Kansas Legislature

Courtesy Vicki Hiatt

The Johnson County Election Office went ahead with a vote recount sought by Kansas Senate candidate Vicki Hiatt even though she withdrew her request, citing irregularities and what she described as the office’s lack of transparency.

The election office said on Wednesday that the recount had left the outcome of the District 10 race unchanged. It said Republican Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook defeated Hiatt, a Democrat, by the identical 952-vote margin reported earlier, with each candidate receiving one additional vote from paper ballots.

Heartland Health Monitor file photo

Vicki Hiatt, who lost her bid to unseat Republican firebrand Mary Pilcher-Cook in the Kansas Senate by a mere 980 votes in the initial vote tally, has requested a recount.

Hiatt, a Democrat who ran for the District 10 seat, which includes parts of Johnson and Wyandotte counties, made the request in a letter today to Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker. The letter was prompted by election night tabulation problems in Johnson County that delayed the reporting of results until the next day.  

Megan Wingerter / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 6:04 p.m. 

Kansas is seeking a private partner to operate Osawatomie State Hospital under a proposal that would allow the contractor to shift more than half the hospital’s beds to other parts of eastern Kansas.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

An analysis of KanCare performed by a former Republican governor’s think tank found that the switch to managed care Medicaid in Kansas has delivered on cost-cutting promises but not on quality of care.

Leavitt Partners, a policy consulting shop founded by former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, performed the analysis between May and October by interviewing KanCare providers and reviewing federal and state data.

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Medicaid expansion advocates in Kansas say they’ll move forward with legislation despite national election results that signal a repeal of Obamacare.

But they are a lot less optimistic about their chances than they were before last week.

Click here to read about a Kansas City family's growing anxiety about Obamacare's repeal

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 with results from Johnson County.

Democrats gained enough Kansas House seats in Tuesday’s election to form a coalition with moderate Republicans to pass or block right-wing legislation.

But any such coalition will be more tenuous in the Senate after Democrats gained just one seat there.

Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republican allies have controlled the legislative agenda since moderate GOP leaders were purged from the Senate in 2012.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

At the end of the balloting today, the complexion of both the Kansas Legislature and the state’s highest court could be radically different.

There’s less suspense about the top of the ticket, at least as far as Kansas goes. Unlike the razor thin margins in some presidential battleground states, polls show Republican Donald Trump well ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the reliably-red Sunflower State.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of the Statehouse Blend Kansas podcast, KCUR reporter Elle Moxley and panelists Mark Tallman from the Kansas Association of School Boards and Dave Trabert, President of the Kansas Policy Institute, take an in-depth look at the future of education in Kansas.

This episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas was recorded live at the Johnson County Library Central Branch.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

It’s a campaign without ads. There are no TV spots or mailers. The only people voting are the 165 Kansas lawmakers choosing their new leaders.

“Leadership races are the most inside of inside baseball,” says University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis.

Loomis says you almost have to be a legislative nerd to have heard of the candidates for Kansas House speaker or Senate president, but they get to make committee assignments and control the chamber.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

For Ashlyn Harcrow, the sound of the train whistle brings up all kinds of thoughts she’d like to avoid.

Harcrow, 24, has been living at the Topeka Rescue Mission since July. The nonprofit homeless shelter has helped her stabilize as she recovers from domestic violence and tries to improve her mental health amid post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

But the mission, at 600 N. Kansas Ave., is right next to the tracks. As trains rumble through north Topeka, they remind Harcrow that she’s thought about using those tracks to take her own life.

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A public letter by the head of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services praising KanCare’s effect on Kansans with disabilities has drawn a string of rebuttals from people who provide disability services.

Tim Keck’s letter was published Oct. 24 on the Wichita Eagle editorial page.

Webmaster102 / Wikimedia Commons

One outcome of the 2016 elections that we know already: the make-up of the Kansas Legislature will be different.

That raises some questions, like this one our Kansas elections coverage team got from Cynthia in Leawood:

Is it possible that Kansas will elect enough moderates to reverse the open carry gun policies in KS, especially on college campuses? Would Brownback veto such a measure?

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

With Election Day a week away, we check in with local political reporters for analysis of elections in Kansas and Missouri. Then, political commentator E.J. Dionne discusses the presidential campaign and themes from his book Why the Right Went Wrong. We finish with this week's Statehouse Blend Kansasfeaturing state Rep.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

There is widespread, bipartisan support for eliminating or reducing the sales tax on food among candidates for the Kansas Legislature, according to survey results released Monday by an advocacy organization.

However, when the winners of next week’s election show up at the Statehouse in January, they may again decide the state can’t afford to do without the revenue it generates.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Education political action committees in Kansas are spreading around tens of thousands of dollars to help both conservative and moderate legislative candidates.

There are two big education political action committees in Kansas and they back very different candidates.

The Kansas NEA PAC is funded by contributions solicited by the union and in the last reporting period made about $29,000 in campaign contributions and spent $12,400 on polling.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Out on the campaign trail, there are a couple of competing narratives about what’s going on with the Kansas budget.

Both acknowledge that plummeting revenues have delayed road projects, increased the state’s bond debt and forced cuts in higher education, healthcare and safety net programs for poor Kansans.

But that’s where the stories diverge.

Moderate Republicans and Democrats running for the Legislature are blaming the 2012 income tax cuts championed by Governor Sam Brownback for crashing the state budget.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, Rep. Russell Jennings (R-Lakin) discusses the 2016 election, guns on college campuses, education funding, and his campaign for speaker of the house.

Guests:

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

If you think there seems to be a lot of early voters this year, you're right. 

In the first week or so of advanced in-person voting, Kansas counties in the metro area are experiencing numbers that suggest records could be broken. 

"I never thought we'd surpass 2008," says Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. 

That year, when Barack Obama beat John McCain, many precincts across the nation saw historic overall turnout. But this year, Shew and others suspect new early voting benchmarks could be set. 

The Kansas Department of Transportation opened bids Wednesday on a highway project that is key to legislative races in southeast Kansas.

The project would expand U.S. Highway 69 from two lanes to four between Kansas City and Pittsburg — something residents of that part of southeast Kansas say is essential for safe movement of people and goods.

Abigail Beckman / KMUW

In many districts across Kansas, tight budgets have put teachers and school boards at odds.

School boards are hedging their bets about how generous the state funding will be next year. That very much depends on who wins seats in the Legislature.

In Wichita, the state's largest district, it took much longer than usual to reach agreement on a contract for this year. It wasn't until October that teachers had a tentative deal with the school board. 

Prairie Village has the distinction among Kansas cities of being the hometown of not one — but two! — operatic prodigies. Hear the latest tenor voice that's delighting audiences from California to Carnegie Hall. Then, we examine a different way to frame victims of sexual violence and the concept of rape itself. Finally, the latest Statehouse Blend Kansas, recorded live in Wichita.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of the Statehouse Blend Kansas podcast, former Democratic Representative, Melody McCray-Miller, and former Gov. Bill Graves' Communications Director, Mike Matson, attempt to decode the political spin of this election season.

This episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas was recorded live at The Anchor in Wichita, Kan.

Guests:

The first TV spot has landed in the contentious battle to retain four Kansas Supreme Court justices in the November Election. The ad was paid for by Kansans for Fair Courts, the group backing retention.

The 30-second spot will start airing in the Wichita market on Friday and it takes on the two biggest issues Republicans and other conservatives are using against four of the five justices on the ballot: the death penalty and school finance.

Emory Maiden / Flickr - CC

After two of sessions with a federal mediator, the union representing Shawnee Mission teachers says it's reached a deal with the district.

The two sides declared an impasse back in July and met with the mediator once last month and then finalized the tentative deal last Thursday.

Shawnee Mission will put 0.65 percent more into salaries in the new contract, says union president Linda Sieck. That will cost the district, she says, about $2.9 million dollars more this year.

Sieck says this is a modest increase but everyone is worried about the worsening Kansas budget.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) discuss a new policy plan, education funding, and the upcoming elections.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle and Republican candidates for that chamber have released a series of policy proposals, which include the possibility of amending tax cuts made in recent years.

The plan includes overarching themes on topics such as balancing the budget, writing a new school funding formula and creating fairness in the tax code.

Wagle is working to harness voter frustration with the Legislature and the budget. She's laying out a message aimed squarely at those Kansans.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up in Shawnee, Tom Cox remembers looking up to “traditional Republicans.”

Politicians like Bill Graves, Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum – Kansans who were willing to reach across the aisle and set political ideology aside in the interest of public policy.

“My pitch at the door? ‘I’m running against a Brownback Republican, and I’m an anti-Brownback Republican,’” Cox says. “We need to save our state,” Cox says. “We need to focus on tax reform, education reform and protecting local governments as a start.”

Jim McLean
KHI News Service

Kansas received more bad financial news on Monday when the state said tax collections in September missed projections by $45 million.

Since the new fiscal year started July 1, Kansas has collected $68 million less than expected.

But one state House leader is trying to put a good face on a bleak picture.

In an email to colleagues Sunday, Rep. Ron Ryckman, the conservative House budget chairman from Olathe, said lawmakers are facing "challenging times." But "we should not forget the groundwork that has been laid to begin improving the fiscal outlook," he wrote.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If Kansas is forced to reduce its budget by five percent over the next two fiscal years, higher education in the state could take a $56.4 million hit.

That's on top of $47.9 million in reductions the previous two years.

The data comes from budget documents submitted to the Governor's office by the six Kansas Board of Regents universities.

A huge majority of Kansans say they would support reducing non-violent drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor as a way to reduce the prison population in the state.

The poll from the ACLU of Kansas shows that 86 percent of those polled either strongly support or somewhat support what the organization calls the "defelonization of certain nonviolent drug convictions."

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