GOP quest for right-to-work law stirs hornet's nest in Missouri

A push to bring so-called right-to-work laws to Missouri comes with multi-layered political ramifications and the attendant maneuverings. A bill prohibiting union fees as a condition of employment was the first to receive a committee hearing this year, but it remains on the legislative calendar four months later with no clear path to success.

Affordable Care Act endures tense deadline day

Monday’s last-minute applicants for 2014 coverage under the Affordable Care Act ran the emotional gamut as hundreds of thousands of people nationally flooded the balky system to buy health insurance. Experts trained to help with Obamacare enrollment in Kansas City said website and phone center delays on Sunday and Monday added to consumer frustrations.

Kansas City seeks voter approval for $500 million in water bonds

Kansas City is seeking voter approval to issue up to $500 million in revenue bonds, to continue modernizing the water system. Water officials say the money is needed over the next 10 years to make critical upgrades and repairs to aging and break-prone water mains and other water assets. The city could borrow the money at historically low interest rates, and the money would be paid back with already-scheduled water rate increases.

Tax-cut opponents in Missouri House draw little primary opposition

Missouri House Republicans were told they could get a well-funded party primary opponent in this year’s election for voting to sustain a gubernatorial veto of tax-cut legislation. Despite those threats, 15 Republicans voted to sustain Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto last year. Yet as candidate filing closed this past week, just four of that group drew August primary opponents – and it’s not definitively clear that their tax cut vote had anything to do with that.

Lawmakers consider funding boost for Missouri 911

If you use a cellphone to get an ambulance in Kansas City, emergency responders should be able to identify your location. But if you call for help while canoeing on the Current River in southern Missouri, rescuers likely would need your help to find you. Officials want to eliminate the latter scenario and bolster a 911 system that in some areas is lagging behind.

Conservation in Kansas comes under attack in Legislature

Four bills wending their way through the Kansas Legislature will decide whether certain wildlife and environmentally sensitive land will continue to be protected, or whether conservation management will give way to development and farming and ranching interests.

Health care signups reach 6 million-plus

More than 6 million Americans have signed up for private coverage on the nation’s health insurance marketplaces, surpassing the Congressional Budget Office estimate for first-year enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.

Kansas Senate leaders want to shift school funding and allow districts to raise taxes

The plan calls for adding $134 million to support local schools in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found a funding disparity between property-rich and property-poor districts. A key element to the plan would give local school districts the ability to raise more property taxes with voter approval, something long sought in Johnson County. That holds the potential to more than offset any money that Johnson County schools would lose because of changes made in the finance formula.

Mayor Sly James seeks to empower women at City Hall

With his ongoing work toward “women’s empowerment,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James is stepping into a well-worn field of debate. Endless studies and initiatives have sought the same goal, too often only superficially. It’s a difficult job to begin unraveling institutionalized discrimination.

A single KCI terminal wouldn’t greatly improve security, federal official says

Concerns about security have partly driven the push to build a new airport terminal to replace the three-terminal configuration at Kansas City International Airport. But John Della Jacono, the Transportation Security Administration’s security director for western Missouri, said the current setup isn’t inefficient, nor does it have worrisome shortcomings.

Proposed taxing district for streetcar extensions shrinks

An advisory committee recommended that a proposed streetcar taxing district not include Brookside or Waldo. The committee also recommended that a special property tax assessment apply only to property owners within a third of a mile of the streetcar extensions, instead of a half mile as earlier envisioned. The City Council will vote on those and other recommendations Thursday.

Funding for all-day kindergarten in Kansas appears dead

Gov. Sam Brownback’s election year proposal to phase in state funding for all-day kindergarten is being cast aside as lawmakers scramble to find money to resolve what the courts decreed an unconstitutional wealth disparity between rich and poor school districts.

Missouri auditor criticizes historic tax credit program

A new audit of the program, the oldest and largest in the nation, concludes that it has been helpful in restoring many buildings but is not an effective use of state resources. The report by Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich estimated that each historic tax credit dollar yielded 49 to 85 cents toward rehabilitation costs.

Gov. Sam Brownback signs Kansas bill to limit political-party switching

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation pushed by fellow Republicans making it harder for voters to switch parties before primary elections. The bill bars voters who register with one party from switching their affiliation from June 1 in an election year until after results from August party primaries are certified.

Senators push for better auto safety reporting

Two senators introduced legislation intended to help highway safety experts, both in the government and outside it, “connect the dots” in cases such as the Chevy Cobalt, where a safety defect went undetected for years and caused at least 12 deaths before a recall was issued.

Mayor Sly James to youths: Get involved

Mayors usually give their annual State of the City speeches to a crowd of movers and shakers and City Hall insiders. But Kansas City Mayor Sly James departed from that script Monday and delivered his speech to a very different audience — the young people he hopes will be the city’s future leaders.

Jackson County pays $1.4 million to five former employees over harassment accusations

Jackson County will pay $1.4 million to settle sexual and racial harassment complaints brought by five former employees of the assessment department. No details of the alleged mistreatment were included in the settlement agreement approved by the County Legislature on Monday. All five women signed agreements requiring them to keep the substance of their claims confidential.

Maybe we miss the real conflict

Councilwoman Cindy Circo’s announcement last week that she had taken a part-time job with Kansas City Power & Light is a reminder of an important feature of American democracy: It’s a part-time job. There’s a lot of truth and value to the myth of the citizen-legislator. Lawmakers who are close to voters usually reflect their interests and concerns, but it also means our laws and public policy are made by amateurs.

U.S., allies throw Russia out of G-8

President Barack Obama and leaders of the world’s largest industrialized countries expelled Russia from the group until it “changes course” in Ukraine and formally canceled plans to attend an economic summit in Russia in June.

Downtown KC charter school wins support to double size

A plan by Crossroads Academy of Kansas City to double its size by this fall with the help of $5.5 million in tax incentives was endorsed Monday by the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission. The fast-growing downtown charter school wants to acquire the building next door so it can expand to include middle school students.

House passes bill to separate Kansas from Affordable Care Act

A bill that seeks to remove Kansas from the Affordable Care Act — if Congress approves — passed the House on Monday. House Bill 2553, which passed 74-48, commits Kansas to join a health care compact, a hypothetical network of states that would be allowed to set up their own health insurance regulations separate from the Affordable Care Act. It now goes to the Senate.

Support and opposition both growing as streetcar court hearing nears

As a crucial April court hearing on streetcar extensions nears, some Kansas City neighborhoods are rallying squarely behind the streetcar plan, while organized opposition is also intensifying. It’s setting the stage for what could be a packed courtroom and fierce debate over whether streetcars will roll anywhere besides the two-mile downtown starter route.

With a week left in open enrollment period, Obamacare canvassers comb neighborhoods

Armed with stacks of handouts about the Affordable Care Act, canvassers are going door to door in Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods asking people whether they are interested in enrolling in ACA health plans. How well the campaigns succeed in these final days before the March 31 deadline for open enrollment will be crucial not only for gaining coverage for the nation’s uninsured this year.

Special courts could be key in fighting street gun culture

The term “street gun culture” needs little explaining. Kansas City hears its repercussions amplified every night on the TV news. Worse, citizens of the urban core suffer its consequences daily. But could it be deflated if using a gun in a crime like robbery drew swift and consistent consequences?