Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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A contract dispute that could disrupt the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans enrolled in the state’s privatized Medicaid program has landed in court.

Amerigroup, one of three companies that since 2013 has managed the delivery of care to low-income, elderly and disabled through KanCare, is contesting a recent decision by state officials to replace it with Aetna when new contracts take effect in January.

Meet 7 Candidates For Kansas Governor

Jul 20, 2018

Kansas is electing a governor this year, a pick that'll go a long way in deciding what direction the state goes on school funding, health care, gun control, taxes and spending.  

The Republican primary field tilts to the right, with the contenders tussling over whose credentials and attitude would be the most effective in fulfilling a conservative agenda. Democrats voting on Aug. 7 have to wrangle with whether to go moderate or hold tight to a progressive platform.

Host Steve Kraske interviewed the leading candidates from both parties on KCUR’s Up To Date. 

file photo / KCUR

A new report finds legalizing sports gambling could boost revenue for states like Kansas, but any windfall is likely to be brief.

Sports gambling began to tempt lawmakers after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized it earlier this year. The report released Thursday from the Pew Charitable Trusts said sports book likely won’t be a magic pill to cure state budget issues.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach — rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination — are both diehard conservatives. On the campaign trail, they squabble over who’s more conservative on core issues like immigration, abortion, guns and taxes.

It’s clear, if elected, either would keep the state on a conservative path. The question for primary voters is whose approach would be best for tackling that agenda. 

FILE PHOTO/KCUR 89.3

Six Democrats are lining up for a chance to unseat Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in the November general election. While the primary isn't until next month, the 3rd District race in Kansas has already attracted outside money, brought in national political figures and cost one state senator her leadership position.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Yoder Wednesday night.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

The punishment was swift for a Republican state senator who crossed party lines to endorse a Democrat trying to unseat Congressman Kevin Yoder.

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate from Mission Hills, Wednesday morning threw her support behind educator Tom Niermann, one of six Democrats running in the August primary.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a boost in his run for Kansas governor from Donald Trump Jr. at an event Tuesday night in Wichita.

As the crowd cheered "U-S-A! U-S-A!," Kobach introduced Trump as a man who "needs no introduction."

Westar has reached an agreement with staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and several other interested parties that would reduce Westar’s annual revenue by $66 million.

For the average residential customer, that will mean a decrease of about $3.50 a month.

Westar's original request was for a $52 million increase.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A new system for hiring agencies to coordinate adoptions and foster care placements in Kansas will continue to let some groups cite religious beliefs to exclude some prospective parents — including gay couples.

The Department for Children and Families earlier this week had left lawmakers confused about whether a new grant system would extend those religious protections to the agencies taking over statewide foster care and family preservation contracts.

Cattle producers in drought-stricken Kansas counties may now cut hay or graze on land normally set aside for conservation.

The Kansas Democratic party hasn’t had a gubernatorial primary since 1998. The unfamiliar competition this year is forcing Democrats across the state to wrestle with their identity ahead of the Aug. 7 election.

Should their nominee be a candidate who aligns strictly with the progressive ideals of the party platform, or someone with broader appeal? Do they go with experience and name recognition, or youthful exuberance?

Screenshot

Tooling through parades in a flag-themed Jeep with a faux machine gun mounted on the back apparently wasn’t enough for Secretary of State Kris Kobach to win over the National Rifle Association in the Kansas governor’s race

The country’s largest and most influential gun lobby on Monday instead endorsed Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer in his Republican primary. That left Kobach claiming that he still has the backing of grassroots gun rights voters.

The NRA said its endorsement reflected Colyer’s “strong support for the Second Amendment and the hunting heritage of Kansas.”

This story has been updated. An earlier version listed incorrect fundraising totals for two candidates.

Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s most recent campaign finance report shows him far ahead of challengers in raising funds to hold the seat representing Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

In the race to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in a district covering Topeka, Lawrence and much of the rest of eastern Kansas, the lone Democrat enjoys a money advantage over Republicans who first must elbow past each other.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

A revival of rural Kansas can come from drawing businesses and housing to the centers of small cities and by building better highways, gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly said Monday.

In a plan she says could invigorate rural areas, the Democrat also calls for propping up small grocery stores, expanding Medicaid coverage, reopening state offices closed in recent years and fixing deteriorating housing in those areas.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A restructuring of how Kansas hires agencies to manage foster care and adoptions could allow widespread exclusion of placements with gay parents — a revelation Monday that prompted objections from some lawmakers.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The deadline to register before the Aug. 7 primaries is Tuesday, July 17. Fear not, registering is easy.

So is finding your polling location, or voting in advance. Read on.

Got a criminal record? Seriously, read on.

First, check if you’re already registered and have a party affiliation

All you need is your birth date, county of residence and full name to check online.

Easy, right?

Some Republican gubernatorial candidates are calling for the end of in-state tuition for undocumented students at public universities in Kansas.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants undocumented students to pay the more expensive non-resident tuition rate. Gov. Jeff Colyer expressed a similar view during a Republican forum Tuesday night hosted by KWCH and KMUW.

The Democrats running to be Kansas’ next governor brushed off the idea of a tax increase to cover the state’s needs during a Democratic forum in Wichita on Wednesday night sponsored by KMUW and KWCH.

State Sen. Laura Kelly said it’s too soon after repealing the Sam Brownback-era tax cuts to talk about a tax increase.

“We need to let the dust settle,” Kelly said. "We have no idea the full impact of that or the full impact of the federal tax cuts that have occurred."

Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer was clear that he doesn't support a tax increase.

Gov. Jeff Colyer was on the defense during a Republican forum sponsored by KMUW and KWCH on Tuesday night.

He was targeted by his Republican gubernatorial opponents over Kansas’ budget issues during his time with the Brownback administration.

Former state Sen. Jim Barnett was one of several candidates who attacked Colyer over the Brownback era tax cuts.

“The Brownback Colyer tax experiment brought this state to its knees,” Barnett said.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

Bethany College track and cross country coach Aaron Yoder spends a lot of time on the treadmill in the Lindsborg, Kansas, school’s cardio room. It doesn’t seem unusual unless you see what he’s doing — running backward.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Update: Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Kris Kobach called for the controversial flag artwork be removed from public display at the Spencer Museum of Art altogether. Gov. Jeff Colyer was the first to raise the issue in opening remarks during a gubernatorial debate Thursday evening, saying the artwork should be "sent back to sender" and that taxpayer-funded institutions, such as KU, should not be used as a venue to "desecrate our flag." 

Responding to criticism from elected officials and political candidates, University of Kansas officials have taken down an altered American flag displayed on campus as part of a nationwide art project.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod issued the order late Wednesday after Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer learned of the flag exhibit and demanded its removal.

“The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable,” Colyer said in a news release earlier in the day. “I demand that it be taken down immediately.”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Vice President Mike Pence came to Kansas City Wednesday, where he touted Republicans running for office on both sides of the state line and tried to ease concerns about the Trump administration’s expanding trade war.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Are you registered to vote? CLICK HERE to check online. The deadline is July 17 if you want to vote in the Aug. 7 primaries.

With less than a month until the 2018 primaries, the question of whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is in compliance with a federal court order to fix its voter registration practices is still up for debate.

Kansas can no longer ask would-be voters to dig up documents like passports or birth certificates after a court ruled that unconstitutional and in violation of federal election law last month.

A new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight human trafficking.

The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the Demand an End initiative. It involves education and announcements warning people that buyers of sex face charges.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Tuesday that the campaign wants to create a culture where buying sex is not acceptable. He said it’s not a victimless crime.

“The money goes somewhere,” he said. “It fuels a marketplace.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

There’s a common thread among the campaigns of several men aspiring to replace Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — promises of administrative competence.

So says Emporia State political scientist Michael Smith. It jumped out at him as he perused some of their websites.

“To me,” he said, it “has sort of a subtext, that that has not been Kobach’s focus.”

Employees from the Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson are helping to recreate one of the biggest moments in our nation’s space history: the mission control room used during the first moon landing.

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he will continue to push for a Medicaid work requirement despite a recent court order blocking a similar policy in Kentucky.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee in the District of Columbia, questioned whether the Trump administration had adequately considered the consequences of Kentucky’s work requirement before reversing longstanding federal policy to approve it.

file photo / Flickr-CC

Kansas tax collections in June beat estimates — projections that already factored in tax hikes — by $144 million. That capped off a fiscal year where the state topped projections every month, which is a sharp departure from some recent years.

Lawmakers use the projections when they craft the budget, so the boost in revenue means the state’s bank account ends the fiscal year with $318 million more than state officials anticipated.

P.J. Sneed is a nurse at a hospital in Wichita, but only until the end of the June. That’s when he’ll quit to become a hemp farmer.

“I’ve not grown a stitch of hemp,” he said. “But I feel like I know how I could do it and have a plan to do it.”

He’ll need more than just enthusiasm to succeed as he trades the stresses of checking patients’ vital signs and administering medicine for the stresses of growing a new crop without experience or the benefits of crop insurance.

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