Stephen Koranda | KCUR

Stephen Koranda

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of Justin Thurber. Yet the justices delayed a decision on his death sentence and said a lower court must reconsider whether he has a developmental disability.

A jury sentenced Thurber to death for the 2007 killing of 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm, a college student in Cowley County.

Pew

A new report has some advice for Kansas lawmakers looking at revenue growth that’s beating projections: Don’t count on all of it to last.

The report from the Pew Charitable Trusts outlines strategies states can use to manage growing revenue and maintain balanced budgets.

It recommends that states watch tax collections closely, because some types of tax growth will sag if the economy slows.

file photo / KMUW

A state panel ruled Monday that Ron Estes, the Wichita area congressman, will appear as “Rep. Ron Estes” on the primary ballot where he faces a challenger also named Ron Estes.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office had previously decided to add the title, but a Democrat also running for the 4th Congressional District seat objected. Laura Lombard said state law bars including titles on the ballot.

“You really should not be able to use your title on the ballot,” Lombard said. “It’s an unfair advantage for the incumbent.”

file photo / KCUR 89.3 FM

The Kansas Court of Appeals said Friday that a grand jury investigation of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office should go forward. The request was brought by a Lawrence man running for the Kansas House, Steven Davis.

He followed a rarely used Kansas law that allows citizens to call grand juries by collecting signatures.

Davis wants to know whether Kobach’s office mishandled voter registrations and whether any crimes were committed.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Six weeks of protests by the Poor People’s Campaign nationwide and in Topeka aim to raise awareness of social and economic inequalities.

Translating those demonstrations into changes in state policy, says at least one analyst, will likely demand more sustained efforts.

Protesters occupied part of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office recently and 18 people were arrested. This week, Statehouse police arrested 16 people protesting in favor of Medicaid expansion outside the office of Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A team of paleontologists from the University of Kansas is resuming its work in Montana, excavating what appears to be a very rare dinosaur fossil: a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. 

KU paleontologist David Burnham said the excavation began in 2016, but the team is returning to the site this summer hoping to find more pieces of the T-rex. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Republican candidate for Kansas governor Jim Barnett has chosen what he admits is an unconventional running mate: his wife.

Barnett announced Thursday that he had selected Rosie Hansen as his lieutenant governor pick.

Barnett said he wanted a running mate to help accomplish his goals of improving the way state government functions and bridging the divide between rural and urban Kansas.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

file photo / KCUR 89.3

Friday is the deadline for candidates in Kansas to make it official by filing with the secretary of state’s office to appear on the ballot.

That date is also an important cutoff for voters. It’s the final day people in Kansas can switch political parties before the primary election on Aug. 7.

Here are four things to know about the deadline:

     Party switching

People who want to switch political parties have to do it before Friday, June 1, at noon.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Top Democrats in the Kansas House and Senate will request investigations into the use of no-bid state contracts, but the proposals will need the approval of some Republican lawmakers to advance.

The Kansas Department of Revenue used a no-bid process, called prior authorization, to award a multi-million dollar contract that outsourced some information technology services earlier this spring. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Police arrested 18 people protesting policies pushed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach after the demonstrators occupied part of his office.

Police led them past other protesters to a bus waiting outside the Kobach’s office.

file photo

Public universities in Kansas are proposing tuition hikes significantly lower than some of the larger increases seen in recent years. The schools presented the plans to the Kansas Board of Regents this week.

The increases in tuition and fees for in-state, undergraduate students range from 1.2 percent at Kansas State University to 3 percent at the University of Kansas.

Fred Fletcher-Fierro / KRPS

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Kansas budget into law Tuesday, but in the process he knocked out a provision aimed at curbing his administration’s revamp of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare.

Colyer and his predecessor, former-Gov. Sam Brownback, have been working to overhaul KanCare and get federal permission to extend the program for several more years.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The State Objections Board said with a 2-1 vote Tuesday that New Yorker Andy Maskin can’t run for the state’s highest office because he doesn’t live in Kansas.

Maskin paid a fee and filed to run for governor earlier this month. A Kansas Republican Party official challenged his candidacy on the basis of his New York City address.

Several other out-of-state candidates have created campaign committees, but haven’t yet officially filed.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams is defending the process his agency used to hand out a multi-million dollar IT contract without taking public bids.

The deal with contractor CGI to update a tax management system will cost the state $50 million over 10 years.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers voted to inject money into state services, pensions and higher education just hours before debating legislation to send millions of dollars back to taxpayers.

file / Creative Commons-Flickr

House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal Wednesday to prevent changes in federal tax law from ratcheting up state taxes for Kansans.

The Senate wanted broader tax cuts in the same bill, but couldn’t coax the House team to go along.

Rep. Steve Johnson, who chairs the House tax committee, said his chamber didn’t want to go beyond addressing the federal impact in ways that would produce deeper cuts to state government revenue.

“It’s all of the tax cuts and these targeted tax cuts that have given us heartburn,” he said.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have approved new restrictions blocking teenagers and out-of-state candidates from future races for governor. The bill says starting next year, candidates must live in Kansas and be at least 25 years old.

The state’s lax laws have led to several teenagers, and residents of other states, joining the campaign for Kansas governor.

A wave of candidates even included a Hutchinson man attempting to enter his dog in the race

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday dropped an effort to require Secretary of State Kris Kobach to pay a contempt of court fine with his own money, rather than state dollars.

Flickr

Kansas lawmakers approved an updated $16 billion budget Saturday on a 92-24 vote as they worked through part of the weekend.

The bill amends the spending plans lawmakers approved last year, and includes some targeted increases in state government funding.

It partially restores cuts to higher education from 2016, at a cost of $12 million. It also allocates $8 million to provide raises to workers in the judicial branch.

The bill funnels more money into the state’s pension plan, KPERS, to make up for a missed $194 million payment.

file photo / Kansas News Service

For years, reporters in the Kansas Capitol press corps and advocates for open government pressed legislators to hide less of the workings of state government from public view.

Now, the Kansas Legislature appears ready to approve changes that would pull back the curtain — at least a tad.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Changes in federal tax law could actually cost some Kansans more in state taxes.

Kansas lawmakers might turn down that revenue windfall and add an election year tax cut instead. A bill they’re backing would cost roughly the same amount as a court-triggered boost to school spending.

Photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Younger people could carry guns even as local authorities gain new powers to take guns away in some situations. Police videos could become more available and people held in prison wrongfully could expect payments from the state.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A roiling debate over how to assess big box stores — their worth when occupied, or their value as vacant properties — could upend property tax systems across Kansas.

At the heart is the “dark store theory,” as critics call the strategy. It contends property valuations should look at what an empty store could fetch on the open market.

That would dramatically cut their property tax bills, forcing county and local governments either to get by on smaller budgets or shift a heavier burden to other property owners.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas House has had its say on school finance — putting the ball in the Senate’s court. But Senate leaders say they won’t move forward on increasing K-12 funding to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court without a deal to prevent schools from suing again in the future.

 

The message from Senate President Susan Wagle and Republican Leader Jim Denning was loud and clear Tuesday: Kansas must amend the state constitution to put an end to the cycle of litigation over school funding.

 

file photo / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas House have unveiled a school funding proposal to send an added half billion dollars to local districts in the next five years. A committee advanced the plan Wednesday night to the full House for consideration.

file photo / Kansas News Service

At school, Kansas students learn what to do in case a shooter attacks. Lock classroom doors. Turn out the lights. Huddle out of view from the window in the door.

In the Statehouse, lawmakers are searching for consensus on better ways to prevent, or cut short, school shootings. Arm teachers? Fortify schools? Train kids about guns?

On Tuesday, the feelings clashed in a committee hearing and on the floor of the Kansas House just days after gun control activists drew crowds to March for Our Lives protests in Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and across the country.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Lawmakers in the Kansas House rejected an effort Monday to allow medical marijuana in the state.

But they advanced a plan to allow the sale of some products made from cannabis — if the high-producing compounds have been removed.

The discussion over legalizing cannabis for medical purposes came as lawmakers considered regular updates to the state’s drug laws.

DCF

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Now that Republican leaders have a report they commissioned on school funding, it’s not clear they’ll pursue its recommendations to spend more for better student performance.

Lawmakers continued digging into the numbers Monday and quizzed the study’s authors for the first time since the document was unveiled Friday.

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