Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

Kansas Legislature overrides veto, extends Medicaid contracts past election

By: - May 23, 2022

TOPEKA — Republicans in the Kansas Legislature on Monday blocked Gov. Laura Kelly from reworking contracts for the state-run Medicaid program, downplaying concerns from Democrats about political motivations and clandestine deal-making involved in extending the $3.9 billion deals. Republicans favored the no-bid contract extension so Derek Schmidt could install new deals if he wins the […]

"Fred Gets Dressed," by Peter Brown, depicts a young boy who likes to romp naked through the house and gets dressed in his mother's clothes. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Woman wants Kansas library to get rid of children’s book about boy who dresses in mom’s clothes

By: - May 10, 2022

TOPEKA — An Oakley woman wants to ban a children’s book from the public library because it contains drawings of a naked boy who gets dressed in his mother’s clothes. The Oakley Public Library Board of Trustees could decide later this month whether to get rid of “Fred Gets Dressed,” by New York Times bestselling […]

The Kansas Legislature discourages public involvement by obscuring the policymaking process. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Analysis: How the Kansas Legislature avoids public scrutiny by hiding in darkness

By: - May 8, 2022

TOPEKA — The Kansas Legislature shields itself from public scrutiny through secrecy, confusing shell games and silenced opposition. Republicans who control the legislative process conduct hearings with selective one-sided testimony and provide no advance notice of a committee’s plans to take action on significant legislation. They refuse to acknowledge the authors or special interests involved […]

Justice is represented in a 22-foot marble sculpture at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas Attorney General argues fairness of congressional map is off limits for state court

By: - May 3, 2022

TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office says the Kansas Supreme Court has no business evaluating the fairness of redrawn congressional districts, despite a district court’s ruling that the map is heavily biased toward Republicans and dilutes minority votes. In a written argument filed Monday, Schmidt’s office argues the state court system doesn’t have a […]

Gov. Laura Kelly says April tax collections show the state can afford to reduce the state sales tax on food in July instead of waiting until January. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas collects $176.3M more than expected in April taxes

By: - May 2, 2022

TOPEKA — Kansas tax collections for April exceeded forecasts by $176.3 million, the state announced Monday. The surplus mostly came from high-than-expected individual income tax returns, which beat revenue projections. Those projections had just been adjusted April 20 by $178 million. The roughly $1 billion collected in individual income taxes was more than double the […]

Kansas governor, legislators offer support for Andover after ‘stunning and heartbreaking’ tornado

By: - April 30, 2022

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly on Saturday surveyed damage in Andover and promised to help the town recover from the large and destructive tornado that tore through the town the night before. Legislators from the area offered prayers and assistance for the Butler County community. The National Weather Service in Wichita said the severity of […]

Kansas Democrat threatens to recruit parents to sue schools for lack of honest history lessons

By: - April 29, 2022

TOPEKA — Rep. Valdenia Winn offered a proposal to House Republicans: If they were to override the governor’s veto of legislation installing a parental bill of rights, she would recruit parents to file lawsuits over the lack of honest history lessons in public schools. After all, Winn said, the parental bill of rights “essentially” gives […]

Rep. Richard Proehl, a Parsons Republican, endorsed a bill approved by the House and Senate enabling autonomous cars and trucks to operate on the state's roads. Critics raised questions about public safety and liability insurance related to the driverless vehicles. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Legislature sends governor invitation for Kansas to join autonomous vehicle revolution

By: and - April 28, 2022

House and Senate approved controversial legislation allowing autonomous trucks and cars to operate in Kansas. Gov. Laura Kelly may again use her veto pen.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, urged House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, over comments she made in an email about a transgender House member. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Equality Kansas asks House leadership to discipline representative over hateful email

By: - April 26, 2022

TOPEKA — Equality Kansas on Tuesday asked House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer for “incendiary” comments about a transgender House member. Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, said in an April 23 email from her legislator account to a transgender college graduate student that she didn’t appreciate sharing a restroom at the […]

Sen. Molly Baumgardner said during a debate over transgender athletes that members of the University of Kansas men's basketball team could return to the Statehouse in a couple of years as members of a women's team. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas senators push transgender athlete debate to new extremes in override of governor’s veto

By: - April 26, 2022

TOPEKA — Kansas senators pushed debate over a proposed ban on transgender athletes to new extremes Tuesday involving the University of Kansas championship-winning men’s basketball team and child genital inspections. The Senate — which has repeatedly debated the issue over the past two sessions — then voted 28-10 to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of […]

Kansas Republican complains about sharing Statehouse restroom with ‘transgender female’

By: - April 25, 2022

TOPEKA — Rep. Cheryl Helmer told a transgender college student she doesn’t appreciate sharing a restroom at the Statehouse with a “huge transgender female” and falsely claims transgender people are assaulting “wee little girls” in school restrooms. Helmer’s hate-filled remarks were made in an April 23 email from her legislator address to Brenan Riffel, a […]

Rep. Tatum Lee, R-Ness City, said she was honored to join Monday anti-vax activists at the Kansas Capitol to press for bills limiting local and state government authority during disaster emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been linked to the death of 8,597 people since early 2020. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas activists opposed to COVID-19 mandates greet legislators with rally at Capitol

By: and - April 25, 2022

Kansans opposed to COVID-19 mandates were at the Capitol to urge legislators to pass bills aimed at limiting government reach in health emergencies.