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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Gov. Jeff Colyer signed an executive order Wednesday supporting the "Ban the Box" initiative.

The new order requires state agencies to remove a checkbox from their job applications that asks whether someone has a criminal record.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have approved new restrictions blocking teenagers and out-of-state candidates from future races for governor. The bill says starting next year, candidates must live in Kansas and be at least 25 years old.

The state’s lax laws have led to several teenagers, and residents of other states, joining the campaign for Kansas governor.

A wave of candidates even included a Hutchinson man attempting to enter his dog in the race

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday dropped an effort to require Secretary of State Kris Kobach to pay a contempt of court fine with his own money, rather than state dollars.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Gov. Jeff Colyer has what he wanted — a bill to make sure schools get a funding increase of more than half a billion dollars is headed to his desk.

But senators who took the final vote Monday weren’t too happy about what they passed. Across party lines, some were already predicting an emergency legislative session in their near future.

Colyer praised lawmakers for finishing a second school finance bill this session to correct an $80 million error in the first.

“I look forward to signing this,” he said in a statement.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Janelle DuBree didn’t need statistics to see that foster kids are traumatized. The evidence was spilled, smashed and smeared all over her kitchen and down the hallway.

Two of the younger girls she took in, on one of their first nights in her Emporia home, raided the kitchen around 2 a.m. Eggs were cracked and trailed everywhere — on the floor, the countertops, the side of the refrigerator. Her carpet was soaked in bright red Hawaiian Punch.

DuBree adopted the girls, now 7 and 9, from a place where food wasn’t always available. So when it was plentiful, they took out and ate everything they could.

Flickr

Kansas lawmakers approved an updated $16 billion budget Saturday on a 92-24 vote as they worked through part of the weekend.

The bill amends the spending plans lawmakers approved last year, and includes some targeted increases in state government funding.

It partially restores cuts to higher education from 2016, at a cost of $12 million. It also allocates $8 million to provide raises to workers in the judicial branch.

The bill funnels more money into the state’s pension plan, KPERS, to make up for a missed $194 million payment.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas senators will return Monday to find a school finance fix waiting on their desks, hammered out in the House over the weekend.

The bill undoes an $80 million error inserted last-minute into this year’s school funding bill.

“The overwhelming majority of our body wanted to make sure those funds were allowed to be given to the districts,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman said after the measure passed 92 to 27.  “It’s in the Senate’s hands now.”

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a Statehouse rebuke Friday from lawmakers even as they avoided mentioning the combative candidate for governor by name.

During a lengthy debate on a budget bill, state Rep. Russ Jennings offered what at first appeared to be just another in a series of amendments.

file photo / Kansas News Service

For years, reporters in the Kansas Capitol press corps and advocates for open government pressed legislators to hide less of the workings of state government from public view.

Now, the Kansas Legislature appears ready to approve changes that would pull back the curtain — at least a tad.

Kansas is about to make it through the end of April without a tornado for only the fourth time since record keeping began.

file photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

A high-stakes gambit initiated by Kansas lawmakers Thursday could prove to be the checkmate move that blocks Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer from imposing new Medicaid eligibility restrictions.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Changes in federal tax law could actually cost some Kansans more in state taxes.

Kansas lawmakers might turn down that revenue windfall and add an election year tax cut instead. A bill they’re backing would cost roughly the same amount as a court-triggered boost to school spending.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Department for Children and Families is opening up child protection services jobs to people who aren’t licensed social workers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A federal judge has held Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt for failing to fully register and notify eligible voters he’d blocked.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach failed to get standard postcards sent out to those would-be voters confirming their registrations and failed to update the County Election Manual used by local election officials processing voter applications, as she had ordered him to do in May 2016.

Three men were found guilty Wednesday of conspiring to blow up an apartment complex in western Kansas that housed Somali immigrants.

Attorneys for two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex filled with Somali Muslim immigrants in Garden City argued their clients were bit players not interested in actually carrying out the plan.  

Blue Valley Hospital opened in 2010 and provides weight-loss surgery and other medical services.

An Overland Park hospital that specializes in weight-loss surgery is suing government health officials after they cut off its participation in Medicare.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

They dueled with pens and camera-ready events. The two men split over what could become a defining issue in their battle to win this year’s governor’s race, and over whether Kansas needs to spend more to fix its public schools.

Gov. Jeff Colyer went to a Topeka high school early Tuesday — a performance he planned to repeat later in the day in Wichita — to sign into law a plan to balloon the money sent to local districts by $500 million-plus over the next half-decade.

File photo

The owner and operator of 15 Kansas nursing homes has consented to be placed in receivership after defaulting on payments to vendors and failing to meet payroll.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has been appointed receiver and will oversee operations of the homes, which are scattered across the state.

The owner, Skyline Health Care LLC of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, previously acknowledged that it had insufficient funds to pay basic utilities and food service vendors.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Alissa Eckert / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Update, April 19: This story includes newly identified cases and exposure sites (previously identified exposure sites and dates that are now past the time for symptoms to develop have been removed).

Eighteen measles cases have now been identified in Johnson, Linn and Miami counties since March 8, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Wheat producers in Kansas are worried about the potential for freeze damage after temperatures stayed below freezing for much of the weekend.

While it’s not unusual for Kansas to see spring freezes, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind over the weekend likely caused some damage to the state's wheat crop.

screengrab / Kansas Republican Party Facebook page

Being the incumbent may give Jeff Colyer a leg up in the Republican race for governor, but it also makes him a target.

His chief rivals, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, used a forum sponsored by the Kansas Republican Party In Atchison to characterize Colyer as a poor manager and weak leader on conservative causes.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers voted last weekend to increase public school funding over the next half decade — the latest chapter in a long and winding court battle.

            Five things about Kansas’ school finance fight

The story is far from over. Here’s what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months, and where it could all spin out of control.

The Wichita Police officer who killed a man during a swatting incident last December will not face criminal charges.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to fix a costly mistake in the school finance bill passed after midnight on the last day of the regular session.

“It needs to be taken care of,” Colyer said Wednesday. “We’ll work with the Legislature on doing that.”

The error — a byproduct of confusion and deal-making in the session’s final hours early Sunday morning —makes re-engineering the state’s school finance formula more difficult than usual.

Screengrab / Kansas Department for Children and Families

Kansas is looking to prod parents to catch up on their child support, arguing that doing so could chip away at the the cost of welfare.

The Department for Children and Families website launched a child support evaders Web page Wednesday that features pictures of 10 delinquent parents. It includes notes on what they owe, where they were last seen, and a link to report their whereabouts.

Gov. Jeff Colyer said delinquent parents shift child support costs on to taxpayers.

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