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?

New television ads are rekindling the ‘border war’

Two nonprofit groups with ties to anti-tax crusader Rex Sinquefield lobbed fresh firecrackers this month into the business border war between Kansas and Missouri. The groups — Kansans for No Income Tax and Save Missouri Jobs — are spending a combined $200,000 during the tax filing season on cable TV ads promoting lower taxes in Kansas. They also portray Kansas City as a high-tax place to live and do business.

Kansas City has dreams of transforming little-used Washington Square Park

Union Station and Crown Center are currently on the upswing, but smack dab in the midst of this beehive of activity is a rather drab piece of city land that almost no one visits, Washington Square Park. Park officials and adjacent businesses have big plans to rejuvenate the 5-acre park, especially because it will be the end point of the new downtown streetcar route.

Sen. Claire McCaskill brings ‘Main Street Tour’ to UMKC

For about an hour Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Claire McCaskill got to hear what’s on the minds of her Kansas City constituents as she brought her “McCaskill on Main Street Tour” to the area. This was her fifth town hall meeting this week and McCaskill said the questions have been all over the board, ranging from the health care exchanges to legalizing marijuana.

Tanning bed debate heats up in Kansas and Missouri

Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation banning minors from indoor tanning. Missouri is considering a measure requiring anyone under 17 to get their parents’ consent before tanning. The legislation is a response to public health advocates sounding alarms about risks associated with indoor tanning and added exposure to ultraviolet light, especially among teens.

Kansas City’s firefighters fountain to get new memorial wall

Kansas City’s Firefighters Memorial Fountain, dedicated in 1991, is to get a new memorial wall and other upgrades this summer. The improvements are designed to give the memorial more visibility and make it a more inviting landmark on 31st Street at the southern edge of Penn Valley Park.

Change is coming slowly, surely to Kansas City

Downtown has changed dramatically, yet standing there now is also a reminder that change comes at an enormous public cost, one Kansas Citians have been willing to pay. Kansas City’s political class grinds the change wheel slowly, but grinds it nonetheless. Now it’s grinding again, this time for improvements at the airport and a streetcar system.

Claire McCaskill plunks down $2.7 million for D.C. condo

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is the 24th richest member of Congress according to a recent Roll Call list. Now look at what property records show the Democrat — and her husband Joseph Shepard — recently bought in Washington, D.C.: a $2.7 million condo. That’s a lot of money, even for the pricey nation’s capital.

Congress hard at work on absolutely nothing

House Republicans call their new effort the “Enforce Act.” It passed 233 to 181. They’re calling the president out for using executive orders. But many of these same Republicans put the pen into his hand by refusing to negotiate reforms to current law.