Portions of K-5 closed because of flooding

Update: K-5 has now reopened.

Portions of K-5 in Leavenworth County have been closed to traffic because of flooding, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The area closed includes northbound and southbound K-5 in Leavenworth County from Eisenhower Road to East Mary Street (Stranger Road).

The road is fully closed to traffic until waters recede to an acceptable level, according to KDOT.

Kansas panel clears House redistricting map after changes in western part of state

Senate votes 28 to 8 in favor of GOP-backed proposal

by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A panel of state representatives approved Friday an updated proposal to redraw Kansas House districts that makes changes in western Kansas but ignores testimony urging changes in Leavenworth County and surrounding areas.

The updated Freestate 3 map would see many of the incumbents drawn into the same district under a previous iteration remain together, but a dramatic change out west would get rid of the district currently occupied by Rep. Tatum Lee, a Ness City Republican, pairing her with Rep. Jim Minnix, R-Scott City. Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, and Rep. Boyd Orr, R-Fowler, are no longer together in the same district.

The amendment would keep several counties whole, something Rep. Adam Smith wanted to be prioritized in the process. He said these changes kept confusion down during elections where people are used to one representative for a clean group of counties.

“Also, it might sound a little bit strange for some of our more urban counterparts, but in western Kansas, we like to follow our highway systems that make it efficient for people to get around,” the Weskan Republican said. “The very first time I saw this, I played around with Google Earth a little bit, and (the 116th District) goes all the way from Copeland to Wellington. That is almost six full counties, and I believe that would be the longest, most stretched-out district in the history of the state.”

The amendment also makes changes in Johnson County. Another amendment brought by Smith would make a change to a district in Hutchinson.

Unchanged in the brand new 125 House districts are areas in Leavenworth County, where several members of the public expressed concerns. In the map, the city is still divided and a finger runs from one end of the county to relocate one precinct from the center of Leavenworth into another district.

Some opponents argued the map was grossly gerrymandered to improve the standing of Republican House redistricting chairman Chris Croft.

The map, introduced earlier this week, pairs House Speaker Ron Ryckman with Rep. Megan Lynn, R-Olathe, in the 49th House District. Ryckman has held office since 2012 and is in his third term as speaker.

Ryckman’s current district is trending less conservative. Ryckman won reelection by five points over a Democrat challenger in 2020, but in 2016 that margin was 23 points.

“The gerrymandering of Leavenworth needs to be stopped, with population numbers adjusted through movement of the southern or western boundaries, not through cherry picking the one precinct that is a thorn in Rep. Proctor’s side,” said Jeffery Howards, chairman of the Leavenworth County Democratic Party in testimony Wednesday.

Across the rotunda Thursday, legislators approved Republican-backed Senate maps that would dramatically alter Shawnee County and the northeast part of Kansas. Under the plan, Topeka would gain a fourth Senate seat that would run along Interstate 70 and rope in part of northwest Lawrence.

The three senators who represent Shawnee County currently will add other parts of eastern Kansas counties to make up for the new district. It is possible under the plan that all four senators could reside outside Shawnee County.

Critics argue it unfairly dilutes the voting power of one of the state’s largest cities, but supporters say this would better represent the left-leaning parts of the county. The measure passed 28 to 8 with a handful of Democrats and Republicans opposing the map.

“I have said how the western Kansas voice is being eroded and it continues to be eroded by maps like this,” said Sen. Alicia Straub, R-Ellinwood. “Without sufficient time to propose thoughtful amendments to this, I absolutely cannot support a map that’s neither transparent, nor honest.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/03/18/kansas-panel-clears-house-redistricting-map-after-changes-in-western-part-of-state/.

Kansas House map plan raises concerns about Leavenworth County, LGBTQ representation

Democratic Rep. Tom Burroughs, 33rd District, left, praised the process the House was taking to consider feedback provided in a hearing on Freestate 3, a Republican-backed proposal for redrawing the Kansas House District maps. (Photo by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector)

by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Kansas representatives began deliberation Wednesday on a proposed map redrawing House districts, taking a slower approach to the task than their counterparts across the rotunda.

More than 50 people submitted testimony to the House Redistricting Committee urging modifications to the map titled Freestate 3, with debate largely centered around Leavenworth County districts, LGBTQ representation, and the need for further analysis. Unlike the Senate redistricting panel, which approved the maps after a single hearing on Tuesday despite requests to give more time for map analysis, the House committee indicated it would take feedback into account and amend the map.

“This is a difficult process that we’re going through, but I really do appreciate the dialogue today from the committee members and from the community that did have input,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs, the ranking Democrat, from Kansas City, Kansas. “In reference to working bills, looking at amendments, I know there have been some comments about people that still want to visit with you. I think that’s extremely important after we take testimony.”

Kansas legislators are tasked with redrawing congressional, legislative and school board districts every 10 years. The brand-new 125 House Districts may have a less dramatic impact on the state’s political landscape, but the new proposal would see a wave of incumbents swept out of office.

The maps, introduced Monday, pair House Speaker Ron Ryckman with Rep. Megan Lynn, R-Olathe, in the 49th House District. Ryckman has held office since 2012 and is in his third term as speaker.

Ryckman’s current district is trending less conservative. Ryckman won reelection by five points over a Democrat challenger in 2020, but in 2016 that margin was 23 points.

The new maps also would drastically alter the district served by Rep. Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican who is not seeking reelection, campaigning instead for state treasurer. Johnson’s 108th District constituents would be scattered among several other central Kansas districts held by Republicans that lost population.

Reps. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, and Boyd Orr, R-Fowler, would be placed together in the 115th District.

Jeffrey Howards, chairman of the Leavenworth County Democratic Party, took issue with how the map dealt with districts in his county. He said input provided in town halls last year was ignored and the city is subject to “gross gerrymandering” under the Freestate 3 proposal.

He said the city was still divided between two districts, and now a finger runs from the southern end of the county to relocate one precinct from the center of Leavenworth into another district.

“Coincidentally, that one precinct happens to be the precinct that I and vocal opponents of Rep. (Pat) Proctor happen to live in,” Howards said. “If I were paranoid, I might believe that our precinct was purposely cherrypicked so as to remove a majority of the opposition from District 41.”

He urged the committee to revisit and ensure the population changes were adequately distributed rather than one precinct being removed. Howards and others testifying echoed complaints heard in the Senate hearing that ample time was not extended to the public for review. The House maps were introduced Monday.

Tom Witt, executive director at Equality Kansas, took issue with the approach the committee took to House District 30 in Johnson County, stretching it westward instead of south. He said this unnecessary alteration would alter the partisan balance of the district represented by the first openly gay man elected to the Kansas Legislature, Rep. Brandon Woodard.

“Drawing one of the first LGBTQ legislators out of their districts is the latest legislative attack against our community and follows the gerrymandered redrawing of the 3rd Congressional District,” Witt said. “We have spent nearly two decades working to earn our seats at the table, finally succeeding in 2018 and again in 2020. Now, instead of allowing voters to choose LGBTQ candidates to represent them in Topeka, Freestate 3 proponents have decided to choose new voters for him.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/03/16/kansas-house-map-plan-raises-concerns-about-leavenworth-county-lgbtq-representation/
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