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

The overhaul of the Kansas computer system for processing welfare and Medicaid applications recently went through its final implementation phase. State officials say the process went smoothly, especially compared to the system's initial rollout that delayed thousands of Medicaid applications.

Public Domain

Over the past two decades, Texas Democrats have lost 123 consecutive statewide races. That’s  the longest losing streak of any state party in the country. But now, as Mother Jones reports, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Business leaders and members of Kansas’ congressional delegation are supportive of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Speaking at a summit hosted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce in Wichita Friday, District 4 Rep. Ron Estes said he wants to modernize NAFTA in a way that keeps the “good parts” of the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Estes said Trump’s statements have begun to focus more on free and fair trade, instead of tearing up agreements.

Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams assured lawmakers Friday that the state’s new driver’s license system is on course for a smooth rollout at the start of 2018, despite auditor concerns to the contrary.

At issue is a critical Department of Revenue information technology project — known as KanDrive or KanLicense — to migrate records for about 2 million people from an aged mainframe to a new system. Access to those records is critical for motor vehicle offices and law enforcement agencies.

Public Domain

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has been drawing fire all year from far-right lawmakers, including members of the so-called “Texas Freedom Caucus” in the State House of Representatives, who have called for Straus’s job.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, Straus is taking the calls for his ouster in stride. Brushing aside complaints that he’s too moderate, Straus welcomed all challengers.

“I don’t own this job,” he said.

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There are a lot of players in farm bill discussions nowadays, and as Politico reports, all of them - in one way or another - are related.

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Elise Golan, sustainable development director at the USDA, said the farm bill is flawed in that it segregates by topics such as nutrition, trade, conservation and horticulture.

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The Colorado Department of Corrections is asking the state to add $11 million to this year’s budget to lease a private prison while it attempts to reopen a closed one in Canon City.

As The Denver Post reports, the department of correction’s supplementary budget shows it wants $10.9 million to open a 250-bed private prison because of an unexpected increase in prisoners.

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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has asked the State Preservation Board to remove a plaque in the State Capitol that honors the Confederacy, reports The Austin American-Statesman. Straus and other critics have charged that the plaque distorts history in order to glorify the Confederacy.

50STATES.COM

What’s the difference between a tax and a fee?

As The Denver Post reports, that's the question being asked in three major court cases in Colorado.  

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Texas Senator Kel Seliger formally announced his bid for re-election this week, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

First elected to the state Senate in 2004, Seliger says he is particularly interested in maintaining local control for Texas communities, after the Texas Legislature recently passed a number of bills aimed at weakening the power of Texas municipalities.

Oklahoma Governor Orders Special Legislative Session

Sep 18, 2017
ok.gov

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered a special legislative session to convene later this month.

As KGOU reports, Fallin recommended five subjects for the session, with the main point of emphasis on fiscal year 2018’s $215 million budget hole.

In a press release, Fallin said legislators need to fix structural problems with the state budget.

James Johnson / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma lawmakers are already seeing warning signs that they’ll be facing stiff competition during the 2018 election.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, as of last month, 13 candidates had already announced their plans to challenge incumbent Oklahoma legislators.

Kansas lawmakers from the Leavenworth County area will address questions today about a chicken facility planned for outside Tonganoxie. The proposed $320 million Tyson plant could process more than 1 million chickens per week.

Jen Peak is a Tonganoxie resident who’s opposed to the plan. However, she says the meeting will be helpful for anyone interested in the project, which could include people outside Leavenworth County.

supremecourt.gov

The State of Texas’s recent losing streak in Federal courts came to an end this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Texas does not need to redraw Congressional voting districts before next year’s elections.

Ed Schipul / Wikimedia Commons

A prominent Texas legislator is taking four of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to task for their refusal to vote for a relief package to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Mac Thornberry, the congressman who represents the Texas Panhandle, was one of the legislators who voted against sending a $15.25 billion initial aid package to the coast.

Fellow members of a presidential commission on election integrity pushed back against Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s argument that out-of-state voters may have swayed the outcome of a Senate election in New Hampshire.

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Todd Lamb, the current Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, recently announced his plan to bring positive change to his home state. Lamb, who announced his plans to run for Governor in April, told KSWO that his vision for the state includes five steps.

Those steps are, in the Lt. Gov.’s words, “to reform and restructure state government, education priority, infrastructure, economic diversity and making Oklahoma work again.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers remain concerned about potential snags as Kansas wraps up years of work on migrating driver’s license records from an old mainframe computer to newer infrastructure ahead of a January launch date. 

Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Technology, asked legislative auditing staff Friday whether the state might see a repeat of the technical woes that plagued the first phase of the same project five years ago. 

The head of the Kansas Department of Corrections says he sees no connection between last week’s riot at a prison in Norton and disturbances earlier this summer at the state’s El Dorado prison.

But some lawmakers are charging that mismanagement of the state’s prison population is contributing to the unrest.

house.gov

United States Congressman Mac Thornberry, who represents the Texas Panhandle, was one of four Texas lawmakers who voted against sending billions in relief funding to those suffering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

None of the Texas lawmakers who opposed the bill represented coastal regions.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the House approved the $15 billion in aid to support the hurricane relief effort.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has authorized pay raises for around 3,000 state workers who did not get a pay hike earlier this year. Lawmakers approved raises for many state employees, but because of the way those raises were structured, some workers were left out.

“This pay plan genuinely came out of reaction to what happened with the Legislature’s pay plan, seeing that there were some folks that were left behind,” says John Milburn, a spokesman for the Department of Administration.

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Some in Colorado are concerned about President Donald Trump’s announcement that the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, or DACA, will end, while others believe the change is needed. 

As Colorado Public Radio reports, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA - which protects children of parents who came to the U.S. illegally from deportation -  after six months if Congress cannot find a legislative solution.

Soil-Science.info / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says President Donald Trump promised not to cut a key crop insurance program that benefits Kansas farmers. The promise comes despite the fact that Trump placed reductions to the program in his budget proposal.

In reaction to the announcement that President Trump is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA recipients and immigration activists in Wichita are now calling on Congress to pass permanent legislation to protect young adults brought to the U.S. as kids.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is touting a controversial multistate voter database as a key resource in response to U.S. Department of Justice questions about Kansas’ compliance with federal voting law.

In a recent letter to the Justice Department, obtained by the Kansas News Service through an open records request, Kobach describes the database as “one of the most important systems” Kansas uses to check the accuracy of voter rolls.

Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Wikimedia Commons

Next year’s Kansas gubernatorial election is already shaping up to be a fascinating and unusual contest, reports The Garden City Telegram.

News recently broke that former Wichita Rep. Mark Hutton will announce his candidacy, and that brings the total number of gubernatorial candidates to 11.

NASA.gov

The Oklahoman tapped by President Donald Trump to lead NASA is drawing criticism from some prominent leaders in the Senate.

As POLITICO reports, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination was met with opposition from both of Florida’s senators, who see the selection of a strong NASA administrator as a matter of great importance to their state.

Laura Buckman / Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune:

Continuing a dramatic reversal on voting rights under President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to allow Texas to enforce a photo voter identification law that a lower court found discriminatory.

Department of Defense

Hurricane Harvey may permanently alter the way the State of Texas operates. As POLITICO reports, the storm may put a serious dent in the Lone Star State’s penchant for rugged individualism.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

A watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency has opened an investigation into EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s frequent travel to Oklahoma, Bloomberg reports.

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