Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots in tracking the policies, issues and 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.

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.

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File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A former employee of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office said Monday in federal court that she was fired in part for not attending church, which left her confused and depressed.

Courtney Canfield argues her firing amounts to religious discrimination.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Kansas Democratic House Leader Jim Ward is finally jumping into the race for governor.

Ward ended months of speculation with his announcement Saturday at a Wichita union hall.

“I wanna move Kansas forward," he told the crowd. "I love Kansas. There’s no other place I would rather call home.”

Ward says he wants to bring strong jobs and good public schools back to Kansas, but he says his first priority as governor would be repairing the state’s economy. If elected, Ward says he wants to conduct top-to-bottom reviews of all state government agencies.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

News of White House strategist Steve Bannon’s resignation broke Friday afternoon during U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s town hall meeting in Topeka.

The second-term Republican was fielding questions about President Donald Trump’s fitness for office when a man in the back of the American Legion hall reading the news on his cell phone shouted that Bannon was out

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced immediate pay increases for corrections officers during a news conference Thursday afternoon at the state prison in El Dorado. 

Brownback said all officers will receive an immediate 5 percent salary increase, and starting pay will be increased across the corrections system. The hourly pay rate for entry-level corrections officers will climb from $13.95 to $14.66.

At El Dorado, where the staff vacancy rate is 47 percent, the hiring hourly rate will go from $13.95 to $15.75, he said.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons--CC

President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders came up short in their initial efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says they’re still working to engineer its failure.

In a recent interview, Sebelius, who spearheaded implementation of the ACA, said she knows that the law isn’t perfect. But she said it would be working better if Republicans would stop undermining it.

“The notion that this law is imploding is just not accurate,” Sebelius said.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Democratic Party and the Democrat leader in the Kansas Senate, Anthony Hensley, called out top Republican officials Wednesday for not condemning the white nationalist march and violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The weekend events left one person dead and dozens injured. Two officers also died when a state police helicopter monitoring the rally crashed. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Residents of the Flint Hills on Wednesday took a fight against an oil company to Kansas energy regulators as part of their broader battle to stem wastewater disposal in the area.

They fear that a request from Quail Oil and Gas to jettison up to 5,000 barrels a day of brine near Strong City and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve brings a risk for earthquakes or contamination of local groundwater — claims that the company disputes. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials have cleared an initial hurdle in their effort to regain federal certification for Osawatomie State Hospital.

Problems that federal inspectors cited in May have been fixed, making the state’s largest mental health hospital eligible for a full recertification inspection, according to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

That inspection must take place within the next 120 days, according to KDADS Secretary Tim Keck.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Paul Davis kicked off his campaign for Kansas’ 2nd District seat in Congress by calling Washington broken and criticizing a culture there that quashes bipartisanship.

“No matter what party you affiliate with, no matter who you voted for in the 2016 presidential election, Washington is not working for you,” said Davis, who served as the top Democrat in the Kansas House and narrowly lost a bid to unseat Gov. Sam Brownback in the 2014 election.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A decade after Kansas unveiled plans to migrate its driver’s license records from an aged mainframe to modern information technology infrastructure, the effort remains incomplete and, auditors say, troubled.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.

Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A year from now, Kansans could be in the middle of the biggest primary battle for governor in recent history.

With Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer poised to finish the second term of Gov. Sam Brownback — likely to leave office soon for an ambassador job — candidates are lining up for the 2018 contest.

Courtesy photo / Kansas State Department of Education

Fourteen schools in seven school districts across Kansas will work this year on revamping the way they serve children, with the goal of becoming statewide models for overhauling primary and secondary education.

The education department is branding the effort to re-envision schools as Kansas’ version of “a moon shot,” referring to the U.S. race to put a man on the moon in the 1960s.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Tuesday that he will run for Kansas governor in 2018, ending speculation that he would enter the race.

Colyer is set to take over the executive office because current Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to step down later this year for a diplomatic position in the Trump administration. 

Speaking before the announcement, Colyer said he’ll bring more collaboration and a change in tone to the governor’s office.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

With President Donald Trump’s poll numbers sliding into historically low territory, Democrats won’t be satisfied with modest gains in next year’s midterm election.

They’re hoping for an anti-Trump wave that gives them control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

File photo

Another Republican candidate is joining the race for Kansas governor. State Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer has appointed a campaign treasurer so he can raise money for a run.

Selzer said Monday that his experience in the Kansas Insurance Department and work as a certified public accountant make him qualified for the job of governor.

“People have seen the good work we’ve done in the Insurance Department. We’ve reduced our budget there and our expenditures in a thoughtful and calm way,” he said.

Wladyslaw / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas’ private tuition tax credit program doubled in size in the 2016-2017 school year and appears likely to expand again after lawmakers voted to enhance it this session.

More than 200 children from low-income families received scholarships to attend private schools in northeast Kansas and Wichita during the fledgling program’s third year in existence. However, it only was the second year in which children actually received scholarships, because it took private schools time to set up the program.

Suzanne Heck / Courtesy Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

Two Democrats in the Kansas Legislature want to know more about why Gov. Sam Brownback appointed the same individual to two high-level positions, allowing him to collect two paychecks since 2014.

In 2011, Brownback appointed Mark Dodd to head the State Gaming Agency, which oversees gaming facilities operated by Native American tribes. Three years later, he made Dodd executive director of the Native American Affairs Office, which is part of the governor’s office.

Asked about the arrangement Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Brownback described it as efficient.

Courtesy Kansas Department of Corrections

A state senator is pushing for a legislative investigation of recent uprisings and disturbances at a 1,500-inmate prison near Wichita.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, on Monday proposed having legislative auditors look into incidents at the El Dorado Correctional Facility on at least four separate days in May, June and July.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

For a while it appeared that the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act might come down to Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran’s vote.

He was one of a handful of Republican senators who broke ranks to oppose an initial version of the GOP repeal and replace bill. And it was his late-night tweet with Utah Sen. Mike Lee that forced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to later call off a scheduled vote on a revised version of the bill.

FIle Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday touted his credentials and passion for helping the Trump administration mitigate religious persecution around the globe.

The prospective ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom said he does not know how long it might take for the U.S. Senate to consider his nomination by President Donald Trump, and he hasn’t yet decided when to turn over the reins to his lieutenant governor, Jeff Colyer.

Riley County and Lawrence police departments

Riley County and Lawrence police issued a plea to the public for information on a serial rape suspect in 14 rapes or attempted rapes since 2000 near the Kansas State and University of Kansas campuses.

At a joint news conference Thursday in Manhattan, the home of K-State, they said they believed an attempted rape near the campus that took place two years ago was linked to the suspect.

All of the assaults occurred off-campus. The victims were all college students.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s long-rumored move to a position in President Donald Trump’s administration is no longer rumor.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:20 a.m. July 26.

Despite misgivings about the closed-door process used to write a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact on rural health care providers, Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran joined his Kansas counterpart, Pat Roberts, in voting Tuesday to begin debate on the legislation.

But a short time later, Moran was one of nine GOP senators who voted against a replacement bill backed by Republican leaders.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A fresh legal challenge to the state’s 2014 elimination of teacher job protections has reached the Kansas Supreme Court, close on the heels of a separate lawsuit that proved unsuccessful six months ago.

At stake are due process rights for thousands — or even tens of thousands — of teachers who had earned them before the Republican-led Legislature passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed the repeal.

In name, the case is a battle between the school board of a 270-student district in rural Butler County, east of Wichita, and two teachers dismissed from their jobs in 2015.

Courtesy Kansas Department of Corrections

Staffing shortages at the El Dorado Correctional Facility are creating unsafe working conditions, according to the head of the union that represents state workers.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Hackers who breached a Kansas Department of Commerce data system used by multiple states gained access to more than 5.5 million Social Security numbers and put the agency on the hook to pay for credit monitoring services for all victims.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says wording on a state website might leave voters confused about whether they’re eligible to cast a ballot. The group wants Secretary of State Kris Kobach to make changes.

At issue is information about Kansas’ requirement that new voters prove their citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport. Court rulings say that requirement currently doesn’t apply to people who register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles or use the federal voter registration form.

Courtesy of the Governor's Office

After decades of alarming headlines, Kansas may be on the verge of preserving an ancient groundwater resource that helped make it an agricultural powerhouse.

Since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, researchers have warned that farmers were pumping water from the part of the massive Ogallala aquifer that underlies Kansas faster than nature could replace it.

But a new emphasis on conservation spearheaded by Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is starting to reverse that longstanding trend.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If you weren’t paying really close attention to the oral arguments in the Gannon v. Kansas school funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday, you probably missed a little question from Justice Dan Biles about a provision of the new school funding formula that exclusively benefits two Johnson County districts.

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