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Lawmakers arrived in Topeka Monday with monumental money problems facing the state and an executive branch stuck in a confusing transition.

It’s the start of a roughly 90-day session in which they, once again, must juggle the state’s checkbook to meet multiple pressing needs. That includes an ultimatum from the Kansas Supreme Court to find more tax dollars for schools.

It’s a tough job made that much harder by unusual political circumstances.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The White House may have scrapped the controversial national election integrity commission that he was helping to lead, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still rooting out alleged voter fraud in his home state.

Armed with powers not usually assigned to a secretary of state, Kobach filed a pair of criminal complaints Thursday against two people he said voted when, and more, than they had the right to.

Wikipedia

A deal to farm out the next new prison in Kansas to a private firm -- one that would replace the outdated facility in Lansing and lease it to the state -- hit a delay Thursday.

The State Finance Council, which would have to sign off lease-to-buy contract, said it needs two weeks to further study the details of a plan to pay CoreCivic Inc. $362 million over 20 years.

Several members of the council said they didn’t want to approve the deal until the state and the company finalized their contract negotiations.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Mark Holland issued a statement Thursday morning saying that he had been the victim of a threat by a KCK firefighter and had notified the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Holland, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, said the firefighter, Chris Wing, had threatened him on Facebook with a post stating, “You might need a security detail when you start witch hunts like so …”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The fight over whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated the constitution in his quest to demand proof of citizenship from voters goes to trial, with a ruling Wednesday that could complicate his case, in March.

KDHE

A lawyer who spearheaded Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to block Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood will take charge of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment next week. 

Darian Dernovish will become interim head of the agency on Jan. 8, Brownback’s office said Wednesday. He will replace Susan Mosier, who has held the job since December 2014. 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City branch of the NAACP on Friday voiced its opposition to the Kansas City Council's approval of a plan to privatize Westport sidewalks on weekends and vowed to fight the ordinance before it takes effect this spring.

The council's 8-5 decision earlier this month allowing privatization "amounts to failure to perform public duty," said Rodney Williams, president of the local NAACP and pastor at Swope Parkway United Christian Church.

Adam Barhan / Flickr--CC

Developers who are trying to attract millennials with tanning beds and bocce ball courts might want to rethink that approach, according to a new study by a Kansas City real estate marketing firm.

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Updated 7 p.m. Dec. 21 to include additional reaction to the decisions: The Kansas City Council ended the year with two major decisions Thursday, deciding to stick with a Maryland-based developer for the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport and to allow for gun screenings in the Westport entertainment district late on the weekends.

KU School of Law

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday evening unanimously voted to confirm KU School of Law professor Stephen McAllister as the top federal prosecutor in Kansas.

McAllister was nominated in September by President Donald Trump and succeeds Tom Beall, a career prosecutor who served as interim U.S. Attorney.

McAllister, 55, teaches at KU Law and was its dean from 2000 to 2005. 

He has also served as solicitor general of Kansas, defending the state in key cases such as Gannon, the school financing case, death penalty cases, and cases challenging Kansas’ abortion laws.  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Though it's not the final say, Kansas City officials decided Wednesday they'd be OK with privatizing some sidewalks in Westport so business owners can screen for guns at the entrance of the entertainment district . The measure now goes to the full City Council. 

Aleksey Kaznadey / kevinmahogany.com

Kevin Mahogany, the versatile and velvet-voiced vocalist who became one of the Kansas City jazz scene's more well-known exports, died Sunday. He was 59.

Mahogany had been living in Miami, but moved back to Kansas City in August after the sudden death of his wife, Allene Matthews Mahogany, over the summer, says Mahogany's sister, Carmen Julious.

The two had been married for 25 years, and Julious says Mahogany's grief had aggravated longer-term health issues.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 2:30 p.m. to include response from Kansas City councilman Jermaine Reed. 

With the contract for a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport seemingly up for grabs, Los Angeles-based AECOM on Monday added local engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to its KCI Partnership team. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is getting a high-tech $32 million facility to help students compete in a global economy.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators approved construction of the computer science building, which will be adjacent to Flarsheim Hall, earlier this month. It will be built with a combination of state funds and private donations, including a $6 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation.

Bob Brents / Flickr — CC

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which employs about 350 people in Overland Park, announced Thursday that it plans to slash its global workforce by 14,000 positions as part of a massive restructuring plan aimed at reducing $3 billion in costs by the end of 2019.

A spokeswoman for the company said it plans to consolidate its seven U.S. offices into one yet-to-be-determined location.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City council members got more information about violent crimes as they consider a proposal to privatize the sidewalks in Kansas City's historical Westport entertainment district.

"I feel it is very important to broaden this discussion, not about whether we privatize the sidewalk, or whether we support businesses," says Councilwoman Alissia Canady. "This is a public safety issue."

Plantlady233 / Wikimedia-CC

A Leawood family whose home was raided more than five years ago by Johnson County sheriff’s deputies in a fruitless search for a marijuana growing operation lost its lawsuit alleging the deputies violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

Platte County

This story was updated at 5:14 to include Eric Zahnd's reaction to the decision.   

A disciplinary panel has found Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd guilty of professional misconduct and recommended that he be publicly reprimanded.

The matter now goes to the Missouri Supreme Court, which will decide whether to accept or reject the panel's findings and recommendation.

The three-person panel – two lawyers and a layperson – issued its decision after listening in November to two days of testimony, including from Zahnd himself.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

In a rare move, a federal judge has thrown out a defendant’s conviction on drug charges after ruling that the prosecutor had interfered with his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

In a blistering decision handed down Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found that the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead, had “substantially interfered with a defense witness’s decision to testify” in the case.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The state auditor for Missouri is backing a bill to reinstate legal protections for whistleblowers in state government. The governor and General Assembly stripped those protections earlier this year.

Mariordo59 / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 1:56 p.m. to include the comments of a Tesla spokeswoman.  

Electric car manufacturer Tesla has scored a big win after an appeals court ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging its right to sell automobiles directly to Missouri consumers.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Several Jackson County legislators called for new leadership at the troubled downtown jail on Tuesday. It only took until Friday to get their wish.

Jackson County Corrections Director Joe Piccinini resigned, County Executive Frank White said at a news conference Friday. And pressure from the county legislature was not a factor, White said. 

Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate

Bigger restrooms. Convenient parking. More Outlets. Better food options. 

Residents in Kansas City's Northland weighed in on what they'd like to see included in the design for a new, single terminal at Kansas City International airport. 

More than 100 people attended Thursday night's community design workshop, presented by Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, the team selected to design, build and finance a new terminal. 

Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR 89.3

A former Haskell Indian Nations University student who says she was raped by two Haskell football players has settled her privacy claim against the school.

The settlement comes just days after two former KU varsity athletes settled their lawsuits alleging they were sexual assaulted by a KU football player.

courtesy: Reference Recordings

The nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and the Kansas City Symphony performs on a record nominated in two categories.

The recording is Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies, and it features the Kansas City Symphony conducted by music director Michael Stern

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

Jackson County Jail
Jackson County Prosecutor

In a curt and strongly-worded letter, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Monday that she refused her seat on a new jail task force established by County Executive Frank White.

The recent brutal assault of a corrections officer made her change her mind about serving on the task force, Baker wrote, and it’s “clear that action is required immediately” on the embattled jail.

Courtesy photo / Twitter

The armed assailant who entered a Lenexa Costco store on Sunday was a 58-year-old Kansas man who was shot by an off-duty policeman who happened to be shopping at the store.

Lenexa police say the gunman was Ronald O. Hunt of Edwardsville, Kansas. No other details about the man or his motives have been released.

Dr. Warner / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. to include comments from the CEO of McPherson Hospital.

Two Kansas hospitals have been selected to take part in a federal demonstration program aimed at ensuring access to health care in underserved areas.

The two, McPherson Hospital in McPherson and Morton County Health System in Elkhart, were among 13 nationwide chosen for the demonstration project being conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Ballet opens the first of seven prestigious performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., capping a year and a half of planning and meeting a massive logistical challenge.

Moving the entire production required four 52-foot semi trucks. Besides 30 company dancers, the Ballet brought along 12 second-company members and around 20 crew members and artistic and administrative staff.

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