Podcasts round up news from Kansas Legislature, school access, abortion rights

April 23, 2022 3:33 am

The Ad Astra sculpture can be seen atop the Kansas Statehouse. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Audio Astra reviews recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

LGBTQ lawmakers challenge anti-trans bill

April 4, 2022

Kansas Reflector staff delivers legislative roundup

April 11, 2022

Looking ahead to veto override efforts

April 19, 2022

A Taxing Podcast

Chilling in the Statehouse, April 11, 2022

Sometimes when walking through the computer lab at the University Of Kansas, I hear my own voice coming from a computer where a student is sitting. My voice is used in a series of videos I recorded for software that students need to learn. 

I’m not just surprised by the disembodied nature of my own being, but also the fact that I am playing at two-times speed, like the voices of old “Chipmunks” cartoon characters.

At first, I was offended that students would be listening to me at warp speed because I thought I had done a quick and tidy job of delivering software shortcuts and techniques. But as I relisten to those lectures over the shoulders of my students, I can hear that the lessons are much better delivered on a moderate fast-forward, especially if you have more than four things to do that day.

I say this as a kind of apology for what I’m about to suggest. A lot of the podcasts about the state of Kansas, especially in the political sphere, can enjoy a quick listen. I’ve been experiencing many of them this way and it papers over some of the slow reading of copy, pauses during discussions and verbal hiccups. 

If you want to hear all of the political news but not gobble up quite so much of your morning commute, this is the way.

The news has been essential these last few weeks, and the podcasts are even better than usual in delivering the news to us. In recent Kansas Reflector podcasts, Sherman Smith and Tim Carpenter have used audio excerpts from the floor of the state Legislature to let listeners hear the actual debates. Rather than bringing a single state legislator to the studio and interviewing them at length, these episodes provide a sense of the back-and-forth arguments. It’s a great reader service.

Some of the speeches sound like acidic screeds against the opposing side, with all kinds of questioning of motives and finger-pointing. But other excerpts, like the one from Kansas Sen. John Doll this week, show how state legislators often come to the microphone without a clear sense of what they want to say.

– Eric Thomas

Some of the speeches sound like acidic screeds against the opposing side, with all kinds of questioning of motives and finger-pointing. But other excerpts, like the one from Kansas Sen. John Doll (at 10:18 here) this week, show how state legislators often come to the microphone without a clear sense of what they want to say.

Two political roundtables during the past few weeks also have clarified the political gamesmanship in Topeka. The always chatty “Chilling in the Statehouse” welcomes back John Hanna of the Associated Press. Hanna gives a history lesson about how former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts have left current Republicans, even when the state is flush with cash, wary of giving any tax cuts — or at least that is their proclaimed fear.

The recent Kansas Reflector’s roundtable is a concise study guide for anyone who hasn’t been tracking Kansas legislative news.

‘Open borders’ for Kansas schools

Kansas City Today, April 20, 2022

On Kansas City Today this week, Suzanne Perez sits down with Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service to talk about proposed legislation that would allow students to enroll at public schools outside of their district of residency.

Would this legislation would help or hurt students in need?

Perez points out that conservatives say the legislation would help students in failing schools transfer to schools with better academic resources.

Opponents, Perez says, counter that those most likely to take advantage of this bill are students who can provide their own transportation, because the bill does not provide for any busing to potentially distant schools. Would low-income students be able to get themselves to schools that are miles away? 

The school employees that I know are overjoyed about crossing the finish line at the end of this school year. Passing this bill would sideswipe them with a massive legislative change over the summer. This bill, it appears, wouldn’t change the educational reality for most of the students who need it most. 

The end of abortion rights in Kansas and Missouri?

Kansas City Today, April 18, 2022

On Monday’s episode of Kansas City Today, Dylan Lysen of the Kansas News Service and Tessa Weinberg of the Missouri Independent sketch out the movement related to reproductive rights in each statehouse. The most newsworthy proposal for Kansans is actually in Missouri: a proposal to allow lawsuits against people who help Missouri women obtain abortions in another state.

Because Missouri has only one operating abortion clinic in St. Louis — while Kansas has four clinics — many abortions for Missouri women are performed in Kansas.

The Kansas Supreme Court solidified this dynamic when it ruled that abortion is a protected right in the state. The sinister route the Missouri bill takes — and abortion restrictions in other states take as well — allows for private lawsuits to curtail abortions. Lysen and Weinberg describe how this would affect women traveling across the Missouri-Kansas state line.

When Kansans need help they call 911. But first responders don’t always get the help they need.

Up to Date, April 11, 2022

This interview with Douglas County Sheriff Jay Armbrister and Ed Klumpp of the Kansas Peace Officers Association reveals a sharp injustice for Kansans who work as first responders. Worker’s Compensation insurance doesn’t cover PTSD for this group. 

Of course, coverage of this fact and momentum for legislation is linked to recent awareness of how mental health and physical health cannot be easily separated. Since the pandemic, we are more aware of how susceptible our mental health is. It’s particularly vicious that we don’t extend coverage to first responders who show up when we have the most acute and dire outward physical symptoms, such as car crashes and heart attacks.

What did we miss? Email [email protected] to let us know of a Kansas-based audio program that would be interesting to Audio Astra readers.

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Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, a nonprofit that supports student journalism throughout the state. He also teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He lives in Leawood with his wife and two children.