Stephen Koranda

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

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

There's a push to repeal a program that allows more than 600 undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Kansas colleges and universities, but a bill aimed at doing that faltered in a House panel. The bill failed to make it out of the House Education Committee after a debate Thursday. 

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A bill that scraps the school funding system is heading to the Kansas governor’s desk.  It would temporarily create a block grant system while lawmakers write a new funding formula. 

Supporters of the bill say it has $300 million in new funding and gives Kansas schools more flexibility.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says the bill lets them start over and ditches a school funding formula she calls “broken.”

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A Kansas lawmaker is pushing to make fantasy sports legal in Kansas. Republican Representative Brett Hildabrand has introduced a bill that would change state law to specifically allow fantasy sports. He says the state is not currently enforcing the ban on fantasy football and similar games, and he wants to prevent future enforcement.

“I want to make sure on down the road in this growing industry that we do not begin prosecuting average law-abiding citizens who are just trying to participate in a friendly pastime,” says Hildabrand.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Republican leaders in the Kansas Legislature have unveiled a plan to toss out the current school funding formula and go to a block grant system for the next two years.

Republican Ty Masterson chairs the Senate’s budget writing committee. He says the bill would increase spending by $300 million for Kansas K-12 schools.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The Kansas Senate has passed a bill that would allow Kansans to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Currently, residents must go through training and pass a background check before they are issued a permit to carry a hidden weapon.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle voted in favor of the bill but with reservations. She says she has heard “legitimate concerns” from Kansans.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

The top Democrat in the Kansas Senate says lawmakers haven’t accomplished enough so far this session reports Stephen Koranda for Kansas Public Radio.

Legislators are facing a significant deadline this week, which marks the midpoint of their scheduled time in Topeka. Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley believes they’re not making enough progress solving problems like a budget shortfall.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, but has not yet executed anyone in last 20 years. Opponents of the death penalty are hoping to replace the option with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Anti-death penalty advocates are renewing their push to change the law reports Stephen Koranda for Kansas Public Radio.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A Kansas Senate committee is looking at rewriting part of the public school funding formula. The Legislature passed a bill increasing one type of school aid last year, but when it was all said and done, the cost had risen beyond their initial estimates. Kansas Public Radio’s Stephen Koranda reports the bill would change how it's calculated and reduce that type of education spending by $40 million dollars.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

A group that advocates for Kansas children is protesting Governor Sam Brownback’s proposal to use money from a children’s fund to help cover a budget shortfall. The money comes from the 1990s tobacco settlement payments and is used for programs including Early Head Start. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports on the proposal to help close a gap in the current fiscal year's budget.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature have been tight-lipped about Governor Sam Brownback’s tax and budget proposal, until now. Top Democrats voiced their concerns about the plans at a press conference on Friday.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is defending the state’s system for selecting Supreme Court justices.

Governor Sam Brownback last week said the system should be changed to be, as he called it, more “democratic.” His proposals would allow the governor to pick nominees or have voters directly elect justices.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Mike King is asking lawmakers not to touch one of KDOT’s funding sources. Lawmakers will be looking for ways to fill a budget gap, and the money could be attractive. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports four-tenths of a percent of the state sales tax goes to KDOT for road projects.

Secretary King says the sales tax funding is a steady source of income, which is important when they’re borrowing money.

Photo courtesy of the Kansas Geological Survey / kansaspublicradio.org

The recent drop in oil prices is translating into fewer tax dollars collected by the state of Kansas. That comes as lawmakers are already facing budget deficits reaching hundreds of millions of dollars. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, oil producers pay a so-called severance tax based on the price of crude oil.

When economists met in November to create a new revenue estimate for Kansas, they used a crude oil price of $80 per barrel.

Some Kansas lawmakers have been getting a lot of attention during this legislative session for controversial bills they've introduced. Some lawmakers argue that the initiatives are distracting from core issues, like the economy, and are casting a negative light on the state.

Last year, Kansas became the first state in the nation to completely eliminate arts funding. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has always said he supports the arts, but when the state was facing a tight budget, he said Kansas needed to cut back.

"As we look to grow Kansas' economy and focus state government resources to ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, we must do all we can to protect the core functions of state government," he said.