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Members of the Kansas House have voted to amend their rules so they won’t work into the early hours of the morning passing legislation.

The rules says they can’t work past midnight, which often happens at the end of the session. Several lawmakers said the late nights can lead to bad decisions.

Republican Rep. Barbara Bollier, a retired physician, says studies show lack of sleep has effects.

“You are impaired, to the equivalent of being drunk. We do not allow alcohol on this floor for a reason. Because our decision making is supposed to be effective,” says Bollier.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Melissa Rooker provides an insider perspective on the historic legislative session underway in Topeka.

Guests:

  • Melissa Rooker, Representative for the 25th District, Kansas Legislature
  • Brian Schmid​, citizen voice
  • Matthew Long-Middleton, producer, Central Standard

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill giving law enforcement officers in the Kansas City area more legal protections when they cross the state line. A

The legislation would create an agreement between Kansas and Missouri law enforcement agencies. Proponents say if there were, for example, an emergency in Missouri, this would make it easier for Kansas officers to help.

Bill Anderson / KCUR

President Obama focused on child care reforms, his free community college proposal and reaching across the aisle in a speech at the University of Kansas Thursday.

He is the first sitting president to visit the Lawrence, Kan., school in more than 100 years.

Before he launched into the issues at hand, the president made sure to please the crowd with some Kansas love, saying how excited he was to visit Allen Fieldhouse before his speech.

The Kansas City, Mo., city council votes Thursday afternoon on on ordinance that would keep a reserve fund for streetcar system expansion planning. 

It is part of plans for spending more than $8 million left over from the $10 million it borrowed to jump-start a streetcar system expansion that voters rejected.

The ordinance would devote most of the unspent bond money to already planned projects including a community center tornado shelter and Bartle Hall roof repairs.

Kansas lawmakers are just beginning the job of reviewing and modifying Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax and budget plan.

The governor’s proposal slows scheduled income tax cuts and reduces spending to help fill a budget shortfall. Republican state Sen. Ty Masterson chairs that chamber’s budget committee. He says after revenue collections came up short of predictions, it’s prudent to adjust the tax cuts.

“We had the largest revenue estimation miss in the history of the state, and so now you just have to reevaluate. The purpose is still the right purpose,” says Masterson.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stuck by his aggressive tax policy during his State of the State address Thursday, outlining an ambitious list of legislative priorities for 2015.

But even members of the governor's own party say it's too early to tell what Brownback can accomplish during the session.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

In his first State of the State address since being re-elected, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday night that his efforts to fight poverty and reform Medicaid have been a success and outlined a controversial second-term agenda.

Amayleben / Wikimedia-CC

The matter of digital signs outside of schools and churches in Kansas City, Mo., remains stalled in a Kansas City council committee after a second week of public hearings.

A lot of schools and churches like the idea of digital signs – capable of multiple messages that are easy to change without braving frigid or blistering weather. Some also say they are more effective at communicating with parents and parishioners than the old style letter-board signs.

Aleks / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri marijuana activist group Show-Me Cannabis is planning to push lawmakers to reform marijuana laws in the 2015 legislative session.

The group is specifically interested in creating a medical marijuana program and lifting the ban on hemp production for farmers.

Show-Me Cannabis Executive Director John Payne believes that the Republican supermajority in both chambers will be more likely to support hemp production, but a medical program shouldn't be counted out yet.

Kansas City Police Helicopters
City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City, Missouri police helicopters will be able to transmit bird's eye video like media news and traffic copters.

The city has received a nearly $66,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay three-fourths of the cost of video capabilities many citizens may have thought the police already had.

Liaison officer Eric Winebrenner explained the downlink system to city council members.

The 2015 Missouri legislative session is underway, and here are some of the highlights of the day.

Nixon gets first say on start of session

The day began with the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast, after which he answered questions from reporters on a few topics, including whether Medicaid expansion was already a lost cause for 2015.  Nixon, of course, said it wasn't at all.

Doug Kerr / Flicker -- CC

Missouri has always funded transportation through user fees, Gov. Jay Nixon told reporters Tuesday after an appearance in Kansas City.

"Roads aren't free," Nixon says. "I mean, they're not."

The governor is trying to drum up support for tolls along Interstate 70 as the 60-year-old road deteriorates. Last August, voters rejected a sales tax increase to pay for repairs — a plan Nixon also opposed.

jimmywayne / Flickr

With more than 500 bills pre-filed so far, the Missouri General Assembly will be facing a variety of issues – from school transfers to ethics — when its 197 members return to Jefferson City this week.

But compared to recent legislative sessions, legislative leaders have so far sent few signals as to which bills will get serious consideration and which ones will simply serve as political wallpaper.

An offshoot of Kansas’ Rural Opportunity Zones program could be moving into Wyandotte County, pending approval from the state legislature.

Wyandotte County officials are optimistic that Gov. Sam Brownback will introduce the plan to the Kansas legislature soon. Brownback first debuted the idea for “Urban Opportunity Zones” on the campaign trail in August.

The zones would entice out-of-state residents to move into Kansas with a five-year income tax exemption, up to $15,000 in help for student loan payments, and significant property tax breaks for 15 years.

Gov. Sam Brownback's chief of staff is resigning to accept a position with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the administration announced Monday. Landon Fulmer will step down Jan. 5.

Jon Hummell, Brownback's policy director, will replace Fulmer. He will continue to also serve as policy director until the administration names a successor.

Fulmer has been chief of staff since April 2012. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There are some high-profile issues that Kansas lawmakers will address in the upcoming legislative session, including filling a budget hole. But there are always other issues that rise to the surface and attract attention when lawmakers are in Topeka.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he’ll be pushing anti-poverty legislation in the coming session, and he also expects work on long-term water policy.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Sen. Roy  Blunt will meet with farmers in Plattsburg, Mo., Monday afternoon to discuss a pair of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations he says will have disastrous impact on the state.

Blunt says it's not just farmers but local officials concerned about changes the Environmental Protection Agency is considering to how it enforces the  Clean Water Act.

For the first time, the byproducts of coal-fired power plants will now be subject to federal regulation.

In a state like Missouri, which generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal, the new standards could have significant repercussions.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Updated, 5 p.m. Wednesday:

In the wake of Kansas City, Mo., Councilman Michael Brooks' resignation, Mayor Sly James says his focus is on filling the empty 5th district seat. 

"We're not looking for someone who can warm a chair. We're going to look for someone who can do the job," James said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Gov. Jay Nixon and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are touting plans to pass a bond issue to fund repairs to the state Capitol in Jefferson City.

Along with legislators and reporters, Nixon toured areas of the under-section of the nearly century-old building Monday, observing mud, mold, and stalactites from dripping water that have formed underneath the old carriage passage-turned-driveway.

Derek Jensen / Wikimedia Commons

A new bill introduced to the Missouri General Assembly seeks to give voters the choice to ban the use and enforcement of red light and speeding cameras statewide.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Supreme Court heard three cases testing the legality of traffic cameras. But Mo. Rep. Paul Curtman (R) of the 109th District wants to give the final say to voters.

The Independence, Mo., City Council wants to see a solar farm built in the northeast part of the city as part of its plan to decrease reliance on coal-fired power plants.

The city council passed a resolution this summer to have 10 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2018. Independence Power and Light Director Leon Daggett says the city-owned utility already gets about 5 percent of its power from a Salina, Kan., wind farm.

The Kansas City Council has come up with a compromise they hope will satisfy those who wanted the new East Patrol police station named after Leon Jordan, a former police officer and the founder of Freedom, Inc, while also satisfying those who opposed it.

Councilman Jermaine Reed explained the idea: name the campus, not the police station.

A parade of black community leaders and former council members spoke in favor of the naming to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  All cited the historic contributions made by Jordan to the city and to law enforcement.

A joint Missouri House and Senate committee is preparing to investigate Gov. Jay Nixon's actions in Ferguson in the aftermath of a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Update, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11:

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council voted Thursday to extend city pension benefits currently offered to couples in conventional marriages to legally-married same-sex couples.

“So this is just one more example of our commitment to being inclusive to all of our citizens in Kansas City,” Councilwoman Jan Marcason said before the unanimous vote.

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Two high-ranking Republicans have criticized Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to use state pension dollars to help fill a budget hole.

Senate Vice President Jeff King and state Treasurer Ron Estes have concerns about the move. They say the proposal hurts the public pension plan, known as KPERS, not long after an attempt to fix it.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has released a plan to fix a budget deficit in the current fiscal year. Cuts to highway funding and the state’s public retirement system will be key to balancing the Kansas budget.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the administration started by trying to find ways to reduce spending while minimizing the effect the cost-cutting would have on services.

(Updated 2:50 p.m. Tues., Dec . 9)

Wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield appears to have made his choice for Missouri’s next lieutenant governor:  Bev Randles, chairman of the Missouri Club for Growth.

Sinquefield is backing up his support with a $1 million check into Randles’ newly created exploratory committee, set up Monday. Randles says she will spend months talking to fellow Republicans to decide whether she has adequate support for a 2016 campaign.

Early Wednesday morning, Missouri set a record for its number of executions in a year.

Paul Goodwin was the 10th man executed, more than any other year since the death penalty was reinstated in the state.

Goodwin was put to death for sexually assaulting Joan Crotts, a 63-year-old widow, and then killing her with a hammer in 1998 in St. Louis County.

In denying clemency, Gov. Jay Nixon referred to the crime as "brutal" and "senseless."

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