Topeka

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Newly installed Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer described his state Wednesday as vibrant but with trouble spots, telling lawmakers he plans to charge ahead at its problems.

Colyer promised to reform the state’s struggling foster care system, improve its privatized Medicaid program, open government activities into clearer public view and help more Kansans find jobs.

The speech was effectively a State of the State speech by a former two-term lieutenant governor now one week into higher office and trying to distinguish himself from his unpopular running mate, former Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback delivered a formal State of the State address last month.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Jeff Colyer rose to the top of the Kansas executive branch Wednesday with events staged not just around his swearing in as governor, but in concert with his dash to get elected to the office and a possible inauguration next year.

file photo

A merger of Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy deserves approval, regulatory staff say in a new report, if the two utilities sweeten the deal with more money for ratepayers and less for shareholders.

The staff report issued this week is only advisory. Combining the two companies still needs a go-ahead from the Kansas Corporation Commission. But it signals that the companies may be close to a merger that wins regulatory approval.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats both made it hard for the public to know what goes on in the Statehouse. But in the wake of a Kansas City Star series highlighting the lack of transparency, some members of both parties are pushing for change.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity.

Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Shawnee County District Court judge has temporarily blocked an ordinance that raises the tobacco buying age in Topeka to 21.

The ruling comes after two Topeka businesses, with the assistance of the Kansas Vapers Association, filed a lawsuit this week challenging the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect Thursday. The businesses claim the ordinance conflicts with state law, which allows the sale of tobacco to people 18 and older.

A new play, Trench Warfare, is about two infantry soldiers in World War I. We talk with the local musician who composed the score for the play; he shares how he evoked the feelings of WWI with a seven-piece orchestra and a computer.

Then: Sexual misconduct has been an issue in the Kansas and Missouri statehouses. Two women in politics from both sides of the state line compare notes from their experiences on the job.

Guests:

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service


Gov. Sam Brownback, poised to leave Kansas after a generation of dominating its politics, on Tuesday called for steep infusions of money into public schools — spurring fellow Republicans to accuse him of raising hopes with a “fairy tale.”

Brownback said the state can add $600 million over the next five years — without a tax hike.

KCUR

Kansas Republican Rep. Steve Alford was swiftly criticized by both sides of the aisle for saying black people are more prone to drug abuse because of their "character makeup" and "genetics," and that's part of the reason why legalizing marijuana in Kansas would not be a good idea.  

Though he's the first lawmaker to say something offensive in 2018, he's just the latest in Kansas and Missouri over the past year. Racism, homophobia, threats of violence: nothing seems out of bounds. Here are some of the notable, publicly aired examples: 

KCUR

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.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas set lofty goals for its public schools in the next dozen years – but the Trump administration and independent experts suggest the state’s plan is as vague as it is ambitious.

The state’s plan lacks concrete details on closing academic gaps in its public schools, so much so that federal officials and outside reviewers question the state’s compliance with civil rights law that demands all children get fair learning opportunities.

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.

Updated at 8:44 p.m. ET

The White House announced Wednesday that President Trump's controversial Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which was mired in lawsuits and had received pushback from states over voter data requests — has been dissolved.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's effort to dramatically tighten voting rules goes to trial in March.
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.

In light of a new Evel Knievel museum opening in Topeka earlier this year, we look back at the legacy of an all-American daredevil.

Then, we visit with Kansas City native and ballet icon Misty Copeland. Also, we learn about the story of the 'lone tater tot' at Winstead's. 

Guests:

courtesy: Mulvane Art Museum

Artist Rita Blitt made a significant gift to the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas — a bulk of her life’s work, an estimated 2,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and film, as well as archival material. It represents preserving a legacy and a lifetime of giving. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback took a secretive, state-funded trip to Israel a month ago, but we only know that because The Hutchinson News broke the story on Oct. 1.

The paper reports that Governor Brownback, his wife, daughter and a few state officials got to Israel on Aug. 26 and were there through Sept. 2. 

The Lawrence Police Department is investigating the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old Topeka man by police officers in the capital city. A crime lab in Johnson County is providing forensic assistance. 

The federal government is the largest employer in Kansas City. Who are these employees and what do they do? A talk with federal employees in the Midwest, and what the government looks like from their perspective.

Plus, a local artist is reviving the video store. She operates a VHS lending library out of her bedroom, and she'll be going mobile to bring VHS tapes across the plains.

Guests:

Anonymous / AP

Half a century ago war, protests, and political scandal rocked the United States. Sound familiar? But, out of all that a small-time hoodlum from Butte, Montana rocketed into national prominence, on a motorbike. Evel Knievel's career took off like a rocket, but crashed even faster. Now a new museum celebrates all that is Evel.

As small-town populations decrease, what happens to those schools that are the anchors of their communities? We look at the challenges that rural schools in Kansas and Missouri face.

Guests:

Howard Simmons / Courtesy Washburn University

Gwendolyn Brooks lived in Topeka for just a few weeks after she was born. But the iconic poet – Brooks was the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize — still has relatives in Kansas, and they’re ready to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

“I’m very happy and proud when I hear so many people here in Topeka that really had a lot of respect for her and the gift God had given her,” says Carolyn Wims Campbell, Brooks’ first cousin once removed (Brooks and Campbell’s father were cousins).

Can the arts survive without federal funding? With the potential elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, a look at how Brownback's Kansas might be a test case for art ... and a model for the rest of the country.

Guests:

Courtesy Mello Music Group

Stik Figa
Central Standard (Mello Music Group)

Central Standard, the latest release by the Topeka-based rapper Stik Figa, chronicles the struggles of a man begrudgingly beginning to accept that his musical career is unlikely to yield fame and fortune.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

In deep-red Kansas, state Democrats threw their most energized annual meeting in years in Topeka on Saturday, largely thanks to the featured speaker: Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Ken Doll / Kansas Center for Economic Growth

The Sunflower State's budget is a mess and lawmakers in Topeka are struggling to solve the state's fiscal woes. Today, a former budget director evaluates the precarious situation. Also, we speak with novelist Ellen Hopkins, who experienced the kidnapping of one daughter and the drug addiction of another.

Yukiko Matsuoka / Flickr -- CC

How do you get information from the government, especially after the recent lockdown on communication from federal agencies? Two veteran investigative reporters explain how they deal with governmental transparency and secrecy.

Plus, a chat with local musician Kenn Jankowski about his new group, Jaenki.

Guests:

Crazy Fred ET / Wikipedia Commons and Jim Bowen / Flickr - CC

As the 115th U.S. Congress meets in Washington for the first time, new state legislatures will soon take the reins in Jefferson City and Topeka. Today, we look forward to possible political developments and legislation likely to arise in the Missouri and Kansas capitals.

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin and former Republican House Speaker Mike O’Neal have starkly different views on the condition of Kansas government. That divergence was plain as the two met in Topeka Thursday for a discussion about the size of government recorded for KCUR’s Statehouse Blend Kansas podcast.

 

O’Neal and Carlin agree on one thing -- that they don’t know exactly what the “right size” of state government is.

 

As part of a series on mental health care in Kansas by Heartland Health Monitor, we take a look at the history of Topeka's landmark mental health center: the Menninger Clinic.

Guest:

  • Roy Menninger, former president, Menninger Clinic

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