Scott Canon

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. He started working for KCUR in January 2018.

Canon spent most of his career as a newspaper reporter, working in Illinois and California before landing in the newsroom of The Kansas City Star. At The Star, he covered mostly regional and national stories. As an editor at the newspaper, he oversaw political coverage. He also fielded a handful of overseas assignments to both very hot and very cold places.

Kansas swore a new governor into office on Monday and saw the end of eight years of Republicans in the office.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told supporters, and the Republican lawmakers she’s sure to clash with, that the state had lost its sense of community. That seemingly was a dig at predecessors Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

Read her lips

A month away from becoming the next governor of Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly says she’s deep into budget preparation.

Although she’s been as steeped in the workings of state government as any Kansas wonk during her 14 years in the state Senate, the Topekan says agencies find themselves in worse repair than she imagined.

“The problems are broad,” she said, “and they’re deep.”

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly insists the state budget she’s preparing can fully fund the state’s schools, expand Medicaid coverage to another 150,000 people and begin to repair a troubled child welfare system — without a tax hike.

The Democrat said Wednesday night she’ll lean on experience and relationships built over 14 years in the Kansas Senate to carve out compromises with lawmakers on those priorities.

Yet she described her job as daunting and state government as broken in several key areas.

Powers of McGruff

If a police officer in Kansas thinks they smell weed — even an unlit bud in a plastic bag six paces away — the state’s high court says that’s reason enough to launch a search.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled recently that an officer’s belief she smelled marijuana from 30 feet away was probable cause to sweep an apartment in Douglas County and ask for a search warrant.

Windfall or tax hike?

Last year, Congress and President Donald Trump delivered sweeping federal tax cuts. Because the changes in tax law meant fewer people had to itemize their tax returns, the changes actually upped the (smaller) state tax bill for some filers.

In some corners, that’s seen as a windfall of revenue for state governments, including Kansas. Seen another way, it’s a de facto tax increase in state taxes for a minority of people.

Not gonna hear it

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it would not consider a case involving Planned Parenthood and the state of Kansas.

That means Kansas and Louisiana can still decide which medical providers appear competent enough to take on Medicaid patients.

But more notably, states’ power to exclude a clinic on other grounds — if, for instance, it provides abortion services — are limited.

Musical chairs

After years in the Kansas Legislature, it’s natural that Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly would turn to people she’s known there to start filling out key spots in her administration.

For starters, she picked Will Lawrence as her chief of staff. It’s a powerful, right-hand position to a governor. The chief of staff can control access to the governor and play an important role in setting priorities. Lawrence has been chief of staff to Democratic Senate Leader Anthony Hensley.

Leader talk

The newly elected and re-elected folks in the Kansas House got together on Monday to pick their leaders. Republicans, who hold an overwhelming majority, kept Ron Ryckman in the speaker’s chair. But they swapped out moderate Don Hineman for conservative Dan Hawkins.

Democrats replaced the sometimes-combative Jim Ward, who briefly flirted with a run for governor, for the more conciliatory Tom Sawyer.

Leaders of the pack

Republicans in the Kansas House picked a more conservative lawmaker Monday as their No. 2 guy, signaling possible trouble for Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly.

The GOP caucus elevated Dan Hawkins of Wichita to the majority leader spot previously held by Don Hineman of Dighton on a 48-35 tally. That puts a conservative in the slot held by a moderate as chief lieutenant to House Speaker Ron Ryckman of Olathe. He was re-elected by his caucus 84-4.

Falling through the cracks

At best, from 2016 to 2017, states kept the number of children without insurance stable.

Most did worse than that.

Kansas saw 5,000 more kids fall into the uninsured category in that year.

Madeline Fox reports that researchers at Georgetown University say the increases in uninsured rates across the country reflected uncertainty about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (aka CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

Fill ’er up

Pavement wears down at the same rate whether the cars and trucks rolling over it rely on internal combustion engines for locomotion or on new-fangled hybrid and electric motors.

Yet Kansas, like most other states, relies on gasoline taxes for much of the cost of building its roads and keeping them in reasonable shape.

A change is gonna come

A new governor. Some fresh faces in the Legislature. A long-awaited task force report. An expanded stable of private contractors. The coming fallout from a class-action lawsuit.

The Kansas foster care system is getting a makeover. The people running the troubled Department for Children and Families hope that by shaking up the system, they can spare added grief for children already in crisis.

It’s a family thing

An order issued by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer now offers paid parental leave to about 17,000 state workers to cover their time off with a newborn or newly adopted child.

Colyer, a lame duck Republican, said in a statement issued on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday that he made the change to recognize the importance of children and families in the state.

This time, it was in public

Triveece Penelton has endured any number of racist remarks in her 16 years as a city planner. It was the one delivered in a public meeting — a white man making a crack about the “master race” — that tossed her into the spotlight.

On Tuesday, that Leavenworth County commissioner, Louis Klemp, resigned amid growing criticism.

Penelton talked to KCUR’s Andrea Tudhope about the incident and the discomfort of being part of an ugly news story that drew national attention.

Moved how many times?

One boy. In the care of the state since 2012. Shifted from one foster placement to the next. One hundred thirty times.

A lawsuit filed Friday argues cases like that — 130 was an extreme case, but more than 100 moves in Kansas foster care is not wildly unusual — show the system is operating so poorly it violates the constitutional rights of children.

In particular, it contends so many moves heap more trauma onto children already in crisis and that too many kids don’t get the mental health screening they should.

Revving up revenues

Remember the tax cuts engineered by then-Gov. Sam Brownback? And recall how those tax cuts were followed, month after month and year after year by state tax revenue shortfalls?

Turns out their impact was underestimated all the time. And so the reversal of those tax cuts means more money than lawmakers had bargained on.

Stephen Koranda tells us that a new report raises the state’s projected tax collections for the current budget year by $300 million, about 4.5 percent.

Worse in Kansas

The foster care load in Kansas is growing faster than the rest of the country. Madeline Fox analyzed fresh national numbers on trends in children put into state custody and found that things are getting worse faster here than elsewhere.

Democrat Laura Kelly fended off perhaps the most energizing and divisive figure in Kansas politics on Tuesday to become the next governor of Kansas.

Kelly beat out self-described “full-throttled” conservative GOP nominee Kris Kobach, the secretary of state who’d forged a kinship with President Donald Trump while dabbling in anti-immigration and voter fraud crusades across the country.

Kansas, a state that went for President Donald Trump by 20 points two years ago, on Tuesday turned one of its four Republican seats in Congress to Democrat.

Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids topped incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder in his quest for a fifth term. She beat the Kansas City-area 3rd Congressional District by roughly 9 percentage points.

Kansas is America

Laura Kelly is the latest Democratic governor-elect of Kansas. She portrayed her win Tuesday as a victory for bipartisanship and an eagerness for civility in the state. After all, Kris Kobach represented, in his words, “full-throttled” conservatism engaged in “intellectual combat.”

Vote Kansas

It’s the day that will launch a million Thanksgiving arguments. For now, it’s time to cancel out the vote of your brother-in-law.

Waiting for Godot, um, JoCo

The Kansas county with the most voters and the most money has also made its name as the state’s election night slowpoke.

Johnson County results have come in reaaaaaaally slowly in recent years.

When it happened in the last election cycle, county elections boss Ronnie Metsker blamed old machines. After the county spent big on new machines, Johnson County was again the last place to report its results in the August primary. An Omaha-based elections software company took the blame.

Vote the heck out of Dodge

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a temporary restraining order requiring Ford County officials to increase the number of polling places in Dodge City for next Tuesday’s election to two instead of just one.

Not-so-OK voting corral

Dodge City has been drawing national attention this year because of its lone polling place on the outskirts of town.

For decades, the city of some 27,000 people converged on a single polling place near the center of town to vote.

But this year, Ford County officials moved its polling place to the Western Bank Expo Center. That triggered complaints from people who said voting would now be particularly difficult for workers at the city’s meat-packing plants, who struggle to find ways to get to the remote location.

Election Day will be here before you know it. It’s like finals week in your civic life.

So when Tuesday, Nov. 6, arrives, you’ll be ready, right? Because you’ve been cramming by reading up on all the candidates, watching every debate, scouring candidate websites for position papers, of course.

Secretary of Conflict?

It’s a basic conflict baked into most state constitutions: The person who oversees elections also runs for election. So who’s making sure that person, someone with an obvious stake in the outcome of voting, doesn’t somehow fudge the outcome?

Why not Wyandotte

Wyandotte County has long represented undeveloped political muscle for Kansas Democrats. Lots of Democrats there. Not nearly as many Democrats who show up to vote.

Mobilizing that potential could, maybe, mean trouble for incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, whose district includes both Wyandotte and Johnson counties. And in close statewide races (think this year’s contest for governor), a big turnout in Kansas City, Kansas, could be a gamechanger.

Leading by a neck

Election soothsayer fivethirtyeight.com, the respected outfit run by former New York Times poll analyst Nate Silver, projects that Secretary of Kris Kobach has a two-in-three chance of being the next governor of Kansas.

Super(natural?) savings

Kris Kobach contends that he could cut nearly $2 billion from the cost of Kansas Medicaid budget.

The hard-line conservative Republican running for governor sees a way to cut those costs by adopting direct primary care, also known as concierge care.

Bad data

What started as a regional tool to identify where Midwestern voters had registered in more than one state has ballooned into the massive Crosscheck system.

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