Stephen Koranda

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

The Kansas Court of Appeals said Friday that a grand jury investigation of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office should go forward. The request was brought by a Lawrence man running for the Kansas House, Steven Davis.

He followed a rarely used Kansas law that allows citizens to call grand juries by collecting signatures.

Davis wants to know whether Kobach’s office mishandled voter registrations and whether any crimes were committed.

Six weeks of protests by the Poor People’s Campaign nationwide and in Topeka aim to raise awareness of social and economic inequalities.

Translating those demonstrations into changes in state policy, says at least one analyst, will likely demand more sustained efforts.

Protesters occupied part of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office recently and 18 people were arrested. This week, Statehouse police arrested 16 people protesting in favor of Medicaid expansion outside the office of Gov. Jeff Colyer.

A team of paleontologists from the University of Kansas is resuming its work in Montana, excavating what appears to be a very rare dinosaur fossil: a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. 

KU paleontologist David Burnham said the excavation began in 2016, but the team is returning to the site this summer hoping to find more pieces of the T-rex. 

Republican candidate for Kansas governor Jim Barnett has chosen what he admits is an unconventional running mate: his wife.

Barnett announced Thursday that he had selected Rosie Hansen as his lieutenant governor pick.

Barnett said he wanted a running mate to help accomplish his goals of improving the way state government functions and bridging the divide between rural and urban Kansas.

Republican candidate for Kansas governor Jim Barnett has chosen what he admits is an unconventional running mate: his wife.

Barnett announced Thursday that he had selected Rosie Hansen as his lieutenant governor pick.

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

Top Democrats in the Kansas House and Senate will request investigations into the use of no-bid state contracts, but the proposals will need the approval of some Republican lawmakers to advance.

The Kansas Department of Revenue used a no-bid process, called prior authorization, to award a multi-million dollar contract that outsourced some information technology services earlier this spring. 

Police arrested 18 people protesting policies pushed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach after the demonstrators occupied part of his office.

Police led them past other protesters to a bus waiting outside the Kobach’s office.

Kansas saw a bump in job growth last month.

The Kansas Department of Labor says the state gained 2,000 private sector jobs from March to April. Compared to April of last year, Kansas had nearly 18,000 more jobs in the private sector.

Emilie Doerksen, with the Department of Labor, says there have been jumps in job categories such as business services, transportation and warehousing.

“This is actually the first month that we’ve had significant over-the-year gains in the private sector in over a year,” Doerksen says.

Public universities in Kansas are proposing tuition hikes significantly lower than some of the larger increases seen in recent years. The schools presented the plans to the Kansas Board of Regents this week.

The increases in tuition and fees for in-state, undergraduate students range from 1.2 percent at Kansas State University to 3 percent at the University of Kansas.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Kansas budget into law Tuesday, but in the process he knocked out a provision aimed at curbing his administration’s revamp of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare.

Colyer and his predecessor, former-Gov. Sam Brownback, have been working to overhaul KanCare and get federal permission to extend the program for several more years.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says the state’s government will be more transparent with the new rules for releasing information he signed into law Thursday.

Kansas lawmakers voted to inject money into state services, pensions and higher education just hours before debating legislation to send millions of dollars back to taxpayers.

House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal Wednesday to prevent changes in federal tax law from ratcheting up state taxes for Kansans.

The Senate wanted broader tax cuts in the same bill, but couldn’t coax the House team to go along.

Rep. Steve Johnson, who chairs the House tax committee, said his chamber didn’t want to go beyond addressing the federal impact in ways that would produce deeper cuts to state government revenue.

“It’s all of the tax cuts and these targeted tax cuts that have given us heartburn,” he said.

For years, reporters in the Kansas Capitol press corps and advocates for open government pressed legislators to hide less of the workings of state government from public view.

Now, the Kansas Legislature appears ready to approve changes that would pull back the curtain — at least a tad.

Kansas lawmakers approved an updated $16 billion budget Saturday on a 92-24 vote as they worked through part of the weekend.

The bill amends the spending plans lawmakers approved last year, and includes some targeted increases in state government funding.

It partially restores cuts to higher education from 2016, at a cost of $12 million. It also allocates $8 million to provide raises to workers in the judicial branch.

The bill funnels more money into the state’s pension plan, KPERS, to make up for a missed $194 million payment.

Changes in federal tax law could actually cost some Kansans more in state taxes.

Kansas lawmakers might turn down that revenue windfall and add an election year tax cut instead. A bill they’re backing would cost roughly the same amount as a court-triggered boost to school spending.

Younger people could carry guns even as local authorities gain new powers to take guns away in some situations. Police videos could become more available and people held in prison wrongfully could expect payments from the state.

A roiling debate over how to assess big box stores — their worth when occupied, or their value as vacant properties — could upend property tax systems across Kansas.

At the heart is the “dark store theory,” as critics call the strategy. It contends property valuations should look at what an empty store could fetch on the open market.

That would dramatically cut their property tax bills, forcing county and local governments either to get by on smaller budgets or shift a heavier burden to other property owners.

Republicans in the Kansas House have unveiled a school funding proposal to send an added half billion dollars to local districts in the next five years. A committee advanced the plan Wednesday night to the full House for consideration.

Lawmakers in the Kansas House rejected an effort Monday to allow medical marijuana in the state.

But they advanced a plan to allow the sale of some products made from cannabis — if the high-producing compounds have been removed.

The discussion over legalizing cannabis for medical purposes came as lawmakers considered regular updates to the state’s drug laws.

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

Now that Republican leaders have a report they commissioned on school funding, it’s not clear they’ll pursue its recommendations to spend more for better student performance.

Lawmakers continued digging into the numbers Monday and quizzed the study’s authors for the first time since the document was unveiled Friday.

March madness has many Kansans filling out their NCAA brackets. Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that could tap into that market by legalizing sports gambling in the state.

A bill before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would allow sports betting through the Kansas Lottery. At least one major professional league says it wants some input on the rules and a cut of the winnings.

Kansas politicians are closely watching developing trade policies with an eye to whether they could start a trade war that might hurt industries in the state that rely on exports.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

“NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” Trump said while campaigning for office, “but certainly ever signed in this country,”

Ryan Cavanaugh has a vision for downtown Topeka: a restaurant and pub called Brew Bank, where customers can access a wall of 20 electronic, self-serve beer taps as a way to mingle and try local brews.

“It’s just about a community experience,” he said. “For the patrons to be able to try all of these beers and try them responsibly in small amounts is just an exciting thing.”

The devices let customers use an electronic card to dispense brews.

“Let’s face it,” Cavanaugh said, “the technology’s just really cool.”

Kansas lawmakers, increasingly skeptical that tax breaks deliver economic wins, looked closely this week at economic incentive programs.

Senators on the Commerce Committee spent several days discussing bills that would add new requirements to sales tax revenue bonds, known as STAR bonds.

STAR bonds allow local governments to borrow money for a building project, and tax collections created by the development are diverted to pay off the loans.

Members of the Kansas House have voted to reinstate some job protections for teachers. The bill would promise teachers an impartial hearing before they can be fired.

Lawmakers eliminated the due process protections — sometimes referred to as teacher tenure — in 2014. Republican Rep. Mary Martha Good said reversing that decision will help recruit teachers and keep them in Kansas.

“This process has worked effectively for many years," she said. "Our teachers need to feel supported and protected.”

Some lawmakers said Monday that putting Kansas at the center of a database intended to root out voter fraud might eventually put it in the middle of a lawsuit if things go wrong.

More than two dozen states compare voter rolls using the Crosscheck database of some 90 million-plus records that Kansas hosts.

Kansas lawmakers this week will look at tightening the rules for companies and local governments that want to tap into a major economic development program, STAR bonds.

Pages