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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Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Democrats aren’t yet united behind a candidate for governor.

Still, they emerged from their annual convention over the weekend talking confidently about a fighting chance to break the recent Republican grip on key state and federal offices.

“You have to have a perfect storm to elect a Democrat in Kansas,” said Damien Gilbert, president of the Young Democrats of Kansas, a chapter nearly extinct a few years ago but now among the party’s most active.

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A Kansas law that blocked tens of thousands of voter registrations goes on trial this week in federal court — testing whether fraud is common enough to warrant tougher registration rules.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants to prove his oft-made and much-challenged assertions that voter fraud isn’t just a risk, but a real and widespread problem.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has made a point to say he will not accept harassment and discrimination in his administration. But he won’t say if he’ll reinstate an executive order that would bar discrimination against LGBT state workers.

“What I have said is that we will not tolerate discrimination. If there’s an issue of discrimination, come to me,” Colyer said. “We’ll deal with it. It’s not tolerated by our administration, period.”

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Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Thursday that a staff member improperly disclosed personal information for 11,000 people in an email sent to multiple addresses.

Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokeswoman, said the disclosure includes Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal details of Medicaid recipients and potential recipients of the health care program.

Such personal details, particularly the combination of a Social Security number with a date of birth, can be all a criminal might need for identity theft.

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A bill in the Kansas House would require children convicted of sexually violent crimes to register as sex offenders for life. That’s the same penalty adults face.

Under current law, juvenile offenders over 14 can be required to register as a sex offender for serious crimes. However, in many cases juvenile offenders are not required to register for the public offender list.

The bill was prompted by a double murder in Newton. The victims were 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and her 4-year-old daughter.

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Listening to news reports while driving to the Statehouse on the day after the deadly high school shooting in Florida, Kansas Sen. Barbara Bollier decided to redouble her efforts to put a “red flag” law on the books in Kansas.

She wants a system for temporarily confiscating guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others.

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Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period.

Nadya Faulx / Kansas News Service

Wink Hartman, who last week dropped from the Kansas governor’s race and backed Kris Kobach, said he’s offered his arena to the National Rifle Association for its upcoming national convention.

The offer looks to be more gesture than prospective deal. The Hartman Arena in Wichita suburb Park City holds 6,500, about two thirds the capacity of the venue where the NRA convention currently plans to meet in Dallas.

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

 

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Wednesday still facing the largest challenge of this year’s session: balancing the budget and responding to a court order to spend more on schools.

In recent years, though, lawmakers plucked the low-hanging fruit when it comes to finding cash. That makes any revenue harvest ahead that much more difficult.

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Missouri and Kansas have joined 18 other states in seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional following Congress’ repeal last year of the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate.

In a lawsuit filed late Monday in federal court in Texas, the coalition of 20 mostly red states claimed that the elimination of the tax penalty for those who don’t buy health insurance renders the entire healthcare law unconstitutional.

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Kansas schools already have the freedom to arm their teachers. Gov. Jeff Colyer says now bonuses for teachers who pack weapons might be in order.

Yet the governor also said that local school districts should make the call, embracing those options that they think make the most sense to prevent school shootings.

Erica Lynn / Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most common ways for high school students to earn college credit — and, by extension, reduce the cost of college — is to pass an AP exam.

But fewer Kansas students are graduating with a passing grade on an Advanced Placement exam compared to their peers in other states.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Even before releasing their results, consultants hired to guide Kansas lawmakers to a school funding plan that meets legal muster endured a grilling on Friday.

How, wondered lawmakers, would the consultants reach their conclusions on how much money school districts need to help students succeed academically? Why do the consultants seem to be excluding the overhead, non-classroom expenses of running schools from their study? And what about criticism of work they’d done in other states?

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Kansas lawmakers head into the next stretch of this year’s legislative session after advancing bills offering tax breaks to some smaller businesses, compensation to people thrown in prison unjustly and a welcome mat to industrial chicken growers.

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The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

Likewise, the federal courts may eventually decide what pollution rules the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce on energy production.

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Alayna Nelson, a sophomore at Wichita Northwest High School, grew up hearing stories of repeated mass shootings on the news.

“Every single time this happened I always wanted to do something about it,” Nelson said.

Now, Nelson and other students in her generation are taking action against gun violence.

"I feel like I’m finally getting to the age where people will start listening to me,” she said. 

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Questions about a private company’s efforts to win a lucrative prison contract from former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have lawmakers looking to close a loophole in state lobbying laws.

Current law requires legislative lobbyists to register with the state and report their expenses. But there are no such requirements for those peddling influence in the executive and judicial branches of state government.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate voted 40-0 to pass a bill that would change that.

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Kansas lawmakers have forged a compromise to allow more access to video from police body cameras and vehicles.

Legislation debated in the Kansas House Wednesday followed recent shootings by police in the state.

The bill says people in the videos or their families must be given access to the recordings within 20 days.

In the past, it could take months for families to see a video and find out what happened in a fatal police shooting.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch said this plan would give families a definite timeline.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman suspended his campaign for the Republican for governor Wednesday, becoming the second candidate to exit the GOP race this month.

Hartman, an oil producer and owner of a chain of restaurants who recently loaned his campaign $1.6 million, is urging his supporters to back fellow conservative Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The Kansas City Star reported late Wednesday that Kobach is considering Hartman as his running mate. 

KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 4:12 p.m. to include the comments of Planned Parenthood Great Plains' president and CEO.

Kansas improperly sought to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, rejecting the state's claims that the organization illegally trafficked in fetal parts and committed other wrongdoing.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

A call sets it off.

One of Kansas’ two foster care contractors learns another child has landed in state custody. It has four hours to pick the kid up.

Crysta Henthorne / KCUR 89.3

Junkie logic brought an addict to the doorsteps of a Topeka woman once convicted of selling cocaine.

The addict was looking to buy, and Kansas’ online database of criminal offenders has a handy geographic search tool that lets users pull up the names, crimes and addresses of people who live within a few miles of their homes.

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Executives pushing the merger of the two largest utility companies in Kansas have told regulators they’ll give in on some customer bill protection and job guarantees.

But the leaders at Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy say promising a 5-year moratorium on rate hikes could leave the new, larger company unable to keep step in a fast-changing industry.

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Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A crowded race for the Republican nomination for governor in Kansas has candidates looking for ways to stand out.

At a forum held over the weekend in Wichita, the hopefuls signaled how they hope to separate themselves from the field.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants primary voters to see him as the true conservative in the contest.

Harvest Public Media

Since its inception over a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security has had authority over the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, under construction on the campus of Kansas State University.

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No restricting free speech, no matter the perspective. A bill backed by Republican lawmakers intends to send that message to college campuses in Kansas.

The Campus Free Speech Protection Act would insist that universities make clear that all of their outdoor spaces, not just “free speech zones,” embrace political outlooks and events regardless of how they fit with trends in academic thought.

Kansas congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill is sticking with his planned giveaway of rifle similar to the one used in the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

The Leavenworth Marine veteran running for the Republican nomination in the 2nd District announced the contest for an AR-15 rifle on social media the day before the Florida gunman killed at least 17 people.

Kansas Geological Survey

Zack Pistora of the Kansas Sierra Club was worried about the number of earthquakes in the state and wanted to do something about it.

“Those earthquakes can cause damage to people’s homes, businesses, public buildings,” he said. “Right now there’s no recourse for those Kansans who get affected.”

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