Stephen Koranda

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

file photo / Kansas News Service

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Kansans wrongly convicted of crimes deserve to be compensated by the state. The panel amended and advanced a bill Monday that would do that using more than just cash.

Right now, Kansas pays nothing automatically to people imprisoned on botched convictions. People in that situation can use lawsuits to seek payments, but the bill in the legislature would create a system for compensation without a legal fight.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

If you’re released from prison in some states after a wrongful conviction, you could be owed millions of dollars or a promise of a college education.

In Kansas and 17 other states, you get nothing.

On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from men who’d lost decades behind bars on bogus convictions. They emerged middle-aged and broke, with no work history or credit rating.

A man from Hutchinson is trying to enter his dog into the race for Kansas governor, but the secretary of state’s office said he’s barking up the wrong tree.

The Hutchinson News reports that Terran Woolley set up a campaign committee for his dog, Angus. He saw several teens were candidates and thought, why not a dog?

Bryan Caskey with the secretary of state’s office said Kansas law does say the governor is a person. Caskey said the office would not accept a candidacy filing for a dog. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Legislation pending in the Kansas Statehouse would require police to release videos of shootings by police officers, stripping away wide discretion that law enforcement in the state now holds on when and what to make public.

Police, broadly speaking, oppose the bill. At a hearing on Tuesday, the measure’s supporters argued the public — and particularly families of those involved in police shootings — deserve easier access to police video.

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President Donald Trump unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal on Monday built on plans that would more heavily rely on state and local dollars being matched with money from Washington.

For Kansas, that poses both challenges and opportunities. The state is short on funding for new construction work, but it’s already begun looking at other options to pay for roads, bridges and the like.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

Screenshot of the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle website

Kansas schools that want to offer gun training in the earliest grades would be required to use a program designed by the National Rifle Association, under a bill lawmakers studied on Tuesday.

That legislation would switch programs beyond the eighth grade to hunter education training designed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer used his first executive order Monday to tighten sexual harassment rules for thousands of state workers.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced around the Kansas Legislature in recent months, much like the #MeToo movement that’s swept the country.

Colyer’s order requires that executive branch employees under his control undergo annual sexual harassment training.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Lowering the Kansas sales tax on food is as popular as it is difficult in a state scrounging for every nickel to balance its budget.

On Thursday, supporters of a plan to cut taxes on groceries sounded off at the Kansas Statehouse with a plea to a Senate committee to advance a constitutional amendment that would reduce the rate.

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Kansas has repeatedly dipped into its highway fund in recent years to balance the budget for all of state government.

Now lawmakers are contemplating a task force to study what that’s meant for the state’s roads and bridges.

Following the borrowing, road projects saw delays across the state. The task force would study the sidelined projects and suggest long-term transportation strategies for Kansas.

Wikipedia

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback abruptly postponed a meeting Thursday where lawmakers were expected to approve or reject a plan for a private contractor to rebuild the state prison in Lansing. Consideration of the proposal was already pushed off earlier this month. The additional delay raises questions that the project may not have enough support in the State Finance Council to advance.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

As a push increases to hire a private contractor to build a new Lansing prison and then lease it to the state, some Kansas legislative leaders look warily at the idea.

This week, Gov. Sam Brownback stopped at the Lansing Correctional Facility to make yet another push for his administration’s plan to overhaul it. The visit came just days before a panel of lawmakers could decide the fate of his plan for replacing the deteriorating prison.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A Kansas Supreme Court ruling saying the state must spend more on schools could require lawmakers to find hundreds of millions of dollars. With some lawmakers saying a tax hike for education remains off the table, that financial hunt won’t be easy.

 

Legislators rolled back Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature income tax cuts just last year. It was a monumental task, which ultimately required lawmakers to override a veto from the governor. The fight stretched the session to a tie with the longest in state history.

 

Johnson County Community College / YouTube

Kansas Democrats have filed two gun control bills for the upcoming legislative session. With some key lawmakers signaling resistance, the proposals could be a tough sell.

Still, legislators from both parties expect discussion of the state’s role in regulating firearms.

Stephen Koranda-File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After pushing for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump earlier this year kicked off negotiations among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Any major changes to the agreement could have a big impact on Kansas.

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have said they’re open to updates but emphasize that the agreement needs to preserve or expand export opportunities.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers studying economic development policies say the Legislature should consider changes to a major incentives program next year.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Statehouse, a special committee recommended more study of the STAR bonds program, and members of both parties said they want more oversight.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said there hasn’t been enough accountability in the program. She wants the state to use formulas that determine whether proposed projects will create enough economic development to outweigh their costs.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback revealed Tuesday that in anticipation of his confirmation to a post in the U.S. State Department he has begun transferring major responsibilities to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Brownback said Colyer is developing the budget that the governor is required to propose at the outset of the legislative session, which will convene Jan. 8, 2018.

“He’s doing those and getting ready for the legislative session,” Brownback told reporters after taking delivery of a Christmas tree at the governor’s mansion.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Tyson Foods announced Monday it will build a chicken processing plant in Tennessee similar to one that had been planned for northeast Kansas. State officials say Kansas is still in the running for another facility.

The chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee, will be similar in size and cost to one previously planned for Tonganoxie. Plans to build that plant were put on hold in September after an outpouring of local opposition.  

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The 2017 Kansas election is officially in the books, as counties finished most of the work finalizing their results Thursday.

This was the first election since local races were moved to the fall, and voter turnout was up in many areas. Shawnee County saw turnout of around 19 percent, a jump of about 5 percentage points compared to recent local elections.  

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

One of the Democrats on President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is suing the group and Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kobach is vice chairman of the controversial panel, which Trump created to study election issues.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After wrestling to balance the budget for years, Kansas lawmakers bit the bullet this spring and agreed to undo many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.  

The question now is whether they have done enough to fix the state budget, as many promised to do in the 2016 campaign. Lawmakers will get a better idea of the state’s financial situation later this week when the consensus revenue estimating group determines whether revenues are tracking with projections.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Two Topeka men are in custody in connection with the shootings Oct. 1 in downtown Lawrence that left three people dead and two injured.

Federal and local law enforcement officers arrested Ahmad Rayton and Dominique McMillon on Monday in Topeka.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansans who need to update their voter registration before the fall local election will need to move fast. Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote before the November election.

This is the first year that local elections are being held in November instead of spring. In many communities, voters will decide races for city council, school board or ballot questions about issues including bonds and sales taxes.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers considered tighter rules on payday lending during a committee meeting Wednesday, but they ultimately decided not to recommend more regulations for the short-term loans.

Republican Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine chairs the Special Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance. He said Kansas officials should wait to see the effects of federal regulations recently released on the issue.

Office of the Kansas Governor

Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that he is issuing a single pardon and denying 72 other requests for clemency made to his office.

The action comes as Brownback prepares for a likely departure to join the administration of President Donald Trump.

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Newly unsealed documents show Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had proposed changes to federal voting law when meeting last year with then President-elect Donald Trump. The American Civil Liberties Union wanted to disclose the documents in a lawsuit over Kansas voting rules.

At issue were two documents. One was a partially obscured paper Kobach carried into a meeting in November 2016 with Trump, and the second was a document distributed in his office.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. senators considering Gov. Sam Brownback’s nomination as ambassador for international religious freedom peppered him Wednesday with questions, including some about his actions as Kansas governor.

During the Senate committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Brownback argued that a lack of religious freedom lies at the core of many violent conflicts throughout the world. He firmly stated that he would stand for religious freedom internationally.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union launched a national voting rights campaign during a Sunday night event in Lawrence that was broadcast online throughout the country. It was the start of a grassroots effort, called Let People Vote, which the ACLU says is a chance to go on the offensive.

Kansas Department of Corrections

Kansas corrections officials hope to have a contract signed before the end of the year to build a new state prison in Lansing. The negotiations over that prison contract have been taking place behind closed doors.

Several companies have submitted bids for the construction project. Mike Gaito of the Kansas Department of Corrections said Wednesday that the private negotiations, rather than open bidding, will mean a better plan.

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