Government

Political news

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration on Thursday announced $63 million in changes to the state budget.

Much of that comes from increases in federal aid, cost-cutting measures and some services costing less than initially projected. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, outlined in a Statehouse news conference.

The biggest single change — $17.6 million — comes from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides health coverage to children in low-income families.

Amid all the talk about the misbehavior so obviously plaguing Jefferson City, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill contends that the real issue is that little has changed.

She was an intern in the Missouri capital 41 years ago. “I am bitterly disappointed that the climate has not changed significantly since 1974,’’ the senator said, recalling her own experiences with off-color jokes and unsolicited sexual comments.

Caroline Kull / KCUR

A group opposing the new Kansas City, Missouri minimum wage ordinance have effectively blocked its implementation. 

Opponents of a higher minimum wage have filed only 100 of the 3400 signatures they need to send the repeal measure to the voters, but Caitlin Adams of Jobs With Justice believes there's more to the strategy than just getting it on the ballot.

“What this does is delay enforcement and implementation of the bill. It means it holds up a whole lot of Kansas City folks getting a raise until this gets figured out,” said Adams.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Kansas Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session. 

You can listen to the full episode here.

Guests:

Shawnee County Emergency Management / Twitter

An amendment to a bill offered by Republican Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder could cost some Kansas counties federal funding. 
 
Yoder’s proposal would strip existing Federal Emergency Management Agency grants away from local governments that are not fully enforcing national immigration laws.
 
Under the amendment, Shawnee, Johnson and Sedgwick counties could all lose a substantial amount of federal money. They would still be eligible for disaster aid.
 

Thomas Hawk / Flickr-CC

An often easy crime – at least in the past, in Kansas City, Missouri — was to pawn stolen items for cash at a pawn shop.

Detective Jeff Mehrer says when he makes the connection in a case and goes to the shop, the items have usually been sold. 

The person who brought them in likely used a phony name and pawn shops are not required to keep records of who buys things. Your stuff is gone. Not recoverable.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says his administration will unveil $50 million in state budget cuts this week. The cuts are required as part of a bill passed in the Legislature this year.

When Kansas lawmakers were working to pass a final tax deal, they added a clause requiring the $50 million cut from the budget as a way to help get conservative Republicans on board. When asked last week if Kansas could cut another $50 million without layoffs or hurting state services, Brownback didn’t have much to say.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Kansas Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 legislative session. 

Guests:

  • Laura Kelly, Sen. for the 18th District, Kansas Legislature 
  • Gene Chavez, Citizen Voice
  • Lisa Rodriguez, Associate Producer, KCUR
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota announced Friday he will resign from the Legislature, following allegations he sexually harassed two college interns.

LeVota, a Democrat from Independence, maintained his innocence in the announcement on Facebook: "As I stated before, I did not engage in harassment of any intern in the Missouri Senate and an investigation found no proof of misconduct."

Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Last May, former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned after journalists at the Kansas City Star obtained sexually charged text messages that Diehl had sent to a former intern.

Now, Sen. Paul LeVota of Independence has come under scrutiny after two former interns alleged that he propositioned them for sex and then retaliated when they refused.  

On Friday's Up to Date, host Steve Kraske was joined by former Statehouse interns Sarah Felts and Casey Millburg, former Rep. Sandra Reeves and Rep. Kevin Engler to talk about the rising issue of sexual harassment in the Missouri Statehouse.

As expected, the full Kansas City Council approved financing arrangements for a proposed downtown convention hotel on Thursday.

One by one, the council members each spoke in favor or the convention hotel. Then the body voted unanimously to issue $35 million in bonds for construction, provide $4.9 million worth of land between Bartle Hall and the Kauffman Center, and endorse property tax abatement for the hotel.

Hyatt Hotels

The full Kansas City Council is expected to vote Thursday on underwriting and tax abatement for a new downtown Hyatt convention hotel. 

A council committee on Wednesday approved a $35 million cash contribution, to be financed with bonds.  The bonds would be paid off from convention and tourism taxes.

That funding, plus tax breaks and a $4.5 million contribution of city-owned land would add up to more than half of the expected $311 million project cost.

The Kansas City, Missouri Election Board has completed its recount of ballots in the recent 4th district at-large city council race, and the results have not changed.

The recount found that former Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields defeated incumbent Jim Glover by 173 votes. A total of almost 33,000 ballots were cast in the race citywide. 

Glover had requested the recount when the first count showed that he had lost by less than one percent of the total vote. The first count had him losing by 132 votes.

Tim Kiser / Wikimedia Commons--CC

The Kansas Department of Transportation wants to know what drivers would be willing to pay for a new bridge over the Missouri River near Fort Leavenworth – if it saved them time.

The 60-year-old Route 92 Centennial Bridge is “functionally obsolete,” industry parlance for an old bridge that doesn’t really work for today’s traffic.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A Southwest Airlines-led panel looking at the future of Kansas City International Airport says it would be cheaper to rebuild than to renovate the three horseshoe-shaped terminals.

“The major renovation options were coming in significantly over a billion dollars,” Steve Sisneros, director of airport affairs for the airline, said Tuesday after a presentation to the Kansas City Council. “The new terminal options are coming in under.”

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, we look back at the Kansas Legislature's favorite songs and what they meant in the context of the session. It's Statehouse Blend, The Musical.

Guests:

  • C.J. Janovy, Arts Reporter, KCUR
  • Matt Hodapp, Statehouse Blend Producer, KCUR

The Kansas City Council passed an ordinance Thursday raising the city's minimum wage. 

Cheers rang out in chamber after the council approved the new ordinance 12 - 1. It will bump wages up to $8.50 an hour by August 24, and will eventually cap at $13 an hour by Jan. 1, 2020. 

But Mayor Sly James made it clear that the ordinance could be found to violate state law, and that legislators are unlikely to simply let it stand.

Neighbors and parishioners continued to do verbal battle with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as a Kansas City Council committee revisited the proposal to replace  the former St. Francis School with student apartments.

On Wednesday, the committee tossed the matter to the full City Council.

A guarantee of 55 more parking spaces for the St. Francis Xavier Church didn't appease opposition to the proposed 235-bedroom residential building. Neighborhood groups and church members have battled successive versions of the proposal for three years. 

Stand Up KC

The Kansas City Council is poised to take action Thursday on an ordinance that would raise the city's minimum wage well above state levels.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Erin Davis from Olathe provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 Kansas legislative session. 

You can listen to the full episode of Statehouse Blend here.

Guests:

Mktp / Flickr--CC

For a while, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was saying it was going to be pretty difficult to start offering benefits to same-sex couples who worked for the state following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

It took a few days, but the state finally started granting gay and lesbian couples benefits. But local governments have been quietly offering same-sex benefits for some time.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Erin Davis from Olathe provides an insider perspective on the historic 2015 Kansas legislative session. 

Guests:

  • Erin Davis, Rep. for the 15th District, Kansas Legislature 
  • Christopher Leitch, Citizen Voice
  • Dan Margolies, Heartland Health Monitor Editor, KCUR
Cody Newill / KCUR

The Kansas City Council will continue to discuss an ordinance that would raise the city's minimum wage. 

Dozens of activists from Stand Up KC, a group focused on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, filled the council chamber Thursday during a two-hour session of expert testimony. 

As it currently stands, the measure would increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2023. That's $2 an hour less than what advocates want, and takes an extra three years.

John Stanton / Fort Wiki--CC

A major reduction in military force will have a small impact on two Kansas bases.

Though the U.S. Department of Defense is expected to cut some 40,000 positions, only 675 will be at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley.

John Armbrust with the Governor’s Military Council says although Fort Riley is losing 615 soldiers, or roughly 3 percent of the uniformed force, it shouldn’t have a noticeable economic impact in either Manhattan or Junction City.

Kansas officials have lobbied to keep troop levels steady at Fort Riley.

Wikipedia Commons/K.C. Star

The Kansas City Council will vote next week on extending the tax abatement on the Kansas City Star's printing plant for another 15 years. 

A council committee endorsed the extension, though an advisory board did not.

The Chapter 353 Advisory Board said tough times in the newspaper industry notwithstanding, the Star received the 10-year tax abatement in the spirit of the law involved:  to end blight at 15th and Oak streets. 

With the building in place, the board said, the blight is now gone and the newspaper is not entitled to any more tax relief.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

The same day the Kansas governor vowed to protect “religious freedom,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order to ensure state agencies are implementing last month’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Dozens of bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this year remain unsigned as the deadline for taking action approaches.

They include the sole Ferguson-related bill passed during the 2015 legislative session.

Text messaging 911 service is likely to come to one part of the metropolitan area within the year. But the startup will involve a special kind of texting technology for deaf persons using landline phones.

In a report to the Kansas City City Council, MARC Public Safety Director Keith Faddis says the main focus of early testing is mainly in Johnson County and on the TTY system.  Johnson County is the location of the Kansas School for the Deaf, and Faddis says it already has considerable TTY message traffic.

Wikipedia Commons/geograph.org.uk

The Kansas City City Council put the finishing touches on an update of city rules on pet potbellied pigs Thursday, and in the process eased some restrictions.

To make it easier to adopt the animals or find homes for strays, pedigree papers are no longer necessary for the pigs . The word of any veterinarian that the pet pig is of the Vietnamese potbellied variety will suffice. 

The weight limit of 95 pounds was removed.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, we ask former Kansas legislators to compare and contrast the Kansas legislature then and now.

You can listen to the full episode of Statehouse Blend here.

Guests:

  • Kelly Kultala, Former Senator, 5th District
  • John Vratil, Former Senator, 11th District
  • Tim Owens, Former Senator, 8th District

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