WRITER: Peter Hancock

Brownback changed the way Court of Appeals judges are selected; Gov.-elect Kelly will use merit-based system instead

TOPEKA - Gov.-elect Laura Kelly will have the opportunity to appoint a new judge to the Kansas Court of Appeals as soon as she comes into office. But the incoming Democrat says she does not plan to use the new system of selecting appellate court judges that former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through; that system allows the governor to make appointments directly, subject to Senate ...

Task force agrees on outline of next Kansas transportation program, but has few details on funding

TOPEKA - A joint legislative task force agreed Thursday to a general outline of a new multiyear transportation program. However, the plan offers few details about how much the state should spend or how any new projects should be financed, because it's not known how much new funding, if any, lawmakers are willing to approve. "We didn't want to get involved in details because that means drafting legislation and ...

Task force nearing consensus on framework of next Kansas transportation plan

TOPEKA - A legislative task force appeared to reach consensus Wednesday on a number of key elements that it believes should be part of the state's next multiyear transportation plan, including increased funding for urban mass transit systems and restoration of state funding for city and county road projects. But it remains to be seen whether the group can reach consensus on how to pay for the roughly 280 ...

Hybrids, electric vehicles pose funding challenge for next Kansas highway program

TOPEKA — When Kansas lawmakers sit down to write a new multiyear transportation plan this coming session, one of the biggest challenges they'll face is how to pay for it. Traditionally, funding for highway construction and maintenance has come from the state's motor fuel tax — 25 cents a gallon for regular gasoline and gas mixed with 10 percent ethyl alcohol; 27 cents a gallon for diesel. The state also ...

Douglas County court ordered to summon Kobach grand jury 'without delay'

TOPEKA — The Kansas Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Douglas County District Court to act "without delay" in summoning a grand jury to investigate allegations of election-related crimes in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office during the 2016 elections. The order, officially known as a "mandate," came seven days after the Kansas Supreme Court said it would not hear any appeals in the ...

Moran signs on to bipartisan criminal justice reform bill

Story updated at 5:06 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26: U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran has signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would enact sweeping reforms in federal sentencing laws, but it remains to be seen whether the bill will come up for a vote before Congress adjourns next month. Moran, a Kansas Republican, is one of 10 co-sponsors of the bill that was introduced earlier this month by Senate Judiciary Committee ...

Kansas House to see leadership challenges in both parties

TOPEKA – Newly elected and re-elected members of the Kansas House will meet in Topeka on Dec. 3 to elect leadership teams in both parties, and both the top Republican and Democratic leaders will face internal challenges this year. On the Republican side, conservative House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., of Olathe, faces an unusual challenge from a hard-line conservative, Rep.-elect Owen Donohoe, a former legislator ...

Gov.-elect Kelly to focus early on child welfare reform

TOPEKA — Gov.-elect Laura Kelly campaigned on a long list of things she wants to change in Kansas, but one of the first things she plans to address after she takes office in January is fixing the state's beleaguered child welfare system. In an interview with the Journal-World on Monday, Kelly said one of the first things she plans to push for is increasing the number of social workers and other staff at the ...

Kansas GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold reflects on his 6-year run

TOPEKA — The Kansas Republican Party will have new leadership for the first time in six years when the state committee gathers at its annual convention in February. Kelly Arnold, the Wichita-based operative who has served as chairman since 2013, has announced that he will not seek another term in that office. "Really, it’s time," Arnold said in a phone interview this week. "This is a decision I had kind of ...

Kelly: Next Medicaid expansion plan may be different from failed 2017 bill

TOPEKA – Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly hopes to push through a Medicaid expansion bill during her first term in office, but she says it may end up looking different from the one lawmakers passed in the 2017 session, which then-Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed. “I think we need to evaluate that again, given that we’re two years out,” Kelly said in a recent interview. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, ...

Kansas Supreme Court upholds dismissal of KU assistant professor

TOPEKA - The Kansas Supreme Court this week upheld the University of Kansas' dismissal of an assistant professor in molecular biology in 2010 due to insufficient academic research and publishing. Edina Harsay began teaching at KU in 2004 when she was hired for a tenure-track position in the department of molecular biology. When she came up for tenure review five years later, she reported having only one article ...

Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner feeds hundreds on holiday

For many people, Thanksgiving was a day to spend at home or elsewhere with friends and family; to enjoy a traditional feast and give thanks for the blessings in their lives. But for hundreds of others in the Lawrence community who don't have family nearby, who couldn't get out of their homes to visit others or who simply wanted to volunteer their time helping others, the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner ...

Holiday Happenings: Festival of Trees

The Lawrence community once again will kick off its holiday season with the annual Festival of Trees at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., in downtown Lawrence. The event is the primary fundraiser for The Children’s Shelter, a nonprofit agency that provides temporary residential care, foster placement and other services for at-risk children. Now in its 32nd year, the Festival of Trees typically raises ...

Holiday Happenings: Van Go Adornment

Shoppers in Lawrence will have the opportunity again this holiday season to shop for some local, handmade arts and crafts while helping support an arts-based job training program for at-risk teens in the area. This year’s Van Go Adornment Art Show and Sale begins Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Van Go headquarters, 715 New Jersey St. The annual event is the primary fundraiser for Van Go, a nonprofit agency that ...

Kansas Supreme Court clears way for grand jury probe of Kobach's office

TOPEKA - The Kansas Supreme Court issued an order late Tuesday that clears the way for Douglas County to summon a citizen-initiated grand jury to investigate alleged criminal wrongdoing on the part of Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office in its handling of certain voter registrations leading up to the 2016 elections. In a one-page order, the court denied Kobach's second request to review a June 8 ruling of ...

Colyer still undecided about future after leaving Kansas governor's office

TOPEKA — Gov. Jeff Colyer said Tuesday that he plans to spend Thanksgiving with his entire family at the governor's mansion in Topeka this week. But beyond that, he said he is still undecided about what his own future holds. "Don't know yet. Really don't," Colyer said, speaking to reporters after receiving the official Cedar Crest Christmas tree and wreath on Tuesday. Colyer, 58, has been in office less than ...

Kansas to pay $75K to settle lawsuit in child-abuse death

TOPEKA - The state of Kansas has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the father of an 18-month-old El Dorado girl who died of child abuse, even after child welfare authorities had been alerted to the ongoing danger. Jayla Michelle Haag Watters died in March 2012 in what authorities described as a meth house. According to court records, Jayla was born with methamphetamine in her system, but the ...

Memorial at Statehouse honoring fallen law enforcement officers to be expanded

TOPEKA — A memorial outside the Kansas Statehouse honoring law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty will soon be expanded. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, along with other state officials, announced Monday that plans were underway to add a second concentric ring of memorial markers outside the existing monument so that additional names can be added in future ...

Democrats assessing what happened in 2nd District campaign

TOPEKA — Going into the 2018 elections, Democrat Paul Davis looked like he had a clear advantage in the race for Kansas' 2nd District congressional seat. He was a well-known candidate who had carried the district in his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014. And he was running in a year that was expected to be good for Democrats - a "blue wave," as many were calling it. Davis had no opposition in the ...

Law enforcement can bar protesters from Kansas Statehouse, but not people concealing firearms

TOPEKA — Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature on Friday questioned why law enforcement officers are allowed to block nonviolent protesters from entering the building because of security concerns, but not people carrying concealed firearms. That issue came up during a meeting of the Legislative Coordinating Council, which is made up of the top Republican and Democratic leaders of the Kansas House and ...