Government

Stephen Koranda

A Kansas House committee has approved raises for corrections officers in the state’s prisons, but didn’t approve any across-the-board raises for state workers.

Some members of the committee noted that many state employees haven’t received a raise since 2009. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Ryckman said they might be able to consider raises for more workers if efficiency recommendations from a recent state spending study are put into effect.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed how state Supreme Court justices are selected. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the plan would have given the governor the power to pick justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

Supporters of the change said it would put more power in the hands of Kansas voters and their elected officials, but the measure came up short of the 2/3 vote needed.

macrophile, flickr Creative Commons

A Kansas House committee has voted to block a proposal from the governor affecting funding for children’s programs.

Governor Sam Brownback has proposed sweeping money for the programs into the state’s general bank account. The move would not reduce funding for the programs, just move it.

Republican Representative Mark Hutton says he’s concerned that would make it easier to take the money for other purposes.

“That’s where it can get pushed to other things. The Children’s Cabinet loses control over where those funds go,” Hutton says.

wichita.gov

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said today that the city sustained $100,000 in damages from recent earthquakes.

Longwell said at his weekly address that all of the damage could be traced to a pair of earthquakes that hit Wichita on Jan. 6. It includes foundation and drywall damage to two police substations as well as the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Other repairs will need to be made to concrete and masonry at Alford Library and to bricks at the Park Villa building.

Kathleen Ann, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would lessen penalties for first and second-time marijuana possession.

The vote Wednesday was 38-1.

The measure would reduce the punishment for first-time misdemeanor possession to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, rather than the current year in jail and $2,500 fine. A second possession conviction would no longer be a felony, so an offender wouldn't be sent to prison.

The measure goes next to the House, which passed a similar proposal last year.

Michael B. / flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers yesterday heard from supporters and opponents of a bill that would consolidate school districts. The bill would set a minimum size for districts, and those that are too small would merge.

The goal is combining administrations to create more efficient organizations. Republican Rep. John Bradford told skeptics of the bill that it wouldn’t result in schools closing.

J. Stephen Conn, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas House Wednesday advanced a bill changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected. However, the measure came up short of the 2/3 majority it would ultimately need to pass during a final vote Thursday.

Critics of the current system say it isn’t democratic enough, because the nominees for the court are screened and selected by a commission. Republican Rep. James Todd is one of the supporters of changing the system.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A lobbying campaign being waged by highway contractors has Kansas lawmakers on the defensive.

Billboards put up by the contractors accuse Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers of committing “highway robbery” by diverting more than a billion dollars from the transportation department to plug holes in the state budget.

Sen. Jeff Melcher fired back at a Statehouse hearing today Wednesday. The Leawood Republican called the charges a “gross misrepresentation of reality.”

Richard Ross

A new bill aimed at reforming juvenile justice has been introduced in the Kansas Statehouse. Advocates of the bill say it will keep low-risk youth offenders out of prison while saving the state money.

According to the advocacy group Kansans United for Youth Justice, 35 percent of young people locked up in the state are there for misdemeanors only, something that’s not done for adult offenders.

Kansas legislators are among those in several states considering measures to prohibit local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

One bill would ban so-called sanctuary cities. The other would also withdraw state funding from cities that don't cooperate with immigration officials.

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