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

Axel Boldt / Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Legislature spent much of the 2017 session grappling over whether to pass a law disallowing transgender students to use the bathroom where they feel most comfortable, requiring these students to instead use the restroom that correlates with their birth certificates. Now, as the Daily Beast notes, the controversial Texas bathroom bill may end up playing an outsize role in the 2018 GOP primary campaigns.

Creative Commons

Texas ninjas and barbarian warriors will soon have reason to rejoice.

As CNN reports, in September it will become legal to carry a sword in public in the Lone Star State. Until this year, knives with blades longer than 5.5 inches were illegal in public. But this autumn, after the new law takes effect, swords, spears, daggers, sabers and machetes will all be legal to wear and wield in public in Texas.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s silence Thursday on the GOP’s revised bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act prompted one Capitol Hill reporter to refer to him as a “mystery man.”

Several Republican senators who either opposed or had concerns about an initial draft of the bill commented on changes unveiled Thursday by GOP leaders in an effort to gain votes.

But not Moran.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma Democrats had a couple of big wins this week, as they flipped two Republican seats blue.

As The Oklahoman reports, Democrats won two special elections for state congressional seats on Tuesday night. Both seats had been vacated after Republican lawmakers stepped down amid scandal. In Senate District 44, Democrat Michael Brooks defeated Republican Joe Griffin. And in House District 75, Democrat Karen Gaddis beat the GOP’s candidate, Tressa Nunley.

This story was updated Thursday to reflect a response from Secretary Kobach's office.

Kansans who registered to vote at the DMV or otherwise used the federal voter registration form are eligible to vote in all races, according to court rulings, whether they’ve provided a citizenship document or not. But those voters might have been confused by inconsistencies on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's website.

Wikimedia Commons

A landmark redistricting trial got underway this week in Texas, with prosecutors attesting that Republican lawmakers intentionally redrew district maps in 2013 in order to weaken the voting power of minorities in Texas, a move that would have bolstered the political heft of the GOP and led to an unfair balance of power.

The head of an organization that represents Kansas state employees is criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration for using a state agency to deliver a political attack on the Legislature.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said it was inappropriate for the administration to send an email to employees of the Kansas Department for Children and Families that criticizes lawmakers for raising taxes.

conaway.house.gov/biography/portrait.htm

Billions of dollars for farmers and nutrition programs may have been saved last month behind closed doors.

As Politico reports, while lawmakers didn't disclose specifics about their handshake agreement, that was when House aides and agriculture lobbyists say House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway was able to stave off billions in proposed spending cuts to agriculture and nutrition programs.

The agriculture committee was initially facing around $70 billion in proposed cuts, but ended up closer to $10 billion, which came after Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black lowered her original goal for total mandatory spending cuts by roughly $300 billion, and Conaway made the case that cutting programs under his watch would imperil the 2018 farm bill.

Colorado.gov

There’s an estimated backlog of 11,000 applications for Colorado’s driver’s license program for people living in the U.S. illegally and efforts to fix and better fund the program have been caught in partisan gridlock.

As The Denver Post reports, the program was started about three years ago as a means of making Colorado’s roads safer by ensuring that drivers living in the U.S. illegally have insurance and know the rules of the road.  

Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. July 12 to reflect a response from Secretary Kobach's office. Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service are continuing to follow this issue.

jbouie / Flickr Creative Commons

In 2012 Ted Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas, largely on a platform of demolishing the newly enacted Affordable Care Act.

Five years later, Cruz is doing his level best to fulfill that promise, despite the fact that the political landscape has shifted beneath his feet.

Public Domain

As Britain continues its faltering attempt to extricate itself from the European Union—a process better known as “Brexit”—some Texans may be wondering whether the same thing could happen in the Lone Star State.

Is a “Texit” possible?

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

This week The New Yorker published an extended essay about Texas, calling the Lone Star State “the nation’s bellwether” and pondering if the future of the United States might look something like the current situation in Texas. The author of the essay is Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and long-time Texan.

Public Domain

Oil rigs in Oklahoma are being taxed through a dual-rate structure that may not be the best method of insuring that oil and gas profits are benefiting the state in the most effective way possible.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, oil rigs are taxed at a much lower rate during their first three years. But half of a well’s lifetime oil and gas production usually occur during those first three years.

Sgt. Rebecca Linder / Wikimedia Commons

Last December an Amarillo woman claims she was raped in Canyon, Texas, while working as an Uber driver. Eight months later, she’s still waiting for justice. After the incident, it didn’t take long for the Randall County District Attorney’s office to present their evidence to a grand jury. But the jury decided to hold off on making a decision until the results of the victim’s rape kit came in.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is opposed to a bill crafted in secret by Republican leaders to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 
But speaking to an overflow crowd at a town hall meeting Thursday in northwest Kansas, Moran said he is open to supporting a revised version if GOP leaders can address his concerns. 
“I would be anxious to see if that bill can get to the point in which I think it’s beneficial for Kansas,” Moran said. 

Kobach defends committee's request for voter data

Jul 6, 2017
STATE OF KANSAS OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE

On Wednesday, Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and Vice Chair of President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission, defended the committee’s request for state voter roll data.

The commission sent letters to all 50 states last week requesting voter information including names, addresses, party affiliation, electoral participation history and the last four digits of social security numbers. Vox reported that as of Wednesday, 44 states had rejected the request, including Kobach’s office in Kansas.

A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday refused to reconsider his order fining Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach $1,000 for misleading the court.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara said the reconsideration request raised arguments that Kobach should have made earlier.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are asking states, including Kansas, for information related to the National Voter Registration Act — a move made the same day that the president’s commission on voter fraud sent a request for “publicly available voter roll data.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran will have his first town hall meeting Thursday since announcing his opposition to the Republican Obamacare replacement bill.

Opponents of the bill have been working to generate a big crowd for the meeting, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the McKenna Youth and Activity Center in Palco, a small town just north of Hays in northwest Kansas.

Kansas Legislature

House Majority Leader Don Hineman of Dighton defends the Kansas Legislature’s move to reinstate tax cuts in a July 3 Topeka Capital-Journal editorial.

Hineman writes that overturning Gov. Sam Brownback’s “overly aggressive 2012 tax cut” was a return to common sense tax policy, resulting from lawmakers fulfilling promises they made to their constituents during 2016 campaigns.

Phillip Capper / Wikimedia Commons

As HPPR recently reported, the rivalry between California and Texas has grown more heated since the election of Donald Trump.

California has banned all official state travel to Texas, in protest of the state’s law allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. In turn, Texas lawmakers have embraced anti-sanctuary city legislation and taken up the rally cry “Don’t California our Texas!”

The health care plan unveiled last month by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate met with fierce opposition from hospital, doctor and patient advocacy groups. Among them was the National Rural Health Association, which is based in Leawood, Kansas, and represents doctors, nurses and hospitals in rural areas nationwide. 

Michael Stravato / Texas Tribune

High Plains residents may be wondering if their states plan to turn over private voting information to President Trump’s controversial commission to investigate supposed voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.

The commission is already off to a rocky start.

The President has asked all fifty states to hand over a wide range of voting data, and the request has been met with responses ranging from acceptance to skepticism to outrage.

At least 25 states have refused on some level to turn over the requested info.

mytraveltips.org

The feud between Texas and California is growing more heated, and the flames of resentment are being fueled by the President, reports POLITICO. The states have locked horns on matters ranging from tax policy to climate change to immigration policy. California recently instituted a ban on state-sponsored travel to Texas.

After years of anticipation, and a final round of heated debate in the state legislature, "No Guns" signs finally came down at Kansas college campuses Saturday. The state's new so-called "campus carry" law went into effect July 1.

Starting Saturday, the fine for not wearing a seat belt in Kansas will triple.

Kansas’ current seat belt fine -- $10 -- is one of the lowest in the country. State legislators passed a law this session raising the fine to $30.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

Texas and nine other conservative states are threatening to sue the Trump administration unless the White House stops offering deportation relief and work permits to so-called “DREAMers.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since before he was elected, President Donald Trump has been touting a $1 trillion proposal to overhaul the infrastructure of the United States.

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

New criminal justice laws in Oklahoma, approved by voters last November, went into effect last week but as Oklahoma Watch reports, the laws are still shrouded in uncertainty.

Pages