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. – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 – 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 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 – 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.