HPPR Government & Politics

Government:
state government (executive, legislative & judicial)
local government (city & county)
regional agencies & authorities
policies
budgets & taxes
laws, rules & regulations

Politics:
district-level and statewide office campaigns
legislative proposals
voting patterns

Eric Gay / AP photo

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to reduce its aerial surveillance on the Texas-Mexico border. On Monday Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, asked to know why.

Chris Neal / AP photo

Two years later, Kansas lawmakers are still debating a controversial sex ed poster, reports The Kansas City Star. The poster was titled “How do people express their sexual feelings?” and included such terms as “oral sex,” “anal sex” and “vaginal intercourse.” The poster was informational and contained no images. Yet Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would make it easier to prosecute teachers for materials considered harmful to minors.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House Wednesday advanced a bill changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected. However, the measure came up short of the 2/3rds 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 Representative James Todd is one of the supporters of changing the system.

gizmodo

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize marijuana for recreational use, reports globalpost.com. The plan could generate up to 5 billion dollars’ worth of Canadian tax revenue, a study says. Canada’s capital of Ottawa and its provincial governments have been facing revenue crunches in the wake of falling commodity prices. So Trudeau decided to explore how much revenue could be generated from legalizing pot.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has approved the transfer of well over a million dollars from the state emergency fund to strengthen Oklahoma’s earthquake response. The money will go toward researching the state’s recent earthquake surge, and toward regulating the oil and gas activity that’s likely causing it.

M. Spencer Green / AP photo

A Kansas senate panel has put forth a bill that would make it illegal for banks and other businesses to discriminate against gun dealers. But the law is drawing criticism, reports The Wichita Eagle. Critics are upset that the Kansas legislature would propose a bill to protect discrimination of gun dealers, when officials will not amend the bill to protect other groups that are frequently discriminated against.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Three weeks ago the federal government took 121 people into custody. The raid was part of a multi-state roundup of Central American families, reports The Guardian. Now seven of those detainees, who are being held in a Texas facility, have written a letter to Barack Obama. In the open letter, the immigrants plead for mercy and freedom for their families.

David Zalubowski / AP photo

The number of eligible Latino voters will hit a record high this year.

Brett Deering / New York Times

An intrepid team of insurance counselors is stepping up efforts to enroll Oklahomans in medical coverage. They’re doing all they can before the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period ends on Sunday. But, as The New York Times reports, the group is facing massive resistance. Oklahoma is one of the most hostile states to the health law.

amarillo.com

The Department of Energy recently approved plans to ramp up production of plutonium “pits” at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Pits are the cores that trigger nuclear weapons. The increase could lead to more warhead refurbishment work at the Pantex Plant northeast of Amarillo, reports Amarillo.com.

Texas Tribune

There’s a new law in Texas that makes it a felony to harbor undocumented immigrants, reports The Texas Tribune. In response to the legislation, a national civil rights group is suing the state.

KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute

A new computer system for enrolling Kansans in Medicaid and other public assistance programs will generate far less than the expected $300 million in savings, a Legislative Post Audit report found.

Topeka Capital-Journal

A Kansas state senator’s dress code for women who appear before senate committees has gotten him into hot water, reports WPEC. The senator’s rules prohibit women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. Sen. Mitch Holmes is a 53-year-old Republican from St. John. He is chairman of the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. His 11-point code of conduct does not include any restrictions on men.

Creative Commons

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Agency says social work vacancies haven’t compromised safety.

Nearly one-quarter of social workers with the Kansas Department for Children and Families left the job in a yearlong period ending Dec. 1, 2015, and job vacancies increased by more than two-thirds at the same time.

Texas Tribune

Last month a federal judge ordered Texas to clean up its foster care system. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack’s findings were scathing.

Andy Marso / KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Kiley Klug and Tiffanie Krentz had just finished giving emotional testimony about their children’s persistent seizures during Wednesday’s hearing on legalizing cannabis oil when Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer spoke up.

Ostmeyer, a veteran Republican legislator from a sprawling rural district in western Kansas, told the women he understood, because he has a 36-year-old daughter who was only expected to live to age 10.

Texas Senate Video

The Texas Observer just released a list of Texas politicians’ most embarrassing internet moments of 2015, and there are some doozies. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was taken to task for his habit of photographing himself. At one point, Patrick held up a Senate Education Committee hearing so that he could take a selfie in front of the panel.

Huffington Post

Measured against his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp has been spending far more taxpayer dollars on mailouts to promote his own legacy. According to The Hutchinson News, Huelskamp’s tab for mailings and other mass communications added up to almost $120,000 of taxpayer money. And that’s just over just a nine-month period of last year.

Public Domain

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Health policy experts say Congress unlikely to approve extension of full federal funding.

With full federal funding for expanding Medicaid set to expire at the end of this year, President Barack Obama is proposing to indefinitely extend the health law provision for any of the 19 states — including Kansas and Missouri — that have not yet adopted the enhanced eligibility.

Creative Commons

The U.S. has two long traditions that have recently been battling for the public heart. We are a nation of immigrants, a melting pot, and we have a long history of welcoming refugees with open arms. But we also have another tradition, of locking down our borders from fear of outsiders.

Caden Crawford / Creative Commons

Kansas has one of the highest grocery sales tax rates in the country. And the high taxes are causing Kansans to cross over into other states when they shop, says The Shawnee Dispatch. Critics have long complained that the high sales tax rate hurt the finances of low-income families. But now, it’s also putting the pinch on rural grocery stores and local governments, according to a new study.  In 2013, Kansas lost almost $350 million in food sales.

Shelby Knowles / Texas Tribune

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has announced a new unit dedicated to combating human trafficking, reports The Texas Tribune. Texas has the second-highest trafficking victim population of any state. Last year Texas had 330 cases of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Norihiro Kataoka / Texas Tribune

A group of Texas officials, including eleven Republican state legislators, are making a new effort to put a stop to high-speed rail travel in Texas.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

Rick Perry has a new job. The former Texas governor and presidential candidate is working with the largest privately held dental insurance company in the country. The company, MCNA Dental, was also the top donor to Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign.

nps.gov

The Kansas House budget committee has decided to make nice with the state’s judicial branch, reports The Hutchinson News. The committee has introduced a bill to eliminate a budget provision that was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. Controversy erupted in 2014 when the Kansas Legislature adopted a bill to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to select district court judges.

Will Culpepper / Flickr Creative Commons

The ballots for Texas’s primary contests have been set, reports The Texas Tribune. In many cases, the primary races are expected to be more competitive than November’s general election races. You can go here to find a list of all candidates in all races.

As President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address, NPR will provide live anchored coverage of the speech as well as the Republican response from Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina. NPR's special coverage with All Things Considered host Audie Cornish will start at 9pm EST/6pm PT on Tuesday, January 12. The broadcast special will air on Member Stations across the country (www.npr.org/stations) and be available at NPR.org, along with reports that unfold key issues, live updates and online resources that offer a deeper understanding of the annual speech.

kansascity.com

LAWRENCE – A new funding method for public schools is expected to dominate the debate in the Kansas Legislature this year, and Gov. Sam Brownback will outline his budget and policy priorities during his State of the State address.

High Plains Public Radio’s coverage begins this afternoon, January 12, at 5:30 central time.

This is the first week of the 2016 Kansas legislative session.

The speech will last approximately 30 minutes and will be followed by the Democratic Party response. 

www.kansas.com

The Kansas Highway Patrol has 82 fewer troopers than it did 10 years ago. And Southwest Kansas is suffering the most from a lack of troopers, reports The Wichita Eagle. 20 counties in Western Kansas have no troopers assigned to them. And 16 of those counties are in the southwest part of the state. Kansas is now seeking an increase in vehicle title fees to reverse that trend.

Billy Hathorn / Texas Tribune

Texas’s new open carry law is making headlines and causing controversy. But there’s one place you might not expect the battle to play out: at your local zoo. According to The Texas Tribune, that’s because zoos are funded through private foundations but located on public property. That means the laws are hazy for zoos if they want to keep firearms off their property.

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