Stephen Koranda

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for 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.

Christmas trees are in short supply across the country, but growers in Kansas say they’ve mostly recovered from recent droughts.

Celia Goering, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, says a few years ago Kansas tree growers were struggling.

"This situation is looking wonderful now because we’ve had good rains in the last couple years, and that makes all the difference," she says. "The trees are growing. They’re beautiful."

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.  

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.  

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

One of the Democrats on the president’s Commission on Election Integrity is suing the group and Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is vice chair of the controversial panel, created by President Trump to study election issues.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says he hasn’t been receiving information about what the group’s doing.

“Secretary Dunlap has been, and continues to be, blocked from receiving commission documents necessary to carry out his responsibilities,” the lawsuit says.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Proposals to rebuild part of the prison at Lansing could prompt a new debate over the Kansas death penalty. Plans for the prison include closing the facility that houses the state’s death chamber.

Kansas hasn’t executed anyone since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1990s. At a committee meeting Thursday, Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn said instead of building a new death chamber, legislators might want to consider eliminating the death penalty.

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.

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.

This weekend in Lawrence, the ACLU will kick off a national campaign on voting rights called Let People Vote. The group chose Kansas because of the state’s strict voting policies pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Micah Kubic, with the ACLU of Kansas, says the group is moving to a more proactive position.

“When we shift from defense to offense it means that we cannot and will not only file lawsuits and do litigation,” Kubic says.

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.

Gov. Sam Brownback says Kansas officials are still trying to attract a Tyson chicken processing plant to the state, after plans stalled to build one in Leavenworth County. Brownback says things will be handled differently this time around.

When Tyson announced plans for the $300 million facility outside Tonganoxie, there was a sizable public outcry and the proposal was put on hold. One reason for the opposition was that the plans were developed in secret and only made public after local officials had already promised economic incentives.

Gov. Sam Brownback says his hearing for a job in the Trump administration will take place next week.

The overhaul of the Kansas computer system for processing welfare and Medicaid applications recently went through its final implementation phase. State officials say the process went smoothly, especially compared to the system's initial rollout that delayed thousands of Medicaid applications.

The overhaul of the Kansas computer system for processing welfare and Medicaid applications recently went through its final implementation phase. State officials say the process went smoothly, especially compared to the system’s initial rollout that delayed thousands of Medicaid applications.

State officials are hoping to keep a new Tyson Foods chicken plant in Kansas after the company put on hold plans to build the $300 million facility in Leavenworth County.

Tyson is looking at other locations in Kansas and other states after public outcry and a local decision to back away from promised incentives

Stephen Koranda

Over the last year, more than 100 Kansas kids placed in the foster care system had to spend the night in offices instead of homes.  Kids slept on couches or makeshift beds in the offices of the private organizations that handle foster care placement. 
 
Lawmakers and child advocates heard about the issue during a meeting of a foster care task force in Topeka. Republican Representative Linda Gallagher is one of the group’s members.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:25 p.m. Sept. 18.

The Leavenworth County Commission on Monday morning backed off its support for a controversial chicken processing plant, throwing the future of the massive project into doubt.

The commission voted 2-1 to formally rescind a resolution that would have paved the way for $500 million in bonds to be issued for construction of the Tyson Foods plant near the Leavenworth County town of more than 5,000.

Editors note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. Sept. 18.

The Leavenworth County Commission on Monday morning backed off its support for a controversial chicken processing plant, throwing the future of the massive project into doubt.

Kansas lawmakers from the Leavenworth County area will address questions today about a chicken facility planned for outside Tonganoxie. The proposed $320 million Tyson plant could process more than 1 million chickens per week.

Jen Peak is a Tonganoxie resident who’s opposed to the plan. However, she says the meeting will be helpful for anyone interested in the project, which could include people outside Leavenworth County.

Fellow members of a presidential commission on election integrity pushed back against Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s argument that out-of-state voters may have swayed the outcome of a Senate election in New Hampshire.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has authorized pay raises for around 3,000 state workers who did not get a pay hike earlier this year. Lawmakers approved raises for many state employees, but because of the way those raises were structured, some workers were left out.

“This pay plan genuinely came out of reaction to what happened with the Legislature’s pay plan, seeing that there were some folks that were left behind,” says John Milburn, a spokesman for the Department of Administration.

Tyson Foods Inc. and Kansas officials unveiled plans Tuesday for a $300 million chicken facility outside Tonganoxie, a town about 15 miles northeast of Lawrence. The project will include a hatchery, feed mill and plant capable of processing more than 1 million birds per week.

Doug Ramsey, Tyson’s group president for poultry, said the complex will employ about 1,600 people and will produce trays of chicken sold at grocery stores.

 

The parade of candidates seeking the Kansas governor’s office continues to grow with the addition of Mark Hutton, a Republican former House member.

Hutton founded a construction company based in Wichita that he ran for years before moving into politics.

Candidates are lining up to run for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s job. The latest entrant has been feuding with Kobach over a claim he’s made in his campaign for governor.

Another state lawmaker is joining the race for the 2nd District congressional seat in eastern Kansas.

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