Stephen Koranda

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

Topkea, KS – Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson returned from a trip to Washington D.C. recently, where he and a coalition of governors urged Congress to extend federal payments that help support the Medicaid program.

The joint state/federal health program benefits aged, low-income and disabled Kansans.

Federal stimulus legislation has helped pay a bigger chunk of the program in recent years than usual. State lawmakers have assumed that would be extended, and built the funding into the state budget for this fiscal year.

Topkea, KS – Starting today, texting while driving is illegal in Kansas.

There will be a 6 month warning period before officers start issuing $60 fines.

Captain Art Wilburn with the Kansas Highway Patrol says the law will help improve safety on Kansas roads.

"Folks who are out there texting and driving, their attention is distracted from the roadway and their driving," says Wilburn. "It's not uncommon to see those people involved in accidents where they would run off the road or run into the back of another car."

Topeka, Kan. – Kansas lawmakers return to the statehouse on Monday with the hopes of wrapping up the 2010 session. Legislators worked over the weekend trying to tie up loose ends of the last few important issues. 

Legislators burned the midnight oil on Friday with house members working until the wee hours of the morning and during the day on Saturday to approve a budget.

A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans drafted the plan. It would avoid spending cuts to education and social services, but would require a tax increase of more than $300 million to balance.

Topkea, Kan. – The Kansas Senate today failed to override Gov. Mark Parkinson's veto of an abortion bill. It would have required doctors performing late-term abortions to provide more information to the state. It would have also allowed for more lawsuits against abortion providers.

"Someday, I hope the unborn has a voice in these chambers," Senator Ralph Ostmeyer, a Grinnell Republican, said on the Senate floor following the vote. "I'm disappointed that we don't want to talk about it. We will have a change in Governor. We will get this passed."

Topeka, Kan. –
A House panel has dismissed an ethical complaint against the House speaker, but they did make a recommendation to change the law.

A special Kansas House committee has dismissed a complaint by Democrats against Republican Speaker Mike O'Neal.

The vote Tuesday by the panel of three Republicans and three Democrats was unanimous.

O'Neal is a lawyer. The complaint cited his representation of a group of businesses, trade groups and insurance funds in a lawsuit against the state.

Topeka, Kan. – A so-called "Health Care Freedom Amendment" to the Kansas constitution failed today in the House. The amendment is aimed at exempting the state from federal health care laws that would require Kansans to have health insurance.

Supporters have argued it would send a message that they disapprove of the law signed today by President Obama. But they fell nine votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

Topeka, Kan. – A special House committee will start hearings on an ethics complaint filed against House Speaker Mike O'Neal. the committee decided not to dismiss the complaint against the Hutchinson Republican.

Kansas House Turns Down School Consolidations

Mar 10, 2010

Topeka, Kan. – Kansas House members rejected portions of a bill that would have reduced state aid for some small school districts.

The chamber was debating a proposal Tuesday that would have pushed six districts with enrollments of fewer than 200 students and fewer than 200 square miles to consolidate.

Under the bill, those smaller districts would have had state aid reduced to the same level as those with 200 students. However, that provision was stripped from the bill on a 75-39 vote.

Topeka, Kan. – A bill aimed at exempting Kansas from federal health care legislation is moving forward. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.

It's a constitutional amendment, and says the state would be exempt from any federal rules requiring Kansans to have health insurance.

State representative Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, opposes the bill. He says it could limit debate in Kansas on health care legislation before it's even finished in Washington.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas House Taxation Committee is holding hearings this week to get more information on some tax credits. Lawmakers may consider cutting back or eliminating some credits as a way to raise revenue. Lawmakers yesterday heard how getting rid of a credit for insurance companies could cost the state jobs.

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas House has approved a statewide smoking ban, opening the door for the bill to become law. It would ban smoking in restaurants, bars and most public places.

Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda files this report on how the debate played out.

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas House today approved a statewide smoking ban, paving the way for the bill to become law. The bill would ban smoking in restaurants, bars and most other businesses.

It has already passed in the Senate. On the House floor, Mission Hills Republican Barbra Bollier said it's an issue of health.

"While we continue to debate and debate, people are dying," said Bollier. "People are becoming ill. They are asking you to help them."

Topeka, Kan. – Democratic State Senator Tom Holland has officially entered the race for governor. He kicked off his campaign with a rally in Topeka and an attack on the presumed Republican nominee.

State Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, suggested that U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback would bring gridlock and partisanship from Washington to Topeka. Brownback is the only GOP candidate campaigning.

Kansas City, Mo. – House lawmakers this week kicked off a series of hearings looking into tax exemptions in Kansas.

Topeka, Kan. – Health officials gathered at the Statehouse today to raise awareness about heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in Kansas.

Governor Mark Parkinson says he hopes legislators can help reduce the disease in Kansas by passing a statewide smoking ban. Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Parkinson says he's critical of a smoking ban bill introduced in the House that contains exceptions for some businesses.

Topeka, Kan. –
In the future, Kansans could be paying a fee to file their taxes the old-fashioned way, on paper. Statehouse reporter Stephen Koranda explains.

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas House of Representatives took a step yesterday towards banning what law enforcement officials call synthetic marijuana. The product, sold under the name K2, contains chemicals similar to those found in marijuana.

Olathe Republican Rob Olson argued for the ban, pointing to cases where young people have been made ill by the substance.

"Are we going to pass over this and not support it, and then someone dies, and then be back here next year saying we should have done this?" asked Olson on the House floor.

Topeka, Kan. – The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee is working on legislation that lawmakers hope could reduce domestic violence in Kansas. The measure would add new ways to identify domestic abusers.

Currently, domestic abusers can be charged with domestic battery. If the legislation becomes law, other crimes could have the designation of domestic violence added. This would include crimes like destruction of property if the victim and the offender had a relationship.

Topeka, Kan. – A Kansas legislative audit says prison officials missed warning signs that resulted in inappropriate sexual contact between staff and inmates at a Topeka women's prison.

Topeka, Kan. – Kansas House lawmakers are going to be looking at new ways to fill a projected $400 million state deficit. That's because Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson's proposal to use a sales tax increase to help fill the hole was rejected by a House committee. The proposal would have increased the state sales tax by 1 percentage point for a three-year period.

 

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas Senate has rejected an attempt to restore 22 million dollars in Medicaid provider payments cut by Governor Mark Parkinson.

Republican Senator Jeff Colyer of Overland Park authored the proposal. He says the cuts cost the state 60 million dollars in federal matching funds and could hurt the availability of services.

On the Senate floor today, he told lawmakers they should restore the cuts while officials look for efficiencies and other ways for the Medicaid program to save money.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – Around 50 Kansas Air National Guard troops are in Cuba for a four-month deployment to help with the recovery in Haiti. The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval base is a major staging ground for recovery efforts. Right now it's unclear if the guardsmen will stay in Cuba and work from there or be ordered to Haiti. Stephen Koranda went to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base with some of the troops.

Kansas City, Mo. – Supporters of the governor's proposed 1 cent sales tax increase are hoping the bill will advance in the Kansas House. The House Taxation Committee took testimony from proponents of the increase.

Topeka, Kan. – One of Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson's priorities laid out in the State of the State address is a statewide smoking ban, but that issue has run into challenges in the legislature in past years.

The Kansas Senate passed a smoking ban last session, but couldn't reach a compromise with House leaders.

House Health and Human Services Committee Chair, Brenda Landwehr, says one of the major stumbling blocks has been an exemption for state-owned casinos.

Topeka, Kan. – Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson has outlined his proposals to deal with a deficit in the coming fiscal year. He made his case before the legislature during the State of the State address in Topeka. Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda files this report.

Topeka, KS – Kansas residents wanting to know the name of their legislator or the status of a bill can now text the Statehouse for answers.

The information service is a function of the Legislative Reference Desk of the State Library. On a given day the desk receives as many as 75 calls seeking information.

Most calls to 1-800-432-3924 are answered within minutes. If it takes longer, librarians will return the call with the requested information. All questions and calls are confidential.

Topeka, KS – Presents and holiday meals can mean lots of holiday trash. Some estimates say trash increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Kansas lawmakers are starting the years-long task of redrawing the lines for both national and state political offices. An advisory group began meeting this week in Topeka to look at the redistricting process.

Topeka, KS – A cash crunch forced Kansas to delay $173 million in aid payments to its public schools this month, and a top education official said Tuesday that a few districts need help from the state to make their December payrolls.

State Budget Director Duane Goossen confirmed that there hasn't been enough money in Kansas' main account to meet its obligations to its 295 school districts. Some funds due in December might not be sent until early January.

The Kansas Health Policy Authority will be cutting services as a way to save cash.

The cuts will increase a backlog of applications for medical assistance programs like Medicaid. The current backlog of more than 15,000 applicants is projected to double by mid 2011.

Barb Langner, acting Medicaid director, says this will mean longer waits for applicants.

"During that time they will either delay seeking services or if they seek services, there's a potential that the provider may not be paid," Langner said.

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