Stephen Koranda

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

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.

Kansas City, MO –
For the second time this week a member of the Kansas legislature has announced his resignation. Republican Wichita Representative Jason Watkins has said he'll leave the legislature effective later this week.

Lawrence, KS – Kansas universities are looking at ways they can save cash in the future, as the recent trend of budget cuts could continue into the coming fiscal year and beyond.

Topeka, KS – A Kansas legislative committee is looking into problems in the state's foster care system. Committee members are hoping to improve the system for identifying and caring for at-risk children. The Joint Committee on Children's Issues heard testimony this week from officials, parents and foster parents.

K-State Audit Prompts Policy Changes

Nov 20, 2009

Kansas City, MO – Compensation for Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder accounted for most of $845,599 in questionable payments cited by a state audit. The university's president said Thursday that none of them were improper.

President Kirk Schulz told the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state's higher education system, that Snyder did nothing improper - something the coach himself has said repeatedly. Schulz later said the same is true for a former athletic director and former university vice president.

Topeka, KS – The Kansas secretary of revenue is calling for lawmakers to look closely at many of the tax exemptions in the state, because she believes they are hurting the state's revenue picture.

Topeka, KS – Kansas is currently without a transportation improvement plan, after recently wrapping up a 10-year project. Lawmakers are looking at ways of funding a new long-term, statewide plan.

The two previous 10-year plans had real benefits, says Senate President Stephen Morris, a Hugoton Republican, and member of the Special Committee on Transportation.

Topeka, KS – Some state legislators are skeptical of a plan to close a facility for the developmentally disabled in Topeka.

A state commission has recommended downsizing and eventually closing Kansas Neurological Institute, known as KNI, as a way to save the state cash.

The 150 residents would go to community based centers or the Parson State Hospital.

State Representative Lana Gordon, a Topeka Republican, questions whether moving residents would really save money.

Topeka, KS – The state court system is facing a $15 million shortfall in Kansas, and courts are scheduled to be closed for several weeks to save cash. The courts will be closed for a total of six weeks between February and June of next year, if lawmakers don't take action to fund the shortfall.

Ron Keefover is information officer for the Kansas Judiciary. He says the courts won't be scheduling cases for those weeks, but judges will likely still be available for some duties like signing search warrants.

Topeka, KS – There's been a lot of talk about electronic health records in Washington as the health care debate continues. A group in Kansas is working to make electronic records a reality right here in the state.

Topeka, KS – Tight state cash flow means the Kansas Department of Education is having a tough time making some payments to school districts. That's causing headaches for some school administrators.

Topeka, KS – Last week a group of Kansas budget officials lowered the state revenue estimate for this fiscal year, which will likely mean additional cuts to state government. K through 12 education makes up around half the state budget. This has some school officials concerned education could be facing cuts.

Kansas Revenue Projections Slashed Again

Nov 6, 2009

Kansas City, MO – A group of economists and policy-makers slashed Kansas tax collection estimates Thursday by $235 million, reflecting signs of continued weakness in the state economy.

The new forecast for the remainder of the state's 2010 fiscal year through next June 30 means Kansas government will have 4.2 percent fewer tax dollars to finance services, including public education, than previously estimated in April. Kansas began its fiscal year July 1.

Lawrence, KS – Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich talked politics on the University of Kansas Campus. Stephen Koranda was there and filed this report.

Lawrence, KS – Kansas is one of the windiest states, and state government and power company officials are trying to capitalize on that. Officials met in Lawrence to talk about ways to make that happen.

Topeka, KS – Three Republican lawmakers in Kansas are proposing a constitutional amendment they say would protect patients' rights to consult with their own doctors on health care decisions.

State Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook and House members Peggy Mast and Brenda Landwehr held news conferences yesterday to announce what they call the "Health Care Freedom Amendment."

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