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Twice as many Kansas children would be in poverty without government aid reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.  Data just released from Kids Count shows government programs have kept over 100,000 Kansas kids out of poverty the past few years.

The Kansas child poverty rate would double to 30 percent without assistance.

The data measures the time period of 2011 to 2013.

More of the story, including reactions to the data from Shannon Cotsoradis, president of  Kansas Action for Children is available from the Topeka Capital-Journal. 

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The Kansas Senate has passed a bill that would allow Kansans to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Currently, residents must go through training and pass a background check before they are issued a permit to carry a hidden weapon.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle voted in favor of the bill but with reservations. She says she has heard “legitimate concerns” from Kansans.

The latest poll from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune shows the federal government isn't winning any popularity contest with Texans.

Kansas said Nebraska used more than its fair share of water out of the Republican River in 2005 and 2006. The Supreme Court agreed, and ordered Nebraska to pay up.

According to a recent survey, Kansas is the only state with an increased number of uninsured.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / texastribune.org

Retired Texas state district Judge John Dietz made his first public appearance this weekend.

Deitz spoke at the Association of Texas Professional Educators in Austin.

He says a solution to the state’s unequal and ineffective public education system should come from the Legislature. This report from the Texas Tribune.

He says, "We are dooming a generation of these children by providing an insufficient education, and we can do better."

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The top Democrat in the Kansas Senate says lawmakers haven’t accomplished enough so far this session reports Stephen Koranda for Kansas Public Radio.

Legislators are facing a significant deadline this week, which marks the midpoint of their scheduled time in Topeka. Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley believes they’re not making enough progress solving problems like a budget shortfall.

Is it time for Midwest exports to Cuba?

Feb 22, 2015
USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says it’s time for the U.S. to engage with Cuban markets. But some Republican leaders remain skeptical.

Vilsack, who was in metro Kansas City on Tuesday, says increasing U.S. exports to Cuba could help Midwest farmers.

“The reality is we used to do roughly $600 million of business in that country. It’s about a $1.7 billion dollar market. Wheat is certainly one area, poultry is another area, soybeans is another area.”

Dr. Mark Peterson is chair of the political science department at Washburn University, but we may soon get in trouble for telling you this fact. Peterson is a guest commentator for Kansas Public Radio. He offers his thoughts on a bill before the legislature limiting free speech rights of university employees.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant were married Thursday morning in Austin. The county clerk issued the couple a marriage license based on a court order. Theirs is Texas' first same-sex marriage. The order, the county clerk's office confirms, will only apply to this one couple, one of whom is "medically fragile."

schiffner.com

Obamacare enrollment grew by nearly 70 percent in both Kansas and Missouri during the most recent sign-up period, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The number of Kansans enrolled in health insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace increased to 96,226 from 57,013. Missouri enrollment jumped to 253,969 from 152,335.

texastribune.org

Texas State Senator Kel Seliger is working to fast-track a bill giving school officials the option to graduate high school students who have failed state exams.  This report from the Texas Tribune.

Seliger says students who are doing well in school shouldn’t be kept from getting a high school diploma because of a standardized test.

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts met privately with more than a dozen industry groups recently. He says over-regulation is a common theme regardless of the organization. He also said reducing trade barriers and improving federal assistance for ag research are priorities.

Ryan E. Poppe / tpr.org

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spelled out six critical items that needed to be tackled immediately during his first State of the State address on Tuesday. Those agenda items ranged from fixing Texas’ school finance system to funding border security at the highest level in the state’s history. These items are actual bills that Abbott has assigned to various lawmakers and is hoping to have fast tracked through the legislative process. 

deschutesswcd.com

The Department of Agriculture has improved the federal Conservation Stewardship Program, offering $100 million to landowners taking steps to conserve soil and natural resources.  But, they’re doing a poor job of telling farmers about it reports Bruce Knight for Agri-Pulse.

Knight says high profile initiatives like providing habitat for the lesser prairie chicken or conserving the Ogallala Aquifer are getting all the attention because of political priorities.  He says what excites him are the enhancements embracing modern precision agriculture technology, soil health, cover crops and fertilizer management.

kansaspublicradio.org

Hundreds of LGBT activists held a rally outside the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka Saturday. They were protesting Governor Sam Brownback for withdrawing protections for state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The group Equality Kansas led the rally, where several state lawmakers and activists spoke. Micah Kubic (Mike-uh Cubic) of the Kansas branch of the ACLU told the crowd that Brownback’s actions have set the entire state back.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, but has not yet executed anyone in last 20 years. Opponents of the death penalty are hoping to replace the option with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Anti-death penalty advocates are renewing their push to change the law reports Stephen Koranda for Kansas Public Radio.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Across the Corn Belt, farmers are signing up for Farm Bill support programs and which ones they choose will impact the overall price tag for taxpayers.

Projections for the cost of these commodity programs are blowing past the amounts originally budgeted just a year ago, when the Farm Bill was enacted, leaving the possibility that U.S. taxpayers will pay out billions more than planned.

kansas.com

There’s bill being heard by the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee today that creates a higher tier of foster care reports the Wichita Eagle

This level pays at a substantially higher rate and families in the program would be eligible for state education aid to either home school or send their foster kids to private school.

The bill is introduced by Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.  He says he wants to provide stability for children.

To be eligible for this program, a husband and wife have to be married for at least seven years, one cannot work outside the home.  They must keep their home free of liquor and tobacco, and refrain from extramarital sex.   

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A Kansas Senate committee is looking at rewriting part of the public school funding formula. The Legislature passed a bill increasing one type of school aid last year, but when it was all said and done, the cost had risen beyond their initial estimates. Kansas Public Radio’s Stephen Koranda reports the bill would change how it's calculated and reduce that type of education spending by $40 million dollars.

thepoliticalinsider.com

Kansas Rep. Tom Sloan is trying to piece together a Medicaid expansion proposal he hopes Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP conservatives might consider according to the Kansas Health Institute

The moderate Republican from Lawrence is borrowing elements from other conservative governors that have received or are seeking federal approval for more private-sector approaches.

The state’s budget shortfalls won’t make things any easier.  The bill has to find a way to cover the state’s share of expansions costs for several years. 

gunwatch.blogspot.com

There are several bills allowing Texans to openly carry handguns facing the legislature this session.  But, they have some challenges reports the Amarillo Globe News

State Rep. John Smithee is the senior lawmaker in the Texas Panhandle delegation.  He says, “There’s two issues:  one is how strict your licensing is, and two is where you could take your open carry and what restrictions would be placed upon it.”

The Amarillo Republican says he hasn’t take a formal position on the matter yet.

Smithee doesn’t expect lawmakers to debate the proposed bills until March. 

Megan Verlee / cpr.org

As of yesterday there’s only one place in Colorado for undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license reports Colorado Public Radio.

The licensing program is funded by an extra fee charged on undocumented immigrant driver’s licenses, but the DMV needs approval from the legislature’s budget committee before spending the money its collected.

If an Oklahoman has a serious mental illness and gets arrested for a nonviolent crime, whether he goes to prison or gets enrolled in a diversion program largely depends on where they live reports KGOU.

Only 16 counties in the state have mental health courts.  The only two in Western Oklahoma are in the southern counties of Comanche and Cotton according to the Oklahoma Government website.

Bob Daemmrich / texastribune.org

Public health care costs are rising in Texas… as a matter of fact.. to the tune of about $1.3 billion over the next two years reports the Texas Tribune.

As you take a look at the Senate’s budget, here’s a look at the health care issues lawmakers will be struggling with for the next four months.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A group that advocates for Kansas children is protesting Governor Sam Brownback’s proposal to use money from a children’s fund to help cover a budget shortfall. The money comes from the 1990s tobacco settlement payments and is used for programs including Early Head Start. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports on the proposal to help close a gap in the current fiscal year's budget.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature have been tight-lipped about Governor Sam Brownback’s tax and budget proposal, until now. Top Democrats voiced their concerns about the plans at a press conference on Friday.

The Texas Tribune's Ben Philpott talks with experts to help make the Texas budget understandable.

Raising money to promote the beef business seemed like a good idea, so a law was passed, and everyone chipped in. Billions of dollars later, a couple Kansas cowboys are raising questions- and a commotion- about the program. Their cries are as old as the Boston Tea Party: "taxation without representation."

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is defending the state’s system for selecting Supreme Court justices.

Governor Sam Brownback last week said the system should be changed to be, as he called it, more “democratic.” His proposals would allow the governor to pick nominees or have voters directly elect justices.

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