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.

Ways to Connect

Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light Co., won approval from state regulators Thursday to merge as equals.

That clears the way for a combined company worth $14 billion serving more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Top Democrats in the Kansas House and Senate will request investigations into the use of no-bid state contracts, but the proposals will need the approval of some Republican lawmakers to advance.

The Kansas Department of Revenue used a no-bid process, called prior authorization, to award a multi-million dollar contract that outsourced some information technology services earlier this spring. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Democrat Laura Kelly all but set the field in the Kansas governor’s race Thursday by picking fellow state Sen. Lynn Rogers as her running mate.

Among the leading contenders, only Republican former state Sen. Jim Barnett has yet to complete his ticket. He’s expected to do that a day ahead of next week’s June 1 filing deadline.

Three men were charged in a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in connection with the fake emergency call that led to the fatal police shooting of a Wichita man last December.

Tyler Barriss, 25, is accused of making the fake emergency call — often referred to as swatting — on Dec. 28. He is charged with making a hoax report to emergency services, cyberstalking, wire fraud and conspiracy.

A couple dozen people showed up Tuesday night in Topeka to voice their concerns about Westar Energy’s proposed rate increase.

Westar is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to increase prices by about $52 million. That's after taking into account savings from changes to the federal corporate income tax.

The increase would cost the average Westar customer about $5.90 a month.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Updated Thursday, 7 a.m.

The Wyandotte County District Attorney's office says only rides at Schlitterbahn which are found to be in compliance with state regulations will be operated. 

The county DA's statement says it will help ensure rides will come into compliance with state laws before they open for the public. The Kansas Department of Labor will perform inspections and rides will be put into operation as they are cleared.  

The original post continues below. 

An audit from the Kansas Department of Labor alleges dozens of safety violations at Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. 

Auditors, who toured the park earlier this month, cite 147 items they say need immediate action on 11 of Schlitterbahn's water rides. The violations include incomplete training and operating manuals, unavailable records and inadequate safety signage.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If districts suing the state get their way, the Kansas Legislature could be back in Topeka within weeks to add another half a billion dollars to school budgets in time for the coming academic year.

The districts hope the Kansas Supreme Court will also tell the state to phase in hundreds of millions beyond that in the years to come.

The man accused of making a swatting call that led to a fatal police shooting in Wichita was bound over for trial following a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Sedgwick County Court.

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Police arrested 18 people protesting policies pushed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach after the demonstrators occupied part of his office.

Police led them past other protesters to a bus waiting outside the Kobach’s office.

The University of Kansas fired its athletic director on Monday.

Sheahon Zenger has led KU’s athletic department since 2011. In a letter to the KU community, Chancellor Douglas Girod said KU athletics has failed to make progress in “key areas."

Johnson County Sheriff's Office

 Editor's note: Offensive language is used in this story.

The Olathe resident who shot and killed an Indian national and wounded two other men last year at an Olathe bar pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to two hate crime offenses and one firearm offense.

Adam W. Purinton’s plea agreement with the government calls for him to serve consecutive life sentences on the three pleas as well as to the life sentences he was given in state court earlier this month.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed into law a measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to get state reimbursement for placement services — even if they turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.

file photo

Public universities in Kansas are proposing tuition hikes significantly lower than some of the larger increases seen in recent years. The schools presented the plans to the Kansas Board of Regents this week.

The increases in tuition and fees for in-state, undergraduate students range from 1.2 percent at Kansas State University to 3 percent at the University of Kansas.

Sixty-four years ago, the United States Supreme Court handed down the decision to end legal segregation in the public school system as part of the Brown v. Board of Education case. A new mural is being unveiled Thursday in the Kansas Capitol in Topeka to commemorate that landmark decision.

Bigstock

Federal prosecutors in Kansas have agreed to address issues arising from the furor over their use of recordings of phone conversations between attorneys and clients at the pretrial facility in Leavenworth.

Details remain to be worked out, but after a highly charged day-long hearing Tuesday in federal court, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Wednesday that his office was prepared to work out an agreement with the Federal Public Defender’s Office and the special master appointed to look into the tapings.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Some 20 administrators in the Kansas agency managing child welfare and state assistance have been promoted, fired or shifted to other posts since November.

Gina Meier-Hummel was tapped to take over the Department for Children and Families nearly six months ago and says now that the changes have been aimed at strengthening the agency as it confronts a rising caseload of children in care.

Larry F. Levenson / Innocence Project

Richard Jones spent 17 years in a Kansas prison for a robbery committed by his doppelganger. When he was exonerated and released last June, he had little to his name other than what had been donated by members of the public who had heard his story.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Josh Svaty picked a political no-name to team with in his run for governor.

But the pick is someone who checks off boxes that Svaty can’t with voters in the Democratic primary and, if things play out right for him, in the general election.

Fred Fletcher-Fierro / KRPS

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Kansas budget into law Tuesday, but in the process he knocked out a provision aimed at curbing his administration’s revamp of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare.

Colyer and his predecessor, former-Gov. Sam Brownback, have been working to overhaul KanCare and get federal permission to extend the program for several more years.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The State Objections Board said with a 2-1 vote Tuesday that New Yorker Andy Maskin can’t run for the state’s highest office because he doesn’t live in Kansas.

Maskin paid a fee and filed to run for governor earlier this month. A Kansas Republican Party official challenged his candidacy on the basis of his New York City address.

Several other out-of-state candidates have created campaign committees, but haven’t yet officially filed.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says President Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Joining six other Republican governors, Colyer signed a letter this week that said the president should get the honor for “his transformative efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.”

The letter, dated Monday, was sent to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The same panel gave Barack Obama the peace prize just nine months into his presidency in 2009 for what it saw as his contribution to international diplomacy.

Perhaps conserving energy is important to you. You’ve switched out all of your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. You keep your thermostat set at 78 in the summer. You might even get mad at your kids when they leave a light on.

Your neighbor, on the other hand, isn’t quite as concerned. He keeps the thermostat set consistently at 68 and he hasn’t replaced any of his light bulbs because, in his words, who wants to pay $10 for a new one?

file photo / Harvest Public Media

This winter we reported that Kansas is one of just four states with the strictest cannabis laws in the country.

But the 2018 legislative session that ended earlier this month shook the state’s legal landscape. So what has changed and what hasn’t?

Industrial hemp is coming to Kansas, but first the Department of Agriculture has to figure out how to regulate it.

The University of Kansas is being criticized for retaining former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little at a salary of more than half a million dollars

But the arrangement is far from unusual in Kansas.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams is defending the process his agency used to hand out a multi-million dollar IT contract without taking public bids.

The deal with contractor CGI to update a tax management system will cost the state $50 million over 10 years.

Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Adam W. Purinton, the Olathe resident who was sentenced to life in prison last week for killing a Garmin engineer and wounding two other men, plans to plead guilty to hate crime charges and avoid a possible death sentence in federal court.

A change of plea hearing is set for May 21, the day Purinton turns 53 years old, before U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia, according to courtroom minutes filed on Wednesday. Purinton had previously pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges.

Public universities in Kansas saw some of their funding restored as part of the new state budget.

The budget restores $15 million to the Kansas Board of Regents. In fiscal year 2017, state universities spent about $570 million in state funding.  

The president of Garden City Community College faces growing pressure to resign over a range of sexual harassment issues at the school and a threat to its accreditation.

This week, the college’s faculty senate demanded Herbert Swender step down — citing what it says was a too-slow reaction to accusations that a coach sexually harassed former cheerleaders and directed racist remarks at them. Local residents echoed those sentiments to the school’s board of trustees.

Meanwhile, the community college faces possible suspension of its accreditation.

Pages