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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City voters have again renewed the 1 percent earnings tax.

Unofficial results had the earnings tax passing with 77 percent of the vote. All precincts in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties were reporting as of 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“By the vote tonight, the business community and the citizens have said the quality of life in this city is what we want it to be, and we want to keep making it stronger,” said Mayor Sly James at a watch party in the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Board Room at Union Station.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Before the Kansas Legislature went on spring break last month, a Senate committee pushed forward a bill that would expand the grounds for impeachment of Supreme Court justices. The controversial legislation says that justices could be impeached for "attempting to usurp the the power of the legislative or judicial branch of government."

About 180 small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri, would be eligible for SBA “micro-loans” averaging $10,000 each under a plan approved by a city council committee on Wednesday. 

Economic Development chair Scott Taylor says the first phase of the program has already loaned out $2.3 million.

Taylor says almost 53 percent of the loans have been to businesses east of Troost and the repayment rate has been a high 95 percent.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Statehouse is relatively quiet these days. Only the arrival of the occasional busload of school children disturbs the calm.

That will change when lawmakers return April 27 to face what is expected to be more bad news about the budget.

Legislative leaders are hoping to finish their wrap-up session in a matter of days. But many involved in the process say that could be wishful thinking given a lack of consensus on how to balance the state budget in the face of continuing revenue shortfalls.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Rep. John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR 89.3's Statehouse Blend podcast to discuss what to expect as the legislature returns from spring break this week.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Against the backdrop of a city-wide campaign to keep Kansas City’s 1 percent earnings tax, Mayor Sly James delivered his fifth State of the City address Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.

He highlighted Kansas City’s accomplishments in recent years, ending with a clip from the Royals' championship parade downtown last fall.

“Like our World Series Champion Royals, we’ve got momentum, and we’re keeping the line moving,” James said in his speech. “We’re able to do so in part because of leaders who made tough decisions a generation or more ago.”

Courtesy of City of Kansas City, Missouri

“This was a relatively pleasant budget process,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James of the months leading up to Thursday's City Council approval of a $1.5 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  Then his council colleagues laughed as he added, “We actually had money.  That always makes it a little easier.”

The new spending plan includes funding for 2 percent raises for city employees who have been hit by wage freezes in several recent years.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Rep. John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) said the General Assembly may have a difficult time making progress on significant legislation this session.

City Hall
City of Kansas City

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a $1.5 billion budget on Thursday that kicks off a $10 million two-year plan to tear down about 800 abandoned houses, increases spending on basic services by 5 percent and allows for 2 percent raises for city employees.

The same day the council approved a union contract granting firefighters 2.6 percent raises. The agreement reduces a potential wage freeze in case emergency medical services revenue does not increase by 6 percent from two years to one.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss the Legislature's burden in coming up with a new school funding plan.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas lawmakers have introduced a new school funding plan that tries to fund school districts more evenly without costing any of them money. Previous plans had redistributed money and left some districts with less overall funding.

Lawmakers are trying to find a way to reduce disparities between school districts following a Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The bill would redistribute state funding and tap an existing extraordinary needs fund.

Republican Sen. Ty Masterson says stakeholders made it clear that no district should lose money.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Road contractors in Kansas are worried about their future business after the state Department of Transportation announced it was delaying the bids on some April resurfacing projects.

Kansas Contractors Association Vice President Bob Totten says some of his members began to hear about the delays on Monday from KDOT officials. While the projects don't officially go out for bid until next month, contractors typically hear about the projects 45 days before bidding to help them craft the bid or even decide if they want to bid on the project, says Totten.

KCCG, Channel 2

A development incentive plan Mayor Sly James calls the Shared Success Fund faced its first criticism in a city council committee Wednesday.

The mayor wants to tap into the developer-incentive system to set aside money the city could use to help support other developments in areas with low incomes, high unemployment and a lack of new construction. 

James says the vast majority of the area that would qualify is the east-central area of Kansas City south of the river.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Attempts by Kansas lawmakers to find a finance solution that would equitably fund schools have thus far failed in the Legislature.

Kansas Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss the Legislature's burden in coming up with a new school funding plan.

Eric Greitens found himself fending off questions about a controversial donor at Thursday's Missouri Republican gubernatorial debate in Columbia, the first one this year to be televised.

Both Catherine Hanaway and Peter Kinder called on Greitens to return a $1 million campaign contribution from Michael Goguen. The California venture capitalist is being sued by a woman who accuses him of holding her as a sex slave for 13 years.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Republicans on a Kansas House committee shot down a school funding proposal Thursday. The plan would have added and redistributed money to reduce funding disparities between school districts. The Kansas Supreme Court says lawmakers must address disparities by this summer or schools could be closed.

Several Republican lawmakers criticized the bill for going back to an old system for equalization. Rep. Marc Rhoades says that formula can’t fix funding disparities.

Firefighters Local 42

A committee of the Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a contract with Firefighters Local 42 on Wednesday.

But the union says it is not the deal they agreed to.

The rift prompted hot words from the union president and an icy atmosphere at the committee table.

Upon hearing the proposal City Manager Troy Schulte asked the finance committee to endorse, Local 32 president Bill Galvin's first comment was, “This right here is the first I've seen of this ordinance.  To me this is bargaining in bad faith.”

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

On this special Extra Shot edition of KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast, Kansas Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee) talks to host Sam Zeff about his removal as Chair of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee by House Speaker Ray Merrick.

Merrick said in a statement that he ousted Rubin in response to the latter attempting to "manipulate the House rules" and force a vote on a gaming bill.

Guests:

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated with additional quotes at 11:17 a.m.

Legislative leaders often use their authority over committee assignments and other perks to reward loyalty and punish insubordination.

But rarely are punishments meted out as publicly as they were Tuesday in the Kansas House.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Republican from Stilwell, publicly stripped fellow Republican John Rubin of his chairmanship of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee just minutes before the House adjourned for the day.

KC Aviation Department

Airport consultants focused on two possible layouts for a new terminal Tuesday as they explained to the Kansas City Council Airport Committee why those designs would meet airline needs. 

One was configured in an “H” shape, while the other could be described as shaped like a shallow letter “V.”

Neither represented a formal final design, but Ken Brown of the terminal design firm PGAL used them to explain how their footprints would be compatible with airplane traffic and security and baggage systems.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Last month, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported that tax receipts fell roughly $54 million short of projections in February, a far worse performance than most anyone expected. That would have left the state with a projected $47 million hole, but Gov. Sam Brownback ordered $17 million in cuts, or 3 percent, to the state’s six Regents universities, lowering the deficit to about $30 million.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Sen. Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast after leading a 39-hour filibuster in the Missouri Senate.

"It was the longest filibuster in Missouri state history, and we were about five hours away from the longest filibuster recorded in U.S. history," said Holsman.

A Senate-sponsored constitutional amendment that would shield businesses in the wedding industry from legal repercussions if they denied their services to same-sex couples is headed to the House. The amendment passed 23-7.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a bill that would expand the grounds for impeaching a state Supreme Court justice.

The bill says justices could be impeached for trying to exercise powers given to the governor or Legislature. Republican Sen. Forrest Knox says checks and balances in government are important.

"We have arrived at a point today in this country, in this state, where specifically Supreme Court justices have become kings, where there is no check," says Knox.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Three influential Republican state senators Tuesday introduced a bill to repeal a controversial business tax exemption approved as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts.

Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said the measure is needed to close a tax “loophole” that is costing “at least $250 million” a year and wreaking havoc with the state budget.

“It continues to make the budget unstable,” Denning said in a news release. “Given the rapid deterioration of the budget, I believe we have the votes to close the loophole and send the bill to the governor.”

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Missouri Rep. Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City) provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss the so-called "paycheck protection" bill, criminal justice reform, and cuts to the University of Missouri system's budget.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

February’s disappointing revenue numbers have Kansas lawmakers once again scrambling to balance the state budget.

The spending blueprints for the remainder of the current fiscal year and fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1, were balanced on paper when lawmakers left for a brief mid-session break, thanks to a series of one-time revenue transfers and some spending reductions.

But both were undone when the Kansas Department of Revenue reported last week that February tax receipts had come in $54 million short of projections.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Rep. Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City) joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss proposed cuts to the University of Missouri system budget.

Rep. Dunn was one of five representatives who voted no this week on an amendment to a House budget bill that would cut the University of Missouri system's funding by $7.6 million. The House Select Committee on Budget voted 20-5 in favor of the cuts.

Excavation safety group - dlickr.com

An ordinance advanced by a Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday would require contractors to pluck the unsightly markers when their work is done.

Utility line excavation markers are required by law,  but the fluttering swatches of yellow and orange that  line lawns along roadways often remain long after they have served their purpose. 

Their wire stems may pose mowing hazards for several years to come.

Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said the ordinance will require the removal of the flags before the contractor can close the permit on the job site.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, leaders of faith based organizations discuss their unique view on the current political climate in Kansas.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

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