Kansas

CSG Midwest
Today, grand juries are viewed mostly as a tool for prosecutors, a means of gathering evidence and seeking indictments. But they have long had a second important function as well — to control the government and its power to prosecute.
Six states, including Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, have laws on the books that put a twist on this government-checking role: Allow local citizens themselves to form grand juries. The target of these state statutes is not overzealous prosecutors, but inactive ones.
CSG Midwest
Over the next five years, the state of Kansas will invest an additional half-billion dollars in its K-12 schools as the result of legislation signed into law earlier this year. “The amount of money that we have committed to spend is, at least, approaching an appropriate level,” says Kansas Rep. Melissa Rooker, noting that legislators already had increased state funding by $300 million during the 2017 session.
Finding that “appropriate level,” not only in the eyes of the Legislature but also the state Supreme Court, has dominated discussion in Topeka for the past several years. Last October, following passage of legislation in 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state still had not proven the constitutionality of its finance system.
CSG Midwest
To advocates of greater transparency in government, the phrase “gut and go” is a legislative nightmare that happens when one chamber takes a bill already passed by the other, strips and replaces the language with an unrelated measure, and then advances it with little or no debate.
CSG Midwest

The race for governor in Kansas got off to an unusual start this election cycle — the announced candidacies of six teenagers, the editor of an alternative weekly newspaper in Oregon, and even a dog. The canine’s run was stopped, but at least as of early this year, nothing in the state’s Constitution or statutes prevented minors and out-of-state residents from seeking the governorship.

“If this isn’t changed, people in prison could run,” adds Kansas Rep. Blake Carpenter, noting the lack of a requirement that a gubernatorial candidate be a “qualified elector.”
Carpenter’s HB 2539, which as of late February had passed the House by a wide margin and was awaiting action in the Senate, adds the “qualifying elector” requirement for anyone running for statewide office. (His bill wouldn’t take effect until January 2019, thus not impacting the campaigns of teens or out-of-state residents running this year.)
CSG Midwest

Since 2015, a big change has occurred in how South Dakota handles young people in its juvenile justice system. “Some of these kids didn’t need to go to a juvenile detention center,” Rep. Julie Bartling says about the thinking behind the legislation passed that year (SB 73). “They just needed a little more support.”

Three years later, the state is starting to see results from this shift.
According to Kristi Bunkers, director of juvenile services for the Department of Corrections, the greatest advance has been the statewide expansion of three evidence-based programs that allow young people to receive treatment in the community rather than being detained at a residential facility or correctional center. For example, through a three- to five-month-long intervention program known as Functional Family Therapy, a young person and his or her family work through family conflicts while addressing problems of drug abuse or a range of antisocial behaviors. Of the South Dakota families who completed the program last year, 92 percent demonstrated positive behavioral change.
Like South Dakota, many states have been re-examining and, in some cases, overhauling their juvenile justice systems in recent years.

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