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Today in Kansas Report headlines: January 22, 2016

andy lambertJanuary 22, 2016
Democrats are backing a bill aimed at shortening the Kansas Legislature’s annual sessions as part of a package of measures for making state government more open. The measure would cut off lawmakers’ pay after they’ve spent 90 days in session in odd-numbered years and after 60 days in even-numbered years. Last year’s session went 114 days.
A survey shows some bankers in Kansas and other Midwest and Plains states have a bleak view of the economy right now. January’s Rural Mainstreet Index plunged to 34.8 from 41.5 in December. It’s the lowest mark since the summer of 2009. Low crop and energy prices are driving the pessimism.
Kansas will be asking the federal government to recertify one of its two mental hospitals. A top social services official has faced pointed questions Thursday from legislators about staffing at Osawatomie State Hospital. The federal government pulled the certification last month after a report detailed security problems at the facility, including the rape of a worker.
Lawmakers are criticizing Governor Brownback’s handling of a contract for a new state power plant in Topeka. Legislators from both parties say a $20 million lease-purchase deal for the plant was done without their oversight, will cost millions more than expected and ensures that Docking State Office Building will be demolished.
The Kansas House approves a bill for keeping the state’s courts open following a legal dispute involving the court budget. The measure was approved on a 119-0 vote and goes next to the Senate. The fight is over who gets to appoint chief judges in the state’s judicial districts.
The Hutchinson Public Library is asking for suggestions for what to do with a gift of about $1.4 million. The money was left by a former teacher who died in 2013. She also left money to the Hutchinson Community Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

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