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

Bo Rader / The Wichita Eagle

A new law passed by the Kansas Legislature could allow Kansas to share firefighting resources with neighboring states like Oklahoma.

As The Wichita Eagle  reports, HB 2140 has already been approved by the House and the Senate, and is now waiting for Governor Sam Brownback’s signature. Similar proposals have languished in Kansas for two years, and the sharing capability would have been helpful this month as the biggest fires in state history raged across the High Plains.

Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

It appears Democrats will need the Lone Star State to come through for them if they hope to win back the Senate next year.

As POLITICO reports, the electoral map is so grim for the Dems that they’re relying on taking Ted Cruz’s Senate seat from the G.O.P. But the odds of a victory are long in the traditionally Republican stronghold of Texas.

James M. Dobson / Garden City Telegram

Under President Trump’s proposed budget, High Plains cities that profit from air and rail  services stand to suffer.

As The Garden City Telegram reports, Trump has suggested at least $2.4 billion in funding cuts, and included in that figure are subsidies for passenger rail service and rural commercial flights. For towns that are already isolated in many ways, like Garden City and Amarillo, these cuts could hurt.

Andrew Harrer / The Washington Post

Sonny Perdue, Donald Trump’s appointee to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, faced some tough questions last week during his confirmation hearing.

Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post

The Colorado Legislature is proposing a major overhaul to the state’s budget, in a move that would redirect money toward rural schools and roads.

Ilana Panich-Linsman / NY Times

Texans may soon be able to purchase and openly carry firearms with no permit of any kind required, reports The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The gun proposal currently under consideration in the Texas House is known as Constitutional Carry. It would also ensure that Texans can carry guns without any required safety training.

Chron.com

In a sweeping move, the Texas Transportation Commission this week allocated nearly $9 billion in funding to improve Texas roads, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Lindsey Bauman / Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

Some students in Ashland are spending their spring break tearing out burned-up fences as their family and friends deal with the aftermath of the state’s largest wildfire.

It’s not known yet just how many miles of fence line will need to be replaced, but on the Gardiner Ranch, it could be at least 300.

That’s about the distance from Hutchinson to Topeka and back again.

LM Otero / Houston Chronicle

The upper chamber of the Texas Legislature has approved a series of changes to the state’s controversial photo voter ID law, to bring the legislation in line with a federal ruling, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Last year an appeals court declared that Republican legislators intentionally enacted the law to discriminate toward minorities. This week the GOP-led Senate voted 21-10 to approve the changes ordered by the Feds.

Lee Winder / Creative Commons

The Texas House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would encourage schools to offer mental health services.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Voting rights advocates are asking courts to ensure that Texas congressional voting districts will be drawn more fairly before the 2018 midterm elections, reports The Texas Tribune.

Brownback signs sales tax break for fence-rebuilding

Mar 24, 2017
Mary Clarkin / The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday granting a sales tax exemption for rural fencing supplies and services purchased by wildfire victims.

“It doesn’t make up for what they’ve lost, but it’s a way that we can help ease the recovery for hardworking farmers and ranchers,” Brownback said at an afternoon ceremony in the Statehouse.

Oklahoma Watch

While legislators in Washington are mired in the process of deciding whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers in Oklahoma are devising their own plan that could affect coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans.

Austin American-Statesman

A new lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton could open the door for nuclear waste storage in the Lone Star State.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, Paxton is suing the federal government to force a decision on whether Texas can store high-level radioactive waste within its borders.

KFOR

The Oklahoma Senate drew praise from Governor Mary Fallin this week, after passing several measures aimed at improving criminal justice efforts in the state.

As KFOR reports, the eight reforms passed this week were initially recommended by a task force convened by the Governor last year. In her State of the State address earlier this year, Fallin urged lawmakers to consider the proposals.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

Texas Legislators clashed this week in Austin over whether to raise the state’s minimum wage.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, Republicans praised the current rate as an efficient entry-level pay rate, while Democrats called the hourly wage a “misery rate,” too low for anyone to live on.

Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

President Trump unveiled his proposed budget last week, and some parts of America, like military centers, look to be big winners. But other areas, including rural regions that supported the President during his election last year, will be hit hard if the budget is passed.

STEPHEN KORANDA / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

The Kansas House approved a bill last week that would offer up to $100 million in income tax credits over five years to investors throwing resources into job-creating business developments in rural areas of the state.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, provisions of the bill, which passed the House by a vote of 97-22, would be implemented starting in 2020. The amount of the tax credits issued wouldn’t exceed $20 million annually and investment companies could begin applying for eligibility after Jan. 1, 2018.

CC0 Public Domain

Scores of Kansans concerned about inadequate mental health resources visited the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to take notice of the issue. 

KFOR

A new Oklahoma bill that would allow county officials to carry guns into courthouses has passed its first hurdle, reports KFOR.

The bill, proposed, by Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland, passed the state House of Representatives on an 85-11 vote this week. Now the bill goes to the Senate, and if it passes there it will got to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk for ratification.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

Texas Legislators held a hearing this week to debate abolishing the Texas Film Commission, which some lawmakers have referred to as a form of corporate welfare.

As The Austin American Statesman reports, Texas currently budgets about $32 million in tax incentives to attract the movie industry to Texas. That’s down substantially from almost $100 million two years ago.

KFOR

Oklahoma’s budget crisis brought more potential bad news this week, as it was announced that budget cuts could cause many state parks to close across the state.

As KFOR reports, the state tourism industry is hunkering down as Oklahoma announced yet another round of deep cuts to state funding.

KPRC

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bipartisan measure that would end the requirement for vehicle inspections in the Lone Star State, reports KPRC.

State Sen. Don Huffines of El Paso says Senate Bill 1588 would help drivers save $7 per vehicle across the state.  

Huffines called the state vehicle inspection program a “relic of the past,” pointing to modern technological advances in vehicle design and technology that obviate the need for yearly inspections.

tOrange.us / Creative Commons

State agencies in Oklahoma are buckling up for a bumpy ride ahead as lawmakers prepare to slash the budget, in order to get the Sooner State’s $900 million budget deficit under control.

As KFOR reports, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has announced that it’s been asked to find a way to cut 15 percent of its budget. In a statement, the DPS said such a drastic cut will place citizens, local law enforcement and state troopers at risk.

Steve Snodgrass / Wikimedia Commons

A bipartisan coalition of Texas lawmakers has proposed a series of reforms that would help poor defendants get out of jail, reports The Houston Chronicle.

KCUR

TOPEKA – The Kansas House of Representatives conducted its 11 a.m. session Monday and then recessed until 4:45 p.m. That is intentionally aimed at speeding up procedures for House Bill 2387, which contains sales tax relief for those recovering from the wildfires.

"We want to fast track that bill," House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton said.

MyHighPlains.com

For those Texas Panhandle residents who grumble every autumn when the clocks fall back and the sun suddenly sets shortly after five p.m., help may be on the way.

As MyHighPlains.com reports, three bills have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, all aimed at abolishing daylight savings in the Lone Star State.

Legislature grapples with school finance future

Mar 14, 2017

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court gave an “F” to the Legislature for fulfilling its Constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, and some legislators were steamed when they returned to work last week for first time since the March 2 decision.

“There’s nothing that says they’re the supreme authority over us,” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.

Did they make any suggestion whose taxes we should raise? Whitemer asked.

The Supreme Court ruling did not require a specific additional sum or even flatly order more money, although that’s the interpretation.

KHOU

A newly proposed bill in the Texas Legislature would outlaw red light cameras in Texas, reports KHOU.

A hearing was held on the measure, which is known as Bill 88, last week. Some Texas law enforcement agencies showed up to oppose the bill; they say stoplight cameras decrease accidents in the intersections where they’re installed.

However others in Texas, including the largest city in the state, disagree. Houston removed its red light cameras several years ago.

James Gibbard / Tulsa World

A group of Oklahoma residents grew upset last week after a Republican Oklahoma lawmaker asked them to fill out a questionnaire that they described as “hateful.”

As KFOR reports, State Rep. John Bennett greeted three Muslim students who recently visited his office in honor of Muslim Day, a celebration of the Islamic faith at the State Capitol. Bennett responded to the students’ visit by handing them a questionnaire.

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