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Kansas government

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Getting most Kansas schoolchildren doing well enough in math and reading to stay on track for college could cost an extra $2 billion a year — or roughly half what the state already spends on aid to local schools.

The figure comes from a report released Friday that lawmakers commissioned to help them judge the costs of getting better classroom results and to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order.

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Segment 1: Accusations and investigations result in new rounds of discipline at both universities.

After allegations of hazing and sexual assault, 24 of the 28 fraternities at the University of Kansas and all 29 at the University of Missouri - Columbia have temporarily suspended a number of activities. Today, we asked what led to these decisions and whether it is indicative of a attitude change in fraternity culture nationwide.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The new head of Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency got a unanimous vote of confidence from a legislative committee Friday.

Even the agency's staunchest critics think Gina Meier-Hummel will sail through a confirmation vote from the full Senate to head the Department for Children and Families.

“I can’t imagine that she will” face any serious opposition, said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat running for governor, and one of several lawmakers who called for the ouster of Meier-Hummel’s predecessor, former DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore.

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Kansas lawmakers, increasingly skeptical that tax breaks deliver economic wins, looked closely this week at economic incentive programs.

Senators on the Commerce Committee spent several days discussing bills that would add new requirements to sales tax revenue bonds, known as STAR bonds.

STAR bonds allow local governments to borrow money for a building project, and tax collections created by the development are diverted to pay off the loans.

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Some lawmakers said Monday that putting Kansas at the center of a database intended to root out voter fraud might eventually put it in the middle of a lawsuit if things go wrong.

More than two dozen states compare voter rolls using the Crosscheck database of some 90 million-plus records that Kansas hosts.

In the weeks since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, student activists and others have taken to the streets in an effort to spur policy makers to talk about how we regulate guns. But, is that debate happening here in Kansas?

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Democrats aren’t yet united behind a candidate for governor.

Still, they emerged from their annual convention over the weekend talking confidently about a fighting chance to break the recent Republican grip on key state and federal offices.

“You have to have a perfect storm to elect a Democrat in Kansas,” said Damien Gilbert, president of the Young Democrats of Kansas, a chapter nearly extinct a few years ago but now among the party’s most active.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has made a point to say he will not accept harassment and discrimination in his administration. But he won’t say if he’ll reinstate an executive order that would bar discrimination against LGBT state workers.

“What I have said is that we will not tolerate discrimination. If there’s an issue of discrimination, come to me,” Colyer said. “We’ll deal with it. It’s not tolerated by our administration, period.”


Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Thursday that a staff member improperly disclosed personal information for 11,000 people in an email sent to multiple addresses.

Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokeswoman, said the disclosure includes Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal details of Medicaid recipients and potential recipients of the health care program.

Such personal details, particularly the combination of a Social Security number with a date of birth, can be all a criminal might need for identity theft.

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.


file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Wednesday still facing the largest challenge of this year’s session: balancing the budget and responding to a court order to spend more on schools.

In recent years, though, lawmakers plucked the low-hanging fruit when it comes to finding cash. That makes any revenue harvest ahead that much more difficult.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas schools already have the freedom to arm their teachers. Gov. Jeff Colyer says now bonuses for teachers who pack weapons might be in order.

Yet the governor also said that local school districts should make the call, embracing those options that they think make the most sense to prevent school shootings.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers head into the next stretch of this year’s legislative session after advancing bills offering tax breaks to some smaller businesses, compensation to people thrown in prison unjustly and a welcome mat to industrial chicken growers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Questions about a private company’s efforts to win a lucrative prison contract from former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have lawmakers looking to close a loophole in state lobbying laws.

Current law requires legislative lobbyists to register with the state and report their expenses. But there are no such requirements for those peddling influence in the executive and judicial branches of state government.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate voted 40-0 to pass a bill that would change that.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

A call sets it off.

One of Kansas’ two foster care contractors learns another child has landed in state custody. It has four hours to pick the kid up.

Crysta Henthorne / KCUR 89.3

Junkie logic brought an addict to the doorsteps of a Topeka woman once convicted of selling cocaine.

The addict was looking to buy, and Kansas’ online database of criminal offenders has a handy geographic search tool that lets users pull up the names, crimes and addresses of people who live within a few miles of their homes.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Executives pushing the merger of the two largest utility companies in Kansas have told regulators they’ll give in on some customer bill protection and job guarantees.

But the leaders at Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy say promising a 5-year moratorium on rate hikes could leave the new, larger company unable to keep step in a fast-changing industry.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

When it comes to packing Statehouse hearings, few groups fill a room more reliably than those pushing for Medicaid expansion.

What they’re less good at, at least so far, is convincing lawmakers and a governor to expand Medicaid eligibility to another 150,000 low-income Kansans.

They came close last year. Lawmakers passed an expansion bill, but came a few votes short of overriding then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto.

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer named Tracey Mann, who operates a Kansas City real estate firm and lives in Salina, on Tuesday as his lieutenant governor.

Mann is the managing director and principal of Newmark Grubb Zimmer, a commercial real estate company headquartered in Kansas City.

Richard Green / special to Kansas News Service

Amy Houston got the bad news — a diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma — in 2009.

She started working 10-hour days in her corporate job to get Fridays off for chemotherapy. But that schedule no longer worked when the time came for daily radiation treatments. 

“I lost my job and therefore lost my medical insurance,” Houston said.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Imagine, teacher Shauna Hammett tells first-graders gathered around a small table, a train whistle.

“What sound is the long ‘A’ sound?” Hammett asks.

Hands shoot into the air, then tug downward as if pulling on a rope. Their sing-song answer mimics the sound of a passing train: “Aaaaaaaa. Aaaaaa.”

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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 / 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.

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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.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Troubles in the Kansas foster care system might stem in large part from a shortage of places that can help children in psychiatric crisis, say some lawmakers and child advocate groups.

Since 2013, the number of psychiatric residential treatment facilities in Kansas has dropped from 11 to eight, with 222 fewer available beds.

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.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Lowering the Kansas sales tax on food is as popular as it is difficult in a state scrounging for every nickel to balance its budget.

On Thursday, supporters of a plan to cut taxes on groceries sounded off at the Kansas Statehouse with a plea to a Senate committee to advance a constitutional amendment that would reduce the rate.