Government

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers began groundwork Monday for their response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to fix school finance by this spring. The same day, a Hiawatha senator announced he will seek to curb the court’s powers through a constitutional amendment.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Several Jackson County legislators called for new leadership at the troubled downtown jail on Tuesday. It only took until Friday to get their wish.

Jackson County Corrections Director Joe Piccinini resigned, County Executive Frank White said at a news conference Friday. And pressure from the county legislature was not a factor, White said. 

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The well-being of children in her care is Gina Meier-Hummel’s highest priority.

That is the consensus on the new secretary for the Kansas Department for Children and Families among people who have worked with her. And it’s why stakeholders in the state’s child welfare system are hopeful that her appointment by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer signals a change of direction for the embattled agency.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder is offering a vigorous defense of the Republican tax cut bill as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on its version of the controversial measure.

In a lengthy news release posted Thursday that Yoder touted as separating myth from fact, the 3rd District representative said the bill does not favor wealthy taxpayers over middle-class families, as Democrats and other critics claim.

Johnson County, Kansas

The longtime manager of the biggest county in Kansas was ousted Thursday by a 4-3 vote of the Johnson County Commission. Hannes Zacharias has been county manager since 2009 and had been in county management since 2001.

“As I stated prior to and following the vote, I do not agree with the decision and believe it is not the correct action for our county commission to take," Commission Chair Ed Eilert said in a statement. "This vote does not reflect in any negative way on the moral, ethical or professional character of Mr. Zacharias, as I and others stated as the vote was taken."

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Local governments and school boards are worried about the possible effects on infrastructure and other projects if Congress passes a tax bill that eliminates exemptions for certain refinancing of bonds.

The Kansas Association of School Boards, which includes most of the state’s 286 boards of education, is urging its members to contact Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — both Kansas Republicans — about voting against the bill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Legislature had a full agenda Tuesday morning but, once again, problems at the downtown jail dominated the session. After an hour of grilling County Executive Frank White, legislators decided to punt on other work before them.

The focus of several legislators was on the task force recently named by White. The Legislature once again said another task force is a waste of time. The time to act, a majority said, is now.

Jackson County Jail
Jackson County Prosecutor

In a curt and strongly-worded letter, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Monday that she refused her seat on a new jail task force established by County Executive Frank White.

The recent brutal assault of a corrections officer made her change her mind about serving on the task force, Baker wrote, and it’s “clear that action is required immediately” on the embattled jail.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A guard at the Jackson County jail is in critical condition after he was allegedly attacked while on duty, according to court documents.

The unidentified guard was allegedly attacked by 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap. Dunlap was charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action and faces up to life in prison if convicted, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback revealed Tuesday that in anticipation of his confirmation to a post in the U.S. State Department he has begun transferring major responsibilities to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Brownback said Colyer is developing the budget that the governor is required to propose at the outset of the legislative session, which will convene Jan. 8, 2018.

“He’s doing those and getting ready for the legislative session,” Brownback told reporters after taking delivery of a Christmas tree at the governor’s mansion.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families responded Tuesday to concerns about destroyed evidence in child abuse cases during a legislative task force meeting.

After a Kansas City Star investigation suggested DCF employees had shredded documents regarding children in state care, an agency official told lawmakers that the claims by former DCF deputy director Dianne Keech were inaccurate.

The Department of Homeland Security is now taking public comment on a plan to release biological and chemical materials at the former Chilocco Indian School near Arkansas City.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Floyd Abrams probably is the best-known First Amendment lawyer in the United States. He represented the New York Times before the Supreme Court in the landmark Pentagon Papers case in 1971 and argued in the controversial Citizens United case, decided in 2010, that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections violated the First Amendment. His newly published book, "The Soul of the First Amendment," argues that America's guaranties of free speech and press set it apart from the rest of the world. 

Courtesy Sunflower Foundation

Progressives deride supporters of President Donald Trump as willfully ignorant reactionaries, even racists.

Fans of the president respond in kind, dismissing liberals as snowflakes and worse.

The escalating war of words is a clear and present danger to American democracy, said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, in a presentation sponsored by the Topeka-based Sunflower Foundation’s Advocacy in Health speaker series.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates say Kansas policymakers should take notice of elections this week in Maine and Virginia.

In Maine, lawmakers sent five expansion bills to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in recent years. He vetoed them all. So Maine voters took matters into their own hands Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a ballot initiative authorizing expansion.

Bigstock

A judge has ordered federal prosecutors to produce grand jury materials in an ongoing probe of the audio- and video-taping of attorney-client meetings at the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson last year named a special master to conduct the investigation after criminal defense lawyers learned that some attorney-client conversations at the prison had been recorded. Such conversations are supposed to be off-limits to the government.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of Kansas’ Department for Children and Families, announced Friday that she will retire effective Dec. 1. Friday was also the last day for her top deputy, Chief of Staff Jeff Kahrs, as he departs for a position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DCF oversees the state’s privatized foster care system, which has drawn particular scrutiny during Gilmore’s tenure.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The group of experts tasked with forecasting how much Kansas will collect in taxes raised their two-year estimate by $225 million after meeting Thursday to compare notes on the performance of key sectors of the state economy.

That’s better than the trend of downward revisions in recent years but not the robust increase that some lawmakers who voted to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts were hoping for.

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee

Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday used a group of like-minded witnesses to attack President Donald Trump’s tax cut plan by comparing it to what they repeatedly referred to as Kansas’ “failed” tax experiment.

Two Kansans — House Democratic Leader Jim Ward and state employee union representative Sarah LaFrenz — joined a list of national experts in assailing the 2012 Kansas tax cut experiment that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback touted as a “red state model.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A security lapse at the El Dorado Correctional Facility led to a June 24 disturbance during which inmates used makeshift weapons to threaten guards, according to new information provided Wednesday to Kansas lawmakers.

The report, compiled by the prison’s Serious Incident Review Board, said the failure of guards to secure “multiple” doors allowed between 50 and 70 inmates to leave their cells and enter the prison yard where inmates from another cellblock had gathered for their scheduled “evening recreation.”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency is trying to determine why permits were issued for half a dozen wastewater wells whose operators didn’t accurately inform nearby residents of their rights to protest the wells.

The deficiencies were discovered by a resident of Matfield Green in Chase County who objects to the wells, into which companies can pour hundreds or thousands of barrels of oil- and gas-related wastewater per day.

Cindy Hoedel wants the Kansas Corporation Commission to shut down the wells and make the companies in question redo the application process.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After wrestling to balance the budget for years, Kansas lawmakers bit the bullet this spring and agreed to undo many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.  

The question now is whether they have done enough to fix the state budget, as many promised to do in the 2016 campaign. Lawmakers will get a better idea of the state’s financial situation later this week when the consensus revenue estimating group determines whether revenues are tracking with projections.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas legislative leaders have directed their staff to work with the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation to update the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy.

The move comes amid recent allegations by several former legislative staffers, lobbyists and campaign workers about the prevalence of harassment at the Statehouse. 

FIle Photo / Kansas News Service

A U.S. Senate committee has given the green light for the full chamber to proceed with a vote on Gov. Sam Brownback’s confirmation to an ambassador-at-large position.

Approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the position relating to international religious freedom was the first hurdle after President Donald Trump picked Brownback for the role in July.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A female former legislative staff member is charging that sexual harassment is widespread at the Kansas Statehouse.

Abbie Hodgson, who served as chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs from 2014 to July of 2016, was one of several women quoted in an article about sexual harassment in Statehouses across the country published Wednesday by The Hill, a Washington, D.C., publication that covers government and politics. 

Courtesy Kansas Geological Survey

The governments of Douglas County and Lawrence are calling for changes to Kansas regulations amid an energy company’s proposal to pump wastewater into wells in rural Eudora.

Among their concerns, the local officials argue that the public deserves a 60-day protest period — twice as long as the current allowance — when companies seek to operate such wells in or near their communities.

Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said the goal is “good public process.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Calling 911 hold times “unacceptable” and citing a need for more patrol officers, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith asked for an additional $9.3 million in funding in the budget he submitted to the city manager last week.

In a blog post explaining why appropriations should increase 3.6 percent for the fiscal year that begins May 1, 2018, Smith noted that the average hold time for a 911 caller was 30 seconds in September.

Facebook - Raytown Police Department

At least 14 officers at the Raytown Police Department have submitted their resignations, the department confirms, and more officers are expected to step down. 

The resignations follow news that budget cuts could force the department to eliminate nearly a third of its sworn officers.

Raytown city officials face a Nov. 1 deadline to resolve a budget deficit.

The cuts most endanger the police department, which could lose 17 of 56 sworn officers and ten civilians.

Courtesy KVC Kansas

With high numbers of children in the foster care system and not enough homes to care for them, one Kansas contractor is turning to a short-term housing option.  

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