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

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Dr. Saeedeh Salmanzadeh became a U.S. citizen at a naturalization ceremony in October 2015.

When the presiding official asked if any of the new citizens wanted to speak, she was one of the first to raise her hand.

By then Salmanzadeh had spent 15 years in America, after leaving her home in Iran where she was a doctor.

She had spent two years with no pay, studying for exams so she could practice in the United States.

Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of tax legislation last week represents a “credit negative” to ratings agency Moody

Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman

A couple of new Oklahoma bills would consider questions that have occupied the Sooner State for decades, reports The Oklahoman.

One measure proposes to leave Sunday liquor sales up to the counties. If Senate Bill 211 passes, voters in each individual county could decide whether to allow liquor stores to open between noon and midnight on Sundays.

Meanwhile, under House Bill 1686, consumers would pay no sales tax on beer, wine and spirits. Instead, they would pay higher excise taxes.

DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons

Texas was one of the few bright spots for Democrats in last year’s election, notes The Texas Tribune.

Though the GOP retained a safe hold of the state in a year where the nation trended red, Texas was shown to be moving in a decidedly blue direction. And that trend appears to be continuing, if new election data is to be believed.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

A Texas Senate panel is moving toward abolishing a rule aimed at helping low-income students attend college in the Lone Star State, reports The Texas Tribune.

The legislation, known as “Bill 18,” would eliminate a rule requiring universities to set aside tuition dollars for scholarships and grants to benefit poor students. The legislation, which is supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, was introduced by Senator Kel Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo.

KCUR

A bill that would have expanded Medicaid in Kansas was tabled Monday by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the action effectively ends chances that the bill will be passed this session under legislative deadlines.

Moran's memo: A farm crisis in the High Plains

Feb 21, 2017
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas

As a resident of the community, I was pleased to learn that Manhattan, Kansas, is set to host the first Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill hearing – a fitting location chosen by my colleague Chairman Pat Roberts to kick off formal discussions on the challenges and opportunities in authorizing our next farm bill.

Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appears to have made a good number of enemies within the agency he’ll soon helm, and he hasn’t even started the job yet.

As The New York Times reports, employees of the Environmental Protection Agency mounted an organized campaign to call their senators and plead that they vote against Pruitt to head the agency.

Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle

Texas has become the first state to actively throw its support behind President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, reports The Houston Chronicle.

On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief with the 9th circuit court of appeals. The brief formally affirms  Texas's support of Trump’s White House and the U.S. Department of Justice.

KCUR

  The Kansas House approved a tax bill Wednesday that would raise Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax cuts.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the proposed bill would include an end to a tax cut for roughly 330,000 business owners and generate more than $1 billion over the next two years, according to state estimates.

But Brownback said he won’t sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

KGOU

Oklahoma lawmakers continue to struggle with how to lessen the state's onerous budget shortfall.

As KOSU reports, Oklahoma's budget gap is inching back up toward the billion-dollar mark. Governor Mary Fallin has suggested a dramatic change to the state sales tax to eliminate certain exemptions, in hopes of turning the ship around. She says her long-term goal is to change the tax system to better fit the modern world.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

After hundreds of arrests of undocumented immigrants by immigration police, the Trump administration’s increased focus on immigration enforcement has some of the country’s largest farm groups worried.

Oklahoma State Legislature

Yesterday the Oklahoma legislature brought a bill to the floor that would make abortions illegal unless approved by the mother’s male sexual partner.

Creative Commons

Several people were arrested in southwest Kansas last week as part of the national immigration crackdown that netted more than 600 arrests by immigration authorities.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, 31 of the more than 600 people arrested by immigration authorities last week were picked up in Kansas, about three-quarters of which were picked up in southwestern Kansas, near Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal. Nearly all were citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or Mexico.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

*Correction: A previous version of this story was incorrect. A former accountant of the Oklahoma Beef Council is being investigated for allegedly embezzling $2.6 million from that board. This is a corrected version of the story.*

Federal authorities are investigating the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million dollars from an obscure Oklahoma board that promotes the beef industry, reports KOSU.

Citing weak economic trends and structural budget pressures, S&P Global Ratings revised the outlook on Kansas’ AA-minus credit rating from stable to negative Wednesday.

As Reuters reports, the credit rating agency faulted the state for its continuous use of one-time revenue measures to shore up operational spending. For the upcoming biennial budget, nonrecurring measures include a plan to sell bonds backed by Kansas' share of a nationwide settlement with U.S. tobacco companies, liquidation of a capital reserve, and pension underfunding, S&P said.

Al Drago / The New York Times

An offhand remark President Donald Trump made on Wednesday has Democratic lawmakers in Texas fuming.

As The New York Times reports, Trump was speaking with a group of sheriffs from around the country when a Texas sheriff asked the president about a state senator who was proposing a law that would not allow Texas to seize a suspect’s assets until that suspect had been convicted by a court.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

A watchdog group is suing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is currently President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, The Tulsa World reports.

Wikimedia Commons

Controversial Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was confirmed on Tuesday, and all but one of the ten Senators from the High Plains region helped her win the seat.

As The New York Times reports, the vote came down to a historic 50/50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. This is the first time in history that a Senate vote on a cabinet-level position has ended in a tie.

Randall Killian thought he was investing in his new retirement property in Colorado when he received a mail-in ballot in 2012 asking if he would like to legalize marijuana in that state.

“When I saw that on the ballot, it's like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s something I’ll never get a chance to vote for again. So bam! I vote on it,” Killian says. “Voted in Ellis County (Kansas), just like I’d done for 25 years.”

Bbean32

Many refugees in Greeley, Colorado are Muslims from Somalia or other parts of East Africa, who, like those in Garden City Kansas, work in the meatpacking industry.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Burmese refugee Sultan Ahmed thought he would be seeing his family in less than a year, but President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration halted all that and Ahmed was told it would take two or more years to bring his family to Greeley.

aviper2k7 / Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday A Kansas senate panel moved to cut $128 million from K-12 education and $23 million dollars from higher education to help fill the state’s three hundred and ten million dollar budget shortfall.  

As The Hutch News reports, the Senate ways and Means Committee approved the cuts, which would take place this fiscal year, as part of a larger budget bill that also reduces funding to state agencies.

Creative Commons CC0

Even though many farmers are stewing over President Donald Trump’s moves to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, House Agricultural Chairman Mike Conaway thinks Trump could get the agriculture industry a better deal.

Creative Commons CC0

A Kansas lawmaker is expected to introduce two marijuana-related bills this year – one allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana and the other to legalize recreational use.

It took many by surprise, but the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee passed out a bill Tuesday that would cut $154 million out of the budget by July 1, the vast majority coming from education.

Of the proposed cuts, education shoulders 98 percent of the total. More than $127 million of the cuts would come from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education. 

In Johnson County, the plan would result in millions of dollars in cuts:

A Senate committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would repeal an income tax exemption for more than 300,000 business owners. The bill, which could go before the full Senate on Thursday, also would increase income tax rates overall.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said she supported the measure because the Legislature needs to make some progress on tax issues.

Creative Commons

Ag experts are expecting a revised farm bill this year, as a new administration takes control in Washington.

As Politico has noted, employees from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation have begun to exert heavy influence over the young administration.

Creative Commons CC0

A proposed bill that would allow law enforcement officials to train armed teachers, principals and other school personnel advanced last week in the state Senate, despite objections that it will just invite more gun violence in Colorado’s schools.

Currently, as Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert told The Denver Post, at least 25 out of the Colorado’s 178 school districts use school personnel with conceal-carry permits and Senate Bill 5 simply offers handgun training to that personnel.

Astrid Westvang / Creative Commons

In Texas, foster care providers have clashed with court judges over a senator’s proposal to privatize foster care.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the debate centers around whether private contractors in Texas should be allowed to completely take over supervision of abused and neglected children.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Martin do Nascimento / Texas Tribune

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has cut off funding to Travis County, home to the state’s capital, after the county sheriff refused to back down from offering sanctuary to immigrants.

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