Government

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the American Health Care Act, the GOP-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

House Republicans approved the plan by a narrow margin, 217 - 213. The measure goes next to the Senate.

In the waning hours before the vote, Indivisible Kansas City, a local branch of the national movement, organized a protest outside Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder's office in downtown Overland Park, Kansas. 

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas? 

Turns out it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A bill to increase oversight of the Kansas foster care system hit a snag after state officials said its wording could jeopardize millions in federal funding.

The bill would create an interim oversight committee that would study problems in the state’s foster care system and submit a corrective action plan to the Kansas Legislature. The House Committee on Children and Seniors approved the bill in March, but it still must pass the full House and Senate.

Susie Fagan / KCUR 89.3

Kansas lawmakers are back from spring break with nothing but big issues to deal with before the end of the session: taxes, budget and school finance. When will it all get done? Two panels of legislators sat down with us live in the Capitol to work through the issues as we head toward the end of this legislative session.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

City Manager Troy Schulte has sent a letter to the mayor and city council outlining how to spend the first $40 million in general obligation bonds Kansas City voters approved last month.

“We want to get the shovel-ready projects rolling, and we have to tackle the backlog of spot sidewalk repairs,” Schulte said in a statement. “I know council members are also anxious to get going, so this gives them a chance to review the list and provide us with the feedback we need to finalize the plan.”

Here’s what the city manager has proposed:

KCUR 89.3 File Photo

The speed limit on U.S. Route 71 just north of the Grandview Triangle increases this week to 65 miles per hour.

Currently, the posted speed limit from a half mile south of 75th Street to 3-Trails Crossing is 55, but most drivers tend to go faster, says Derek Olson, a district traffic engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

Republican leaders in the Kansas House say it is unlikely they will schedule another vote on Medicaid expansion in the final weeks of the legislative session.

But Democrats say they will attempt to force one.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said lawmakers facing tough votes on the budget, taxes and school finance don’t want to further complicate the final weeks of the session by adding Medicaid expansion to the mix.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James won’t commit to a timeline for hiring the next chief of police.

"The goal isn't to do this fast,” James said at a news conference at police headquarters Monday morning. “The goal is to do it right. If it takes us a year to find the best person, it’ll take us a year. If we can find the best person in 30 days, we’ll do that.

stgermh / Flickr-CC

The Kansas Legislature faces a crucial deadline as it starts its wrap-up session this week: It must have a school funding formula in place by June 30 that passes muster with the state Supreme Court or the justices will shut down public schools.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the Missouri General Assembly heads into the last two weeks of the 2017 legislative session, there’s a lot left on the agenda, and little of it is without controversy: a prescription drug monitoring program, REAL ID, abortion restrictions and final passage of the budget. In this episode, Sen. Caleb Rowden describes what many will see as this session's signature accomplishment--fully funding the foundation formula for K-12 education. He also suggests that it's okay for Republicans, who control most levers of power in the state, to disagree about how best to govern.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

An audit of the Kansas foster care system found the state doesn’t ensure children are placed close to home or receive all services they need.

The Legislature’s independent auditing team presented the third part of its report on the Kansas foster care system Friday to the Legislative Post Audit Committee. The final part of the audit attempted to answer if the state’s two foster care contractors have sufficient resources to provide services and if privatization has improved children’s outcomes and lowered costs.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Some have said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been largely absent from this legislative session, but the power of his veto has loomed large. As we begin to come to the close of this session, KPR's Stephen Koranda reports on the relationship between the Governor and the Legislature.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers signaled Thursday that they could exempt Kansas psychiatric hospitals from a law requiring them to allow concealed handguns.

Gov. Sam Brownback has requested an additional $24 million in spending over the next two budget years on upgrades needed to provide security at state mental health hospitals and facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A Republican leader in the Kansas Senate says he’ll propose a fee on all utility bills in the state to help fund education.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, says his plan calls for a $3 monthly fee on residential electric, gas and water bills in the state. Those with all three utilities would pay $9 more a month. For commercial customers, the monthly fee would be $10 per bill.

The whole package would raise $150 million a year, Denning estimates.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback kicked off the Kansas legislative session by drawing lines in the sand on taxes, spending and Medicaid expansion, and he has defended those positions with his veto pen.

The question when lawmakers return Monday to Topeka is whether those vetoes will hold up.

Sam Warlick / National League of Cities

Earlier this month Kansas City, Missouri, residents raised their own property taxes for 20 years in part to help pay for federally-required improvements to public buildings under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Updated 9 p.m. April 26 with budget moving forward — Missouri’s $27.8 billion budget for next fiscal year passed the Senate on Wednesday night, 9 days before the constitutional deadline.

It’s back in the hands of the state House, and both chambers have to appoint negotiators to hammer out a final version. The budget must be to Greitens by 6 p.m. May 5 or risk needing a special session.


Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt was in Kansas City Tuesday to promote MO ABLE, a new savings program for people with disabilities.

“Look, when my son was born, we opened up a college savings account. You have all those hopes and dreams,” says Schmitt. “Emotionally, psychologically, that’s tough for families.”

Schmitt's 12-year-old son is nonverbal on the autism spectrum.

The tax-advantaged accounts function similarly to Missouri’s 529 college savings plan and can be used to pay for assistive technology and long-term care.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A third of the way to an end-of-year deadline, Kansas officials still do not have federal approval to extend KanCare.

In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the state’s request for a one-year extension of the waiver that allowed it to privatize its Medicaid program. The denial letter said neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was doing enough to hold the three private companies that run the program responsible for providing services accountable to Medicaid rules.

Amy Jeffries / KCUR 89.3

When a number of moderate Republicans joined the Kansas Legislature after the 2016 election, many were talking about a possible coalition with the Democrats. As the 2017 legislative session starts to near its end, we explore whether that coalition ever became a reality. 

Summer is approaching, a time when Missouri residents hit the road for a little rest and relaxation. It might be a rougher-than-expected journey, though, as legislators aren’t making transportation projects a priority during the 2017 session.

In the meantime, the Missouri Department of Transportation is using a reserve fund to maintain the state’s roads and bridges — money that’s supposed to go toward emergencies and natural disasters. MoDOT chief engineer Ed Hassinger said it’s not an issue right now, but will be if the department has to draw from it for another three years.

Office of the Missouri State Auditor

Updated, 4:40 p.m. Thursday: The Missouri Department of Revenue has turned a stack of documents over to the State Auditor's Office, according to a news release.

Auditor Nicole Galloway took the unusual step of issuing a subpoena Wednesday after the Department of Revenue failed to comply with an earlier request.

Galloway initiated the audit six weeks ago to ensure Missourians owed tax refunds were being paid on time. State law requires returns not paid within 45 days be paid with interest, which Galloway says isn't good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of the Kansas agency that oversees the state’s hospital system is working to jump-start the process of recertifying Osawatomie State Hospital.

Federal officials decertified the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in December 2015 due to concerns about patient safety and staffing.

The decertification order is costing the hospital approximately $1 million a month in federal funding.

File photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City needs to do a better job investigating and documenting employment discrimination complaints.

Kansas City Auditor Doug Jones says his office initially set out to audit the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (EEO) office because it was told that complaints take too long to resolve.

Wikimedia Commons

A Washington-based watchdog group has joined calls for an investigation into Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard over campaign contributions he received from a Joplin businessman.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner is replacing Ron Estes as state treasurer.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced LaTurner’s appointment to the soon-to-be vacant position Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference.

Marshall Pledges To Fight For Federal Food Funding

Apr 17, 2017
Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

During a Friday visit to Junction City that included a stop at a food pantry site, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall said he would work to maintain funding for programs that feed the hungry.

Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District, which includes two counties — Geary and Riley — with the state’s highest rates of food insecurity. Residents of those counties also are more likely than most people across the country to lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill.

Hudnall and Ellison
Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Did Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard sponsor a bill to help a Joplin business avoid a costly lawsuit in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations?

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When it comes to the Buck O’Neil Bridge (formerly known as the Broadway Bridge,) Kansas City is in a tough spot.

More than 50,000 people drive across the bridge each day, according to The Mid-America Regional Council, whose Beyond The Loop project is studying the bridge and its surrounding area.  

Pages