Once that ambiguity is gone, the governor will direct state agencies to comply with applicable laws.”

Read more
Government
7:23 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Nixon Appoints 16-Member Ferguson Commission

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks with the new members of the Ferguson Commission. He swore in the 16-person panel today at the Missouri History Museum.

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 10:47 pm

With a fateful grand jury decision expected any day, Gov. Jay Nixon swore in 16 people to serve on the so-called Ferguson Commission.

Read more
Government
6:10 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Kansas High Court Allows Gay Marriage In Johnson County

This couple, named only as Kelli and Angela, were the only same-sex couple issued a license in Johnson County. With Tuesday's ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court, there will undoubtedly be many more.
Credit Equality Kansas

A limited ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court Tuesday opened the door for more gay marriages, yet left in place a patchwork of counties where some judges are approving licenses and some are not.

The court lifted a stay on issuing licenses to same-sex couples in Johnson County, the first county to do so in Kansas back in early October. Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty was "within his jurisdiction" to order clerks to accept applications from and issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the high court ruled.

Read more
Government
11:51 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

American Royal Kemper Plan Faces Opposition

The ongoing struggle between the Kansas City Council and the American Royal to decide what to do with Kemper Arena continues.
Credit Americasroof / Wikimedia Commons

A special committee of the Kansas City Council held its first hearing Thursday on the American Royal proposal to replace Kemper Arena. The idea of demolishing the old arena and building a smaller one met some determined opposition.

Representatives of the American Royal and Sporting Kansas City said their plan is a boost for a venerable institution, youth sports and the West Bottoms. 

Read more
Government
10:59 am
Thu November 13, 2014

Some Kansas Counties Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples

Brian and Randy, a gay couple from Johnson County, sign their marriage license papers Thursday before one of the clerks in Douglas County.
Credit Peggy Lowe / KCUR

Updated at 2:34 p.m.

At least six of Kansas' 105 counties issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday, a day after  the U.S. Supreme Court let take effect an order overturning  a ban state officials had feverishly hoped to keep in place.

Read more
Government
4:56 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Same-Sex Marriage To Proceed In Kansas

Same-sex marriages will be allowed to go forward in Kansas.

That comes after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Wednesday not to block the marriages while a lawsuit over the issue waits before an appeals court.

Kerry Wilks, from Wichita, and her partner Donna are parties in the lawsuit. She says she was thrilled to hear the news.

Read more
Government
11:50 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Timeline: Same-Sex Marriage In Missouri And Kansas

TV cameras catch a protest against Proposition 8 in 2010 in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Flickr, Creative Commons

  Updated 6:19 p.m. Nov. 18

The whirlwind of gay marriage decisions in Missouri and Kansas has left same-sex couples, court watchers and even reporters a bit breathless.

In an effort to keep us all up-to-date with these quick-moving issues, KCUR has pieced together this timeline, which highlights significant legal developments in both Missouri and Kansas in the state and federal courts. The list is not exhaustive but represents our best attempt to make sense of the rush of events while offering a look back at some of our coverage.

Read more
Heartland Health Monitor
9:01 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Kansas Slashes Revenue Forecast

State revenue forecasters said Monday that the state can expect hundreds of millions of budget dollars less than previously thought to fund schools, social programs and highway projects.

Read more
Government
5:48 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

U.S. High Court Blocks Gay Marriage In Kansas

This couple, known only as Kelli and Angela, were wed in Johnson County during a brief period when marriage applications were being issued there in October. It's believed they are the only couple to be married, although the state argues that the union is not valid.
Credit Equality Kansas

Kansas’ gay marriage ban went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, where it was promptly kept in place just a day before the ban was expected to be lifted.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the order blocking gay marriage at the behest of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who wants to keep the ban in place. A federal court order calling the ban unconstitutional was set to take effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, allowing same-sex marriages to commence.

Read more
Courts
8:43 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Topeka To Offer Alternative Sentencing Court

The City of Topeka, Kan., is launching an effort to provide treatment, instead of jail, for people whose misdemeanor crimes are linked to mental illness.

The city will use a $91,000 grant from the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to fund an Alternative Sentencing Court next year. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or traffic offense will be eligible for the new program, if they’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental illness.

Read more
Government
8:06 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Group Updating Kansas Tax Collection Estimates

A group meeting Monday will update estimates for Kansas tax collections. The revenue predictions let lawmakers know how much money they have to spend as they write the state budget.

The Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimating Group is made up of members of the governor's administration, non-partisan legislative researchers and economists from universities in Kansas. They meet twice per year. This time, they'll revise the estimate for the current fiscal year and craft a prediction for tax collections next fiscal year.

Read more
Government
10:28 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Federal Judge In Kansas City Strikes Down Missouri’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

The Jackson County Recorder of Deeds began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a judge ruled Missouri's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. John Kenny Rodericks and Robb Gann were first in line.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR

Updated, 5:10 p.m. Friday:

The Jackson County Recorder of Deeds began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday afternoon after a federal judge in Kansas City struck down Missouri's same-sex marriage ban.

Jackson County officials had told couples seeking marriage licenses they would have to wait because the judge's order had been stayed. But  Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders directed the Recorder of Deeds office to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples Friday afternoon.

Read more
Government
8:03 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Koster Lays Out Proposals For State Economy, Education And Ferguson

Chris Koster addressing St. Louis Regional Chamber

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 9:43 pm

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is proposing that the state’s voters be asked once again to increase the state’s tobacco tax, now among the nation’s lowest.

But instead of previous failed proposals that would have directed the bulk of the money raised for health care programs, Koster would use the estimated $400 million a year primarily to pay for state incentives to improve the business climate and attract more jobs.

Read more
Government
6:01 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Federal Goverment Pledges $10 Million Toward Jackson County Rail Project

Commuter rail to Kansas City from the eastern suburbs is one step closer to reality after Jackson County secured $10 million dollars in federal highway dollars for the purchase of old train tracks known as the Rock Island Corridor.

"I mean, that’s roughly 16 percent of the purchase price," says Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. "That’s significant for the federal government to provide that for acquisition, which is fairly rare."

Read more
Government
7:58 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Why Missourians Keep On Amending State Constitution

Missouri lawmakers placed more constitutional amendments on the ballot this year than in previous election cycles.

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 3:01 pm

With dozens of sections and subsections, it wouldn’t be that easy to fit the Missouri Constitution in a shirt pocket. 

In the past 10 years, 24 amendments have been proposed to Missouri's constitution. Not all of those propositions passed, but the Show Me State’s constitution has been changed more often than the federal one. (The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times.)

This year’s election cycle featured more constitutional amendments on the ballot – nine – than any time in last decade. Three of them passed in August, and four more will be decided Tuesday.

Read more
Government
5:40 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Foutch Withdraws Proposal To Convert Kemper For Youth Sports

Kemper Arena
Credit Flickr, Creative Commons

A big surprise in a city council committee meeting Wednesday afternoon:

After weeks of discussions about the future of Kemper Arena and the American Royal Complex, Foutch Brothers Developers sent a statement to the council that, due to circumstances beyond its control, it no longer was able to pursue a plan to convert the aging arena into a youth sports facility.

But it's not an automatic win for an American Royal plan to tear down Kemper and replace it with a new, smaller arena, according to committee chair Ed Ford.

Read more
Government
6:30 am
Sun October 26, 2014

Kansas Citians Say Council Is On The Right Track With 5-Year Business Plan

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council this week approved a 5-year business plan after soliciting generally positive feedback from citizens.

"People do feel we're headed in the right direction," says Ellen Belzer of the city's general services department. "They lauded the leadership of the city."

Though this is the second year the city council has put together a 5-year business plan, it's the first time the city has held citizen work sessions to ask Kansas Citians their feelings about the budgeting process. 

Read more
Government
8:16 am
Fri October 24, 2014

City Council Reacts To Developer's Federal Fair Housing Complaint

Kansas City is offering some assurances to a developer who filed a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Eagle Point Development is charging the city with attempting to force low-income African-American tenants out of their apartments on East Armour Boulevard.

The City Council has made no public comment.  But the full body and the Housing Committee spent several hours in closed session this week, presumably discussing the legal issues. 

Read more
Government
6:46 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Consultant says Kemper Youth-Sports Plan Is Sound But Ambitious

Credit CC: SA2.5

A consultant hired by the Kansas City council to analyze whether a plan to convert Kemper arena into a youth sports and fitness complex has told a council committee the plan has great opportunities for exciting success, but Dale Neuberger of TSE Consulting also added a caveat.

"The plan is sound – albeit one that you take a ... a big gulp when you think about the monthly revenue and the monthly members. It's a lot of people and it's a lot of money. And that's somewhat the reality of doing business in this field,” Newberger said.

Read more
Government
7:47 am
Sun October 19, 2014

Residential Development A Poser For Committees Revising Incentives

Two Kansas City council committees are facing difficulties coming up with hard numbers as they delve into the mayor's request for a more consistent process in determining how large incentives for property developers.

Some school and library districts and many taxpayers complain that the city gives up tax revenues that could be put to good use. Some contend that for-profit businesses should pay their own way, without any tax abatement.

Read more
Government
12:30 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Low-Income Property Developer Files Fair Housing Complaint Against Kansas City

A Maine-based development company that owns several low-income housing units in Kansas City, Mo., filed a federal fair housing complaint against the city Thursday.

The Eagle Point Companies alleges the city and various city officials intentionally discriminated "against African-Americans who reside and/or who seek to reside in Bainbridge, Georgian Court and Linda Vista Apartments located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri," according to the complaint.

Read more
Courts
8:35 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Kansas City Diocese Settles In Ongoing Civil Case, Resolves Other Abuse Claims

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will pay almost $10 million to settle dozens of sexual abuse claims filed since 2010.

The settlement, reached late Tuesday, includes 30 pending claims against the diocese and ends an ongoing civil trial in a case filed by former alter boy Jon David Couzens. Couzens, who alleges he was abused in the 1970s and '80s at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Independence, took the diocese to court last month. His case would have entered jury deliberations this week if not for the settlement.

Read more
Government
7:31 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Sen. Pat Roberts Threatens Filibuster Of Gitmo Closure

There have been reports that President Obama may take steps to try to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. It houses people detained in connection to the U.S. war on terrorism.

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is opposing any plan that would bring detainees on U.S. soil. During a stop in Topeka, he said he'll take to the floor of the Senate and filibuster any efforts to close Guantanamo Bay. 

"And if he tries it, I will shut down the Senate," said Roberts.

Read more
Government
10:23 am
Sun October 12, 2014

Kansas City Mayor's Proposal To Cut Development Incentives Meets Resistance

A Kansas City council committee began debate this week on Mayor Sly James's proposal to reduce tax abatement for developers. The ordinance he proposed would reduce the maximum for developers from 100 percent to 50 percent.

Concerns were immediately raised by some business and economic development leaders and several council members that cutting back on tax breaks would cast a pall over development, and businesses would build in competing communities.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage
8:24 am
Fri October 10, 2014

ACLU To Challenge Kansas Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas appears to be close to filing a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Kansas ban on same sex marriage. The suit could come as soon as next week.

Johnson County, Kansas, has attracted a lot of attention after a judge there ordered workers to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. But Doug Bonney, with the ACLU of Kansas, says it doesn't look like other counties are following suit.

Read more
Government
7:43 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Missouri Open Carry Law Forces Local Change

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council modified the city's ban on open carry of firearms Thursday to bring it into compliance with a new state law. That law was passed by the Legislature over the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Presenting the changes for a final vote, Councilman John Sharp explained that to continue to prohibit open carry for most people, the city now must exempt some persons.

Read more
Government
7:55 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Kansas City Council Still Pondering Kemper Arena Future

Credit City of Kansas City, Mo.

A Kansas City Council Committee continues to debate the future of Kemper Arena. And this week's developments included a staff report, a consultant's opinion and a letter with a lot of signatures.

A consulting firm hired by the city filed a report saying a Foutch Brothers proposal to convert Kemper to a youth sports facility was dynamic and achievable, though challenging in part.

From those who side with the American Royal Association and would tear down the arena came a letter of endorsement signed by 75 business and civic leaders.

Read more
City Council
5:14 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Kansas City Council Resolves To Consider Taxi Cab Industry Discrimination

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council wants to know if current city rules regulating the taxi cab industry are unfair to women- and minority-owned businesses.

At issue is an agreement Yellow Cab has to act as an exclusive operator with most of the major downtown and Crown Center hotels. Councilman Dick Davis says that contract is keeping small taxi cab companies from operating in large swaths of the city.

Read more
Government
5:41 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Kansas City Spent $1.1 Million On Thwarted Streetcar Expansion

The bills are totaled up on what the city of Kansas City, Mo., spent on the voter-rejected Phase 2 of the downtown streetcar system. 

The city council approved contracts with two engineering firms, HDR and Burns and McDonnell, for route planning, studies of construction obstacles and communication with the public.

In total, the two contracts came to about $8.1 million.

Streetcar Project Director Ralph Davis says spending stopped with the defeat of the streetcar expansion at the polls.

Read more

Pages