Kansas

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this summer, Jeff Blackwood started the process of moving his business to Kansas City, Missouri -- and out of Overland Park, Kansas.  But first, he had something to say.

“I could have just moved and not said anything," Blackwood says. “There’s really no benefit to me in having said anything, but it comes down to conscience.”

Kansas Legislature

Primary election night was brutal for conservative Republicans in the Kansas Legislature. 

Six Republican members of the Senate lost their primaries. The more moderate candidates won two additional seats left open by conservatives who decided not to run for reelection.

Eight Republican House members were ousted in the primaries. The Kansas Chamber, which has been known to back lawmakers who align with Gov. Brownback on tax policy, had endorsed all of those defeated incumbents. Eight others the Chamber endorsed in 13 open House races also lost.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the voting in yesterday’s primary election went smoothly across Kansas, with no significant problems. But one issue that remains is how many Kansans cast provisional ballots after a judge allowed 17,000 previously suspended voters to take part in the election.

The provisional ballots from those voters will be hand counted in the coming days. Kobach says he does not expect any issues handling those extra votes.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Concerns stem from reports of possible tampering in 2014 election

Kansas doesn’t have a reputation for corruption like Chicago where political bosses stuffed ballot boxes and sometimes raised the dead to alter the outcome of elections, or like Florida, home of the infamous hanging chad from Bush v. Gore.

But concerns about tampering appear to on the rise, at least among Kansas Democrats, because of unusual voting patterns in the 2014 elections and persistent reports about the vulnerability of electronic voting machines.

Americans tend to think that each election is a littler dirtier than the last. Certainly that is the feeling among many candidates running for the Kansas Legislature as attack postcards fill mailboxes as the Aug. 2 primary quickly approaches.

This year the postcards often focus on education. Who is for kids and who is against them? Let's use the Republican primary for House District 21, which includes Prairie Village, Mission Hills plus chunks of Overland Park and Leawood, as an example.

iStock

Years of problems at Osawatomie State Hospital reached a crisis point in the fall of 2015, when the sexual assault of a hospital employee by a patient triggered two failed inspections and the loss of federal funding.

Kansas had relied more on OSH after it reduced the number of state hospital beds in the 1990s. The idea was to put more money into community mental health services, but that hadn’t happened since the early 2000s — and those services actually lost money during the Great Recession. 

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

They came north from McPherson and south from Cloud County. East from Hays and west from Topeka.  

From the far-off reaches of Kansas's 1st Congressional District, representatives of the state’s agriculture interests met in a small storefront in Salina on a recent July morning, making history.

“You drove all this way,” says Roger Marshall, “you have to get your photo taken!”

Andy Taylor

Dr. Julie Stewart doesn’t want political candidates and elected officials to show up at her nonprofit medical clinic in Coffeyville for photo opportunities, grant announcements or organized tours.

Instead, the Coffeyville physician would like those officials to take a personal interest in the patients who have chosen Stewart’s Community Health Clinic of Southeast Kansas because they have no health insurance options.

Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature continue to be unpopular, and the primary race in the 1st Congressional District is in a dead heat, according to a new survey from the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute. 

With the presidential nominations settled and Kansas races heating up ahead of the Aug. 2 primaries, Brad Pendergast, with the Docking Institute, says it was time for some new polling numbers.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment must recognize same-sex marriages, allowing gay and lesbian couples the same benefits as others.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree’s decision forbids the state agency from enforcing the now-unconstitutional Kansas law banning same-sex marriage, further clarifying just how Kansas must respond to the new law.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas is a red state. In Western Kansas, it’s deep red. But it’s also one of the most demographically diverse regions in the state. The population in several cities in the southwest corner is almost 50 percent Hispanic.

In Finney County, a small group of young  Democrats are working to engage that huge group of potential voters who have long been in the background. 

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A state Senate race in the Topeka area shows how complicated this election cycle can be for some candidates. Kansas Republicans are running at a time when polls are showing the state’s Republican governor – and the Legislature itself – with pretty low approval ratings.

Senator Vicki Schmidt, a moderate Republican from Topeka’s 20th District, is not shy about the fact that she often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Gov. Sam Brownback.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Three Kansas residents sued Secretary of State Kris Kobach today, challenging the dual voter registration system that was proposed by Kobach and adopted by a state commission last week.

The system bars more than 17,000 Kansas voters from voting in state and local elections while allowing them to vote in federal election contests.

The State Rules and Regulations Board last week formally enacted the system as a temporary regulation. Temporary regulations expire in 120 days – in this case, that happens to coincide with the day after the general election on Nov. 8.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The state’s Medicaid application backlog is making work more stressful for Angela Moore, executive director of Sharon Lane Health Services in Shawnee.

Moore’s nursing home has 110 employees caring for about 70 elderly and disabled residents, and she has cash flow worries because of persistent problems with the state’s Medicaid eligibility system.

At one point recently she was waiting on Medicaid coverage approval for 17 residents — which means Sharon Lane was providing free care for almost one-fourth of its clients.

Kansas Elections Director Bryan Caskey and state Sen. Vicki Schmidt discuss the proposed voting rule during the  Kansas Rules and Regulations Board meeting.
Stephen Koranda / KPR

With little advance notice of the hearing, a state panel has approved a temporary election rule that will have some Kansans vote with provisional ballots, but only their votes in federal races will be counted. Votes for state and local races will be tossed out.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach proposed the rule. The Kansas Rules and Regulations Board approved it Tuesday morning after notice of the meeting was sent out Monday afternoon.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

 

It’s time to start voting, Kansas.

From the top of the primary ballot to the bottom there are important decisions to make by Aug. 2.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mark Andes is among those in rural Kansas who have benefited. Andes was living and working in McPherson last year when he began having some scary health symptoms.

Postcards, Shoe Leather Factor In Kansas Elections

Jul 8, 2016
A line-up of candidates at a meet-and-greet in Ulysses, Kansas. From left to right: District 39 Sen. Larry Powell, Congressional candidate Roger Marshall, state Rep. John Doll, and Democratic challenger Zach Worf.
Amy Jeffries / KCUR

In far Western Kansas, Senate District 39 spans 10 counties -- it’s vast and it’s flat.

For once, there is a Democratic candidate out here. Zach Worf, a political novice, is the first Democrat to try for the senate seat in a long time.

The real race is still the Republican primary. This time it’s a contest between incumbent Sen. Larry Powell and Garden City Rep. John Doll.

Doll says he knows what the prime attack against him will be: that he used to be a Democrat.

While many educators are spending the summer on the campaign trail, the sign outside a public elementary school in Wichita urges voters to register.
Abigail Wilson / KMUW

To say that many educators in Kansas are fed up with state lawmakers would be an understatement. The legislature has been putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on public schools in recent years. This election season, educators are trying to send legislators packing.

The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) estimates that all across the state roughly 50 current and former school board members, administrators, and teachers are candidates in legislative elections.

Natural Resources Defense Council

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems — including 68 in Kansas — are in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to protect people from lead in the water they drink.

Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Public health officials in Wyandotte County and Johnson County say they are seeking funds to continue comprehensive sexual education programs into 2018 after the state declined to renew a federal grant.

Hiku2 / Wikimedia--CC

Updated: 11:58 a.m.

Missouri’s highly restrictive abortion laws are certain to face a court challenge now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down similar restrictions in Texas.

The high court on Monday, by a 5-3 vote, ruled that a 2013 Texas law placed an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion under the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Wikimedia Commons - CC

Kansas lawmakers have approved a school funding plan that they say will end the risk of a legal fight closing Kansas schools. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling that says the funding system was unfair to poorer school districts.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley joined a large bipartisan majority Friday night that supported the bill.

“Regardless of who came up with the plan, what matters is that what we did today was put the children of Kansas first. This is a responsible plan that solves the problem,” said Hensley.

The Kansas Senate has narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have prevented courts from closing public schools in the future. Lawmakers are currently in a legal dispute with the Kansas Supreme Court over education funding that could result in schools closing July 1.

The proposal was designed to prevent courts as well as lawmakers from shuttering schools. Republican Sen. Jeff King said he pushed the amendment so that Kansas voters could consider the idea on the November ballot.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A school funding plan has been making fast progress in the Kansas Legislature, passing out of both House and Senate committees Thursday. The proposal will cut the general state aid all school districts receive by .5 percent, then redistribute that money to assist poorer school districts.

It also takes funding from several other places for a total of $38 million. Republican Sen. Ty Masterson believes the bill can win legislative and judicial approval and prevent schools from shutting down.

KIDS COUNT/aecf.org

Both Kansas and Missouri stayed in the middle tier of states in the new KIDS COUNT survey released Tuesday, but Kansas had the third-largest drop in child well-being ratings in the nation.

Overall, Kansas fell from 15th place last year to 19th.  Missouri slipped from 26th to 28th. 

Health scores improved for Missouri kids but slid 11 places for Kansas. 

Missouri came up three positions on economic well-being, Kansas held steady at No. 9.

Claire Banderas / KCUR

The Kansas Legislature is preparing to go into special session to remedy a school funding formula that the Kansas Supreme Court ruled is unconstitutional. The court told the Legislature they have until June 30 to remedy the formula, or schools will be closed

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Thousands of people in Kansas have incomplete voter registrations, which means they haven’t been able to vote. They were caught up in the state’s requirement that some people provide citizenship documents when registering. Now, a federal appeals court says many of those people should be allowed to vote in federal elections.

Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has pushed for the more stringent voter registration rules to ensure security in elections, but voter advocacy groups say the cost has been too high.

As presidential candidates vie for votes nationwide, we ask what one vote is really worth. And if you're voting Democrat in strongly Republican Kansas, does your ballot really matter?

Guests:

  • Burdett Loomis is a political scientist at the University of Kansas.
  • Cheyenne Davis is the field and political director for the Kansas Democratic Party
  • KCUR's Elle Moxley and Lisa Rodriguez have been reporting on elections in Kansas.
Ozarks Community Hospital

A new study by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute finds stark differences between states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and those — like Kansas and Missouri — that haven’t.

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