Kansas

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!”

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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

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.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

 A new statewide poll suggests that political change could be in the air in Kansas.

The poll by John Zogby Strategies shows 71 percent of voters surveyed gave low ratings on how the state is performing its duties.

The survey included 433 registered voters in Kansas from June 4-6, 2016 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent. Political analyst John Zogby released the findings during a Kansas Health Foundation symposium in Wichita on Friday.

Zogby says the research suggests that Kansans might feel betrayed, especially when it comes to state policy issues.

A federal judge on Tuesday promised to rule before July 7 on Planned Parenthood’s request to block the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from cutting off its Medicaid funding.

That’s the date when the agency has said it will terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Medicaid program.

The original cutoff date was May 10, but KDHE has extended that deadline twice, in part because it has had trouble finding counsel to represent it.

Health officials say about 30 children in Saline County have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department, says more cases could be discovered as public awareness of the health threat grows.

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says the governor’s priority is avoiding a school shutdown caused by a lawsuit over school funding.

“They’re going to work very hard to keep the special session focused on the issue of education to make sure the courts do not close our schools and the kids can go back to school,” says Hawley.

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, we bring you an in-depth look at what is shaping up to be a competitive 2016 election year in Kansas.

Guests on this episode:

One in every five calories people around the world eat, comes from just one grain, wheat. And for generations the U.S. led the world in wheat exports. But, that’s changed, and maybe for good.

Wheat is not something you want to run out of. Wheat shortages helped spark the bloody French Revolution and the Arab Spring.

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