Stephen Koranda

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

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."

Topeka, KS – A Kansas commission is pushing for closing a state facility for the developmentally disabled. Members of the Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission voted to recommend shuttering the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka, known as KNI.

Topeka,KS – The Kansas Board of Education is kicking off its search for a new state education commissioner.

The Board of Education is calling on a national group to help find a new commissioner. The National Association of State Boards of Education will advertise the position across the country and collect candidates.

Kansas Board of Ed Chair Janet Waugh says they'll need to search a wide area, because the right candidate will need a variety of skills.

Topeka, KS – The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS, is facing a multi-billion dollar shortfall in coming years. Yesterday , the Kansas House Appropriations Committee heard about changes that some economists believe could save the state money.

A University of Kansas economist told legislators they could quickly start a new 401(k)-style pension plan for teachers and government workers.

Topeka, KS – The Kansas House Appropriations Committee is looking at consolidating public school districts as a way to help the state save cash and make it through the budget crunch. Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka, KS – A group of lawmakers is looking at ways to update the emergency 911 system in Kansas. Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka, KS –
With demand for so-called "green energy" likely to increase in the future, Kansas could become a major player in renewable energy. That's because Kansas is one of the windiest states. This week in Topeka the annual Wind and Renewable Energy Conference is exploring how Kansas can become a bigger part of the wind power industry.

Click on the link to liste to Stephen Koranda's story.

Lawrence, KS – University of Kansas officials, politicians and industry leaders broke ground Monday on a new Bioscience and Technology Business Center on the KU campus.

The 20,000 square foot facility is aimed at growing life science industry in Kansas.

The $7.25 million incubator will provide space for space and high tech equipment for new bioscience companies.

Topeka, KS – Concerns over swine flu have some Kansas hospitals revamping policies to try and slow the spread of the disease. Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka, KS – A Kansas commission is looking at ways to improve the state's drunk driving laws. The DUI Commission heard how a specialized court could more efficiently deal with offenders.

DUI courts offer supervision and treatment for offenders- instead of jail time for offenders. David Wallace is director of the National Center for DWI Courts, and he says keeping offenders out of jail can save cash, and the courts can help reduce the number of costly trials.

Kan. Revenues Fall Below Estimates

Oct 1, 2009

Topeka, KS – September may have been a bad month for the Kansas budget as corporate and income taxes fell below estimate.

Kansas officials say the state's revenues in September came in $67 million below expectations. So far in the fiscal year that began July 1, state revenues are $65 million below the forecasts that formed the basis for the state budget.

Topeka, KS – Kansas health officials announced today that the state will receive its first shipment of swine flu vaccine in the coming days.

Vaccinations should begin next week for the initial target groups, which include pregnant women, young children and health care workers.

The first allotment will be 16,000 doses.

State Health Director Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips says this is just a small step towards meeting the needs of the most vulnerable groups.

Topeka, KS – A Kansas commission is looking at possibly closing one or both of the state's two institutions for the mentally and developmentally disabled. Yesterday at the statehouse, the commission heard comments from those who might be affected. KPR Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka, KS – Two state lawmakers are asking the Kansas Attorney General to investigate the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, or SRS, for possible Medicaid fraud.

KPR Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka, KS – Members of the Governor's Council on Fitness are working to tackle obesity in Kansas, and that could help the state budget's bottom line.

KPR Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda has more.

Topeka KS – It could cost more for Kansas smokers to light up in the future.

Today, Governor Mark Parkinson said he'll consider a tobacco tax increase in the coming legislative session if state tax revenues don't improve.

"If we don't need to increase revenue, if we can meet our budgetary needs without increasing taxes, we won't increase tobacco taxes just for the sake of increasing them," Parkinson said. "But if we need the revenue, we'll look at it."

Some estimates have put next fiscal year's budget deficit at more than 500 million dollars.

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