Local Politics

Kansas court wrestles with barring political gerrymandering

A top Kansas government attorney has argued that congressional redistricting is naturally political and the Kansas Supreme Court shouldn’t try to decide when partisanship goes too far. But Kansas Solicitor General Brant Laue found himself chastised Monday by one of the justices for making what the justice called a “boys will be boys” argument. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling striking down a Republican congressional redistricting law making it harder for the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation to win reelection this year. Justice Dan Biles challenge Laue and suggested that partisan gerrymandering can never be a legitimate state interest. 

Missouri House axes constitutional change for parent control

A proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing parents control of their children's public education has failed to pass the Missouri House. Lawmakers in the GOP-led House on Monday voted 60-81 against the proposal. The legislation would have enshrined parents' rights to direct their children's public school education in the Missouri Constitution. If enacted by voters, the proposal also would have put constitutional restrictions on how teachers discuss race and racism. Some Republicans argued that the legislation should be enacted through state law, not the Constitution. One Democrat said parents already have the right to control their children's education by homeschooling. 

Missouri House panel backs new plan for congressional seats

A Missouri House committee has advanced a new plan for dividing up the state's eight congressional districts. The plan endorsed Wednesday is expected to continue Republicans' 6-2 edge in the state's congressional delegation. Committee chairman Rep. Dan Shaul said it could be debated by the full House next Monday — allowing time for the Senate to also consider it before the May 13 deadline to pass bills. The House and Senate have been at a standoff over congressional redistricting even though Republicans control both chambers. Missouri is the only state that has not at least passed a redistricting plan, though uncertainties also remain in several states. 

Vetoes stand in Kansas for bills on trans athletes, schools

Republican lawmakers in Kansas have failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes of measures dealing with transgender athletes and parents’ ability to challenge books and other materials in public schools. Both proposals that failed Thursday were priorities for conservative legislators. One of the measures would have banned transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports in K-12 schools and colleges. The House voted 81-41 to override the veto, but supporters needed 84 votes in the 125-member chamber. The other bill would have required school districts to draft policies for handling complaints from parents about classroom and library materials. The vote in the House to override was 72-50. 

Missouri House, Senate GOP push to ban transgender athletes

Missouri's Republican-led House has passed legislation aimed at restricting transgender kids' participation in sports. House members voted 95-46 to require transgender public school students to play on teams that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. Senators also debated a proposal to strip funding from schools that don't enact similar restrictions. Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’re undergoing hormone therapy. Two transgender girls have been approved to play on Missouri girls’ teams in the past decade. 

Missouri House tries again to require photo ID to vote

Missouri's GOP-led House has voted to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. House members voted 96-47 to send the bill to the Republican-led Senate on Thursday. Missouri voters in 2016 amended the state constitution to require photo IDs. But the Missouri Supreme Court later gutted the rule. So lawmakers are trying again to get the requirement to stick. Republican supporters say photo identification makes voting more secure. Democrats argue photo IDs only prevent voter impersonation, which they say is not an issue. 

Divided Missouri Senate backs food stamp use at restaurants

A divided Missouri Senate has narrowly voted to allow some food stamp recipients to use their benefits at restaurants. The Senate voted 18-15 Thursday for legislation extending the restaurant option to an estimated 182,000 households with elderly, disabled and homeless residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The legislation now advances to the House. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says six states currently allow food stamps at restaurants — Arizona, California, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia. Illinois is slated to add the restaurant option this spring. Missouri's Republican Senate leaders joined Democrats to pass the bill, though most Republicans voted against it.  

Missouri faces more lawsuits over lack of redistricting map

Missouri is now facing lawsuits in both federal and state court over the Legislature's inability to pass new U.S. House districts. Republicans control the Missouri House, Senate and governor's office, but they have been unable to agree on a final plan to redraw the state's eight congressional districts based on the 2020 census. Missouri is the only state that has not at least passed some proposal, though several others also face uncertainties because of court challenges or vetoes. The Missouri Legislature faces a May 13 deadline to pass bills. Hearings have been set in federal court for May 9 and in state court for May 23.

Kansas voters to decide on preserving election of sheriffs

Kansas voters will decide in November whether to ensure that counties or state lawmakers can’t end the longstanding tradition of electing sheriffs. The state House voted 91-31 on Tuesday to approve a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to declare that almost every sheriff in the state must be elected to a four-year term. The Senate already had passed the measure, so it goes on the ballot. There’s little chance counties will stop electing sheriffs, but the Legislature has the power to make changes. Amendment supporters said sheriffs should remain directly accountable to voters. Riley County in northeastern Kansas is the only county out of 105 without an elected sheriff.