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file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have forged a compromise to allow more access to video from police body cameras and vehicles.

Legislation debated in the Kansas House Wednesday followed recent shootings by police in the state.

The bill says people in the videos or their families must be given access to the recordings within 20 days.

In the past, it could take months for families to see a video and find out what happened in a fatal police shooting.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch said this plan would give families a definite timeline.

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Missouri’s execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital, is made by a compounding pharmacy in a St. Louis suburb, according to a BuzzFeed report published Tuesday.

The identity of the compounding pharmacy has been a state secret, despite lawsuits brought by media outlets and inmates, the latter claiming it was information they needed to know to ensure that executions will not inflict pain and suffering.

The Medicaid Gap

Feb 20, 2018

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have not expanded Medicaid. This has created a gap for patients who are too poor to afford insurance, but make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. Advocates say that expansion could give coverage to these people, but with consistent legislative opposition, what are the odds of a bill passing this year?

file photo / Kansas News Service

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

If you’re released from prison in some states after a wrongful conviction, you could be owed millions of dollars or a promise of a college education.

In Kansas and 17 other states, you get nothing.

On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from men who’d lost decades behind bars on bogus convictions. They emerged middle-aged and broke, with no work history or credit rating.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Legislation pending in the Kansas Statehouse would require police to release videos of shootings by police officers, stripping away wide discretion that law enforcement in the state now holds on when and what to make public.

Police, broadly speaking, oppose the bill. At a hearing on Tuesday, the measure’s supporters argued the public — and particularly families of those involved in police shootings — deserve easier access to police video.

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President Donald Trump unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal on Monday built on plans that would more heavily rely on state and local dollars being matched with money from Washington.

For Kansas, that poses both challenges and opportunities. The state is short on funding for new construction work, but it’s already begun looking at other options to pay for roads, bridges and the like.

The political divisions in America, and Kansas, appear deeper than ever. Republicans and Democrats can't seem to work together on anything. One candidate for Kansas Governor thinks an independent party might help our polarized politics. We talk with Greg Orman on this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A push to make more divorcing Kansas parents split custody evenly could, some critics contend, make the break-ups harder for children. What’s more, they worry a shift to a 50/50 custody standard could prevent a spouse’s escape from an abusive relationship.

A bill creating a new equal custody standard would significantly raise the standard needed for a judge to give one parent more time with the children than the other.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas sits in a shrinking pool of states with the strictest marijuana and hemp laws, surrounded by a wave of decriminalization and legalization that’s swept most of the U.S.

So it’s no surprise that the topic of cannabis keeps cropping up in the Kansas Statehouse, where some lawmakers and lobbyists want the Free State to jump on the bandwagon.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

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Kansas lawmakers may once have thought stiffer penalties for marijuana made sense, but in recent years crowded prisons forced them to take another look.

One of the changes, made in 2016, reduced the crime of being caught with marijuana a second time from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But on Tuesday, the Kansas Sentencing Commission said that change overlooked state law that still keeps harsher penalties on the books for getting caught with pot residue than for possession of marijuana.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer used his first executive order Monday to tighten sexual harassment rules for thousands of state workers.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced around the Kansas Legislature in recent months, much like the #MeToo movement that’s swept the country.

Colyer’s order requires that executive branch employees under his control undergo annual sexual harassment training.

How important is the tone a Governor sets in state politics? Can a tenor of optimism or the opposite affect policy? As Kansas transitions from former Gov. Sam Brownback to new Gov. Jeff Colyer, we discuss what practical difference this change in leadership might make in the statehouse.

file photo / Kansas News Service

After promising for months to change the tone when he took charge, new Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer spent his first days in office trying to deliver on that pledge.

He was sworn in late Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, he met with Democratic leaders that his predecessor, Sam Brownback, rarely consulted.

“We’re going to keep that dialogue open,” he said. “We’re going to keep working with people.”

That afternoon, he summoned Statehouse reporters to an already refurbished office for a chat.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Almost a month and a half ago, Edgemoor was on the verge of being dropped as the developer to build a new terminal at Kansas City International airport.

Nine city council members rejected a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland-based developer. A measure had been introduced to drop them from the billion-dollar project altogether and proceed with competitor AECOM.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Almost lost in the discussion about the 150 homicides in Kansas City last year is this: Why did the number of women murdered jump 52 percent between 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, 21 women were murdered in Kansas City. Last year the number was 32.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee tackled that issue on Wednesday.

You might think that most women died from domestic violence or during arguments (as KCUR documented in the series The Argument), but the motive for most of the murders is listed as "unknown." 

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Kansas has repeatedly dipped into its highway fund in recent years to balance the budget for all of state government.

Now lawmakers are contemplating a task force to study what that’s meant for the state’s roads and bridges.

Following the borrowing, road projects saw delays across the state. The task force would study the sidelined projects and suggest long-term transportation strategies for Kansas.

During his State of the State address, exiting Gov. Sam Brownback said his budget recommendations included an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. That left many lawmakers stunned, and Senator Jim Denning, a Republican representing the 8th District, angry. We sit down with Denning to talk about what he's expecting as Lt. Governor Colyer takes on a new role as governor, and discuss why an attempted ousting of a legendary state employee ignited a major backlash.

 

Barbara Washington
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Last November, Rep. Barbara Anne Washington became the newest legislator to represent Kansas City in the Missouri General Assembly. An attorney and former journalist, she has long been engaged with politics, but nothing could have prepared her for the onslaught of legislating, which she says is a full-time job, not to mention the political turmoil of her first month in office.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court, effectively ending a promising career. 

Sanders, 50, entered his plea in a loud and clear voice before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. 

Screen grab from the Kansas Secretary of State website

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office took a trove of public records offline Thursday after a technology website discovered that they reveal partial Social Security numbers for potentially thousands of state officials.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Next Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer goes from one of the most anonymous jobs in state politics to its most prominent.

Kansans, in turn, will find themselves with a new governor. Colyer’s politics may run as conservative as the man he’ll replace, Sam Brownback, just more low key.

Brownback is stepping away from the job with a year left in his term to work in the U.S. State Department for the Trump administration. That gives Colyer a chance to show that he’s up to the job and to catapult his prominence in this year’s race for a full term as governor.

file photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Income that doesn’t come close to the poverty line. Persistent job insecurity. Shifting schedules and irregular hours. Cumbersome barriers to state assistance meant for the neediest Kansans.

A new report from the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities paints a stark picture of the Kansas welfare system.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio


“As Missouri goes, so goes the nation” — or so the saying goes. Yet, the state hasn’t lived up to its bellwether status for a long time, at least when it comes to predicting presidential elections: Missouri has chosen a Republican in every one since 2000, even though the national popular vote favored Democrats four out of five times.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats both made it hard for the public to know what goes on in the Statehouse. But in the wake of a Kansas City Star series highlighting the lack of transparency, some members of both parties are pushing for change.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity.

Palmer and Silvey
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Just days into the 2018 legislative session, after 13 years of service in the General Assembly, Kansas City Republican Senator Ryan Silvey was out of the statehouse and beginning a six-year term on the Missouri Public Service Commission. Silvey had frequently clashed with Governor Eric Greitens, and in this Statehouse Blend Missouri "exit interview," Silvey acknowledges that the governor may have nominated him partly to eliminate a "thorn in the side." 

Lasse Fuss / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri’s plans for fixing a stretch of Interstate 70 in Kansas City are now public; the only hang-up now is a lack of funding.

A final environmental impact statement released Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District spells out plans for I-70 just east of downtown KC. It addresses the stretch of highway between Troost Avenue near the downtown loop and Blue Ridge Cutoff near the Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.

Major problems include deteriorating roads and bridges, traffic delays and merging issues.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City, Missouri, officials will continue to be part of the planning process for a southern streetcar extension, despite a citywide vote prohibiting them from doing so. 

On Aug. 4, 2017, Kansas City residents passed an ordinance, brought to the city through an initiative petition, that prohibits city officials from moving forward with any streetcar extension without first gaining citywide voter approval. That included any planning or preparation for construction. 

The vote complicated a process that was already underway to extend the current streetcar south to UMKC. 

Wikipedia

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback abruptly postponed a meeting Thursday where lawmakers were expected to approve or reject a plan for a private contractor to rebuild the state prison in Lansing. Consideration of the proposal was already pushed off earlier this month. The additional delay raises questions that the project may not have enough support in the State Finance Council to advance.

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