Stephen Koranda | KBIA

Stephen Koranda

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

VALLEY FALLS, Kansas — Dennis Ritchey stands in the kitchen of his modest apartment. He calls it efficient, but likes that it has plenty of cabinets.

The state of Kansas is canceling a contract that administered an elementary-school reading program because of what state officials call inappropriate spending on travel and salaries. 

The contractor disputes any mishandling of the money, which in recent years amounted to nearly $10 million routed from a program meant to serve needy families. 

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts says he will not run for re-election in 2020, opening the door to a parade of candidates announcing a run or considering jumping into the race to replace him. Multiple Republicans are eyeing the seat, and it could be the first time Democrats have a competitive U.S. Senate primary since the 1990s.

Here’s the rundown of who’s seeking the seat in Washington: 

TOPEKA — A new Kansas law provides some protection for people possessing CBD oil containing limited amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

But it’s not full-on legalization, meaning the oil could still result in legal trouble even for people with documents confirming it’s for medical purposes. 

CBD oil without THC is already legal in Kansas. CBD is made from the same plant that marijuana comes from, but the plants are bred with relatively small amounts of the psychoactive compounds.

(This story was updated at 2:15 p.m.)

LEAVENWORTH, Kansas — Republican former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Monday that he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts.

Kobach beat then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the primary election last year — helped partly by a last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump — but ultimately lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly.

Build higher, build stronger — it pays off big in Kansas.

Disaster mitigation investments in Kansas yielded more savings than efforts in any other state, a new study found. The Pew Charitable Trusts listed Missouri as a close second.

The Kansas Board of Regents pressured state university officials to rethink hiking tuition, and the schools did just that.

In-state tuition for undergraduates at all state campuses will be flat or reduced after the regents approved revised rates Wednesday. Though some graduate and out-of-state students will see modest tuition increases.

Regents Chair Dennis Mullin thanked university officials for scaling back their tuition proposals, which he said comes with “punishment and pain.”

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday effectively ended a nearly decade-long lawsuit by ruling that state lawmakers finally sent enough money to local school districts.

Education officials in Kansas are taking a two-pronged approach to reducing teacher shortages: raising pay and fast-tracking teaching assistants and other professionals to the front of the classroom.

Rhododendron plants sold at more than 60 stores in Kansas are infected with a disease that kills oak trees, so the Kansas Department of Agriculture is asking residents to destroy them.

Rethink those planned tuition hikes.

Kansas senators met Tuesday to formally vote down Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination for a Court of Appeals seat. In a strange twist, even Kelly wanted her nominee rejected.

The outcome was already known before lawmakers returned to Topeka for the single vote.

A fresh push by school districts to get Kansas to pony up more money for public education met with skepticism Thursday from the Kansas Supreme Court.

Justices had pointed questions for both sides in the lawsuit that began in 2010 and has already gone through multiple rounds of oral arguments and rulings.

The justices, who so far have consistently ruled in favor of the districts, may be ready for it to be over.

Justice Eric Rosen called it frustrating that the funding goal that school districts argue for seems to be a moving target.

In the waning days of the 2019 session, the conservative Republicans controlling the Kansas Legislature made one thing clear to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and her allies: They were ready for a fight against Medicaid expansion.  

The issue commanded the four-month session, which ended in the wee hours Sunday. The session was the first with the new Democratic governor in office, which gave people who wanted to expand health coverage for thousands of low-income Kansans the energy to push hard in the final days. Their efforts ultimately failed.

 


Legalizing sports gambling in Kansas seemed like a safe bet earlier this year. It’s a new source of tax dollars and enjoys bipartisan support.

You can find just about anything on eBay, including now a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil listed for almost $3 million.

The online sale drew an outcry on social media because the T. rex was on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.

UPDATE: Saturday, with a crowd of teachers looking on, Gov. Kelly signed a school funding bill she hopes will end years of court battles between the state and local school districts.  

It took a fight, but the Kansas House and Senate have agreed to the school funding hikes Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly called for. Now, lawmakers will wait to see if it’s enough to satisfy the state’s highest court.

The clock is ticking for Kansas lawmakers to figure out a school funding solution. Briefs making the case for a plan are due to the state Supreme Court April 15.

With only one week of the regular legislative session to go, there’s still significant division over how to satisfy the court that funding is adequate and end the nearly decade-old Gannon lawsuit.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has sent a tax relief bill down in flames, taking her veto pen to the measure she says would wreck the state budget. But, as a priority for Republicans, it could remain in play for the rest of the legislative session and rise from the ashes.

The last week might have been easier for Gov. Laura Kelly if every staffer and appointee had stuck to sharing cat photos on Twitter instead of political opinions.

The Kansas GOP pounced quickly on her newly formed Democratic administration for the social media transgressions of its people. With divided government in Topeka, GOP leaders won’t miss a chance to point out potential errors.

Republicans in the Kansas Senate seem ready to end a long-running lawsuit by complying with a court ruling that said the state sends too little money to local school districts.

The Kansas House? Not just yet. It’s advancing a plan that would continue adding school spending for another year, and only another year.

The Republican-controlled Kansas House approved wide-ranging tax legislation Thursday. The measure would reduce sales taxes on food, which could help Kansans across the income spectrum. It would also give some big corporations a break, and that will likely spark a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Kansas Democrats scored critical wins in the last election. Now they’re struggling to transform those victories into Democratic-minded policies, and to hold on to the corners of power they’ve captured.

They meet in their annual convention this weekend to pick party leaders and search for consensus on strategies for governing and see if they can repeat last year’s election wins next year.

The new chairman of the Kansas Republican Party is focused on winning back the governorship and the 3rd Congressional District. He told party leaders this weekend how he plans to do it.

Johnson County attorney Mike Kuckelman was the only one to present a full slate of leadership candidates for party officials to consider at their state convention Saturday.

Gov. Laura Kelly has said she has an easy solution for funding schools: Just renew the finance plan the Kansas Legislature agreed to last year and fold in an adjustment for inflation. But over in the Senate, lawmakers are picking that proposal apart.

After months of wrangling last year, lawmakers approved a $500 million multi-year boost for schools in response to a state Supreme Court ruling in the long-running Gannon case.

The Kansas secretary of corrections calls staffing shortages at a state prison an emergency.

Worker shortages are a persistent problem the state prison system. Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz said it’s especially bad at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, where staff already work long shifts. The prison holds about 1,700 inmates and currently has about 85 unfilled jobs.

Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate are forging ahead with plans to plow millions into tax relief that would largely benefit big business. Some Democrats and more moderate Republicans suspect it’s also a strategy to deprive the governor of the money to fund her priorities.

Carving out chunks of the state savings account now could send lawmakers scrambling to fund schools and other services with the cash that’s left when they’re knitting up the budget later this spring.

Former Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach rewrote the rules for voting in Kansas. Laws he pushed for required voters to show citizenship papers to register and ID at the polls. He secured prosecutorial powers for his office. 

Kobach’s term only ended a couple weeks ago, but some cornerstones of his legacy are already starting to crumble.

In her first budget as governor, Democrat Laura Kelly aims to inject cash into what she calls critical state services.

The proposal unveiled Thursday also would start to wean the state off money diverted for years from highway construction and upkeep.

Kansas swore a new governor into office on Monday and saw the end of eight years of Republicans in the office.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told supporters, and the Republican lawmakers she’s sure to clash with, that the state had lost its sense of community. That seemingly was a dig at predecessors Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

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