HPPR Government & Politics

Government:
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local government (city & county)
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Politics:
district-level and statewide office campaigns
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MarkBuckawicki / Wikimedia Commons

In Texas, the biggest political battle of this generation may not be between Democrats and the GOP, but between Centrist Republicans and their far-right counterparts. And the contentious bathroom bill being re-introduced to the legislature this week is the battlefield upon which that war is being waged.

The Los Angeles Times this week published an overview of the bathroom bill and the internecine struggle for the soul of the conservative movement in the Lone Star State.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:20 a.m. July 26.

Despite misgivings about the closed-door process used to write a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact on rural health care providers, Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran joined his Kansas counterpart, Pat Roberts, in voting Tuesday to begin debate on the legislation.

But a short time later, Moran was one of nine GOP senators who voted against a replacement bill backed by Republican leaders.

FINDYOURSPOT.COM

Agriculture, water, transportation, growth and economic development are all being discussed at city halls across West Texas. So why not better communicate ideas?

That, according to The Amarillo Globe News, is the reasoning behind a coalition of sorts that mayors – including Amarillo’s Ginger Nelson – recently formed.

The group, which also includes mayors from Lubbock, Big Spring, Midland, Odessa and San Angelo, met in a closed meeting Wednesday.

Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

In what seems to be an overture to the House, Gov. Greg Abbott added two new education-related issues to his special session call Thursday: school finance reform and increased benefits for retired teachers.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

By Aliya Swaby, The Texas Tribune

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says wording on a state website might leave voters confused about whether they’re eligible to cast a ballot. The group wants Secretary of State Kris Kobach to make changes.

At issue is information about Kansas’ requirement that new voters prove their citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport. Court rulings say that requirement currently doesn’t apply to people who register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles or use the federal voter registration form.

Ed Uthman / Wikimedia Commons

This year’s regular legislative session ended with one GOP lawmaker calling Federal authorities on a group of peaceful protestors. That move was followed by a scuffle on the floor of the House of Representatives in which that same Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, threatened to “put a bullet in the head” of one of his Democratic colleagues.

Anonymous Cow / Wikimedia Commons

Newly elected Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has signed a letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott to reconsider the agenda for the special session that convened on Tuesday in Austin.

As The Amarillo Globe-News­ reports, the letter asserts that some items on the legislative agenda could directly impede the economic growth of Texas cities by taking away the sovereign right of municipalities to govern themselves.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s prized income tax exemption for businesses is gone.

Over the governor’s veto, in June lawmakers raised income tax rates and repealed the exemption that had benefited roughly 330,000 business owners, including about 53,000 farmers.

For a public official unaccustomed to the limelight, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran can’t seem to avoid it when it comes to the national healthcare debate.

50STATES.COM

Several thousand Colorado voters have canceled their registrations since President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission, headed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requested voter information earlier this month.

As The Denver Post reports, almost 3,400 voters canceled their voter registrations as of July 13, following the Trump administration’s request for voter information.

CREATIVE COMMONS

Colorado and federal prosecutors are urging illegal immigrants to report immigration-related fraud.

As The Denver Post reports, prosecutors say they are worried stigma and fear of deportation are keeping people from coming forward to report immigration-related cases of fraud.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Recent polling has shown Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to be more popular than the other big-name Republican politicians in the Lone Star State. Abbott is up for re-election next year, and at this point his prospects are rosy.

But, as The Texas Observer reports, Abbott has thrown his full-throated support behind the controversial measure known as SB4, and his stance may be hurting the GOP’s long-term chances in Texas.

tex1sam / Flickr Creative Commons

In Texas, the special legislative session began yesterday with lawmakers returning to Austin to try to hash out various lingering issues from the contentious regular session. You might be wondering how much the 30-day special session will cost Texas taxpayers.

Updated: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. to add the latest developments following news Moran will support a new plan to repeal the ACA. 

The mood of a rally outside Sen. Jerry Moran's Olathe office suddenly turned after it was announced the Kansas Republican had come out in support of an evolving GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act before setting to work on a replacement plan. 

UPDATE: In Washington, D.C. Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran issued a statement saying that he would support President Donald Trump's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.  That news quickly turned the mood of a demonstration at Moran's office in Olathe where opponents of the now failed replacement bill had been thanking the senator from Kansas for standing firm against it.

Updated at 2:00 p.m. ET

One of the senators who stuck the knife into the Senate's latest plan to replace the Affordable Care Act was one Republicans hadn't been worried about.

On Monday night, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. Mike Lee, a fellow Republican from Utah, announced their opposition to the measure on Twitter, effectively killing Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which had been the GOP plan to replace the ACA.

marshall.house.gov

It’s no surprise to Congressman Roger Marshall the concerns his constituents have during his trips back to Kansas center on the elevators full of grain that dot the Big First district.

“Trade and the farm bill, that is all I’ve heard about now when I do my town halls,” Marshall told Kansas Agland Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday, he met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s chief of staff, Jamieson Greer, to talk about some of the trade issues, including the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

senate.texas.gov

A prominent Amarillo politician and state senator had some strong words regarding the special legislative session that begins today in Austin. As Amarillo.com reports, Senator Kel Seliger has called the special session an assault on the ability of local communities in Texas to govern themselves.

“There’s no other way you can look at it,” Seliger added.

Before his successful senatorial campaigns, Seliger was the mayor of Amarillo for eight years—and it’s clear that he still carries something of a mayor’s mentality toward local control.

Many of the 20 items on the special-session agenda are aimed at stifling the ability of local municipalities to decide their own tax policy or even who can use the bathrooms in their communities.

One controversial bill supported by Gov. Greg Abbott would place a limit on how much a city can raise its property taxes, even if the city itself favors the tax raise.   

A state office that oversees attorneys will investigate a complaint against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Topeka resident Keri Strahler filed the complaint and made public the response from the office of the disciplinary administrator.

“The allegations contained in your letter will be investigated,” said the response signed by a staff member in the office, which is part of the judicial branch.

Kansas state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald says he’s running for Congress in the 2nd District to keep the seat in Republican hands.

Five-term Republican Lynn Jenkins now holds the seat, but she is not running for re-election

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.

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