Stephen Koranda

Stephen is the statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

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Transportation
9:37 am
Mon April 27, 2015

Kansas Homeowners Believe State Budget Cuts Affecting Local Highway Project

The Iversons at their home near Alta Vista.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas lawmakers have shifted hundreds of millions of dollars out of the State Highway Fund to help balance the budget in recent years. While this will likely cause some road maintenance projects to be delayed, other upgrades are still moving forward.

One of those projects affects homeowners in northeast Kansas who are convinced the transportation department is now cutting corners because of the state's tight budget. Stephen Koranda traveled to Alta Vista to learn more.

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Government
12:39 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

Brownback Releases Updated Kansas Budget Plan

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Governor Sam Brownback has presented lawmakers with an amended budget plan following the release of sharply lowered estimates for Kansas tax collections. The proposal would save around $100 million over the next two years, which only puts a dent in a budget shortfall of around $400 million. Stephen Koranda reports.

The proposal uses cost savings from the Medicaid program and from cheaper than expected debt payments. It also increases a fee paid by Kansas health care providers. Shawn Sullivan is Governor Brownback’s budget director.

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Government
3:20 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

State Panel To Update Kansas Tax Collection Estimate

Credit Stephen Koranda

A group of state officials and economists will meet on Monday to put together a new estimate of Kansas tax collections.

As Stephen Koranda reports, the information is critical for lawmakers as they build the state budget.

Kansas legislators decided to wait to do the final work on the budget until after their spring break.

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Government
3:15 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Some New Kansas Welfare Rules Need Federal Approval

Governor Brownback signs the welfare bill into law.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Governor Sam Brownback has signed into law a sweeping bill tightening Kansas welfare rules, but the new requirements must comply with nation-wide guidelines.

Sandra Kimmons with the Kansas Department for Children and Families, says many of the provisions in the law were already on the books.

Some new rules, like a $25 limit on ATM cash withdrawals, may catch the eye of federal officials.

However, Kimmons says that requirement doesn't seem to violate federal rules.

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Education
4:34 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Kansas School Board Delays Vote On Allowing Unlicensed Teachers In Classrooms

Credit cybrarian77, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas State Board of Education has delayed a vote on a plan to let some school districts hire unlicensed teachers.

The proposal would have affected a group of six Kansas districts, known as the Coalition of Innovative School Districts. As Stephen Koranda reports, the board had been set to vote on the plan Thursday.

The delay came after deans of education schools at Kansas universities raised concerns, as did teachers. Nicole Meier is a Kindergarten teacher from Topeka and a Teacher of the Year finalist.

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Government
2:18 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Brownback Signs Bill Tightening Welfare Rules

Credit Twitter / Sam Brownback

Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a controversial welfare bill on Thursday. It would cut the lifetime limit on cash assistance from 48 months to 36 months.

As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, it also says welfare recipients can’t spend the money at places like movie theaters and swimming pools.

Opponents say the bill stigmatizes low-income Kansans and might limit access to needed benefits. It’s also attracted some national attention. Here’s Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

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Transportation
4:36 pm
Fri April 10, 2015

Highway Funding Proposal Hasn’t Swayed Kansas Congresswoman

Rep. Lynn Jenkins speaking during a stop in Topeka.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Lawmakers in Congress face a deadline next month to pass legislation funding the nation's highway system.

The current law will expire at the end of May.

Stephen Koranda reports, Republican Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins says one solution is off the table.

Jenkins says Republican leaders in the U.S. House probably won’t consider a hike in the gas tax.

Some other proposals would change tax rules for overseas corporate profits and earmark that money as a highway funding stream. But Jenkins isn’t entire on board with that idea.

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Government
11:28 am
Mon April 6, 2015

Kansas Lawmaker Concerned About Consequences Of Campus Religious Freedom Bill

Credit Stephen Koranda

A lawmaker in the Kansas House warns that a campus religious freedom bill could attract national attention like the type that has been aimed at Indiana recently. The Kansas bill would bar colleges from taking action against religious student groups that want to exclude people from their organization.

Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton urged her colleagues to vote against the bill in a House committee.

“If we pass this, we might face national backlash. It could have an adverse effect on the Kansas economy,” says Clayton.

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Government
3:04 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Committee Begins Investigating Complaint Against Kansas Lawmaker

Rep. Winn (center) before the hearing.
Credit Stephen Koranda

An investigative committee had a brief meeting on Wednesday to begin looking into a complaint filed by Kansas House Republicans against a Democratic colleague. The complaint accuses Representative Valdenia Winn of using inflammatory language during a committee hearing. Stephen Koranda was at the meeting and has this report.

The complaint says Winn, from Kansas City, Kansas, stepped over the line when she said “racist bigots” were supporting a bill that would remove a college tuition break for some students in the country illegally.

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Education
7:30 am
Tue March 31, 2015

Education Advocates Walk 60 Miles To Kansas Statehouse

Supporters of the walk gather in the Kansas Statehouse.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Education advocates wrapped up a 60-mile walk on Monday at the Kansas Statehouse.

Eleven people completed the trek from the Kansas City are to Topeka to focus attention on public school funding.

Lauren Van Wagoner from Hoyt says she made the trip because she has a six-year-old daughter with autism.

“Since my daughter’s in special education, I often see how thin those resources are for those kids, and I’m concerned those resources are going to continue to get thinner,” says Van Wagoner.

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