Stephen Koranda

Stephen is the statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

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Education
6:10 am
Tue December 16, 2014

KS Education Commission Final Meeting Scheduled For January

K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission Chair Sam Williams.
Credit KPR

The Kansas K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission will continue meeting next month.

Their goal is to wrap up recommendations for cutting costs and improving student outcomes.

As Stephen Koranda reports, the group considered several bills they could recommend to lawmakers Monday, but most of them were either rejected or sent back for more work.

Part of the concern is that several of the proposed bills created new study groups and didn’t actually recommend policy changes for Kansas.

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Government
11:25 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Douglas County Clerk: 'Moving Local KS Elections Could Increase Complexity'

Voters casting ballots in Douglas County.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas lawmakers may pursue legislation to move municipal elections to the fall. Right now, voting for positions like local school boards are held in the spring and are non-partisan. As Stephen Koranda reports, supporters of the change hope moving the local elections would increase turnout.

Local election officials say moving the voting in Kansas would increase complexity and add cost.

But moving the spring elections to the fall would affect more than just the vote in November.

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Government
12:13 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Kansas Budget Plan Draws Concern Over KPERS Cuts

Several Senate lawmakers have criticized Governor Sam Brownback's plan to use state pension dollars to help fill a budget hole.

Senate Vice President Jeff King and state Treasurer Ron Estes think the proposal hurts the public pension plan, known as KPERS, not long after an attempt to fix it.

Stephen Koranda reports...

Lawmakers passed a bill in 2012 that increased payments into KPERS to help erase a long-term deficit.

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Government
1:50 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Brownback Administration Releases Kansas Budget Plan

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s administration has released a plan to fix a budget deficit in the current fiscal year. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, cuts to highway funding and the state’s public retirement system will be key to balancing the Kansas budget.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the administration started by trying to find ways to reduce spending while minimizing the effect the cost-cutting would have on services.

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Community
12:27 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

ACLU Wants Kansas Agencies To Recognize Same Sex Marriages

The ACLU wants all state agencies in Kansas to recognize same sex marriages. As Stephen Koranda reports, the group is now asking a federal court to make it happen.

The court filing specifically names several state officials, including the secretary of revenue. It says people in same sex relationships have been denied state benefits, like joining their spouse’s health insurance or filing joint taxes.

Thomas Witt, with the group Equality Kansas, says the courts have let same sex marriages go forward in Kansas, and that means they should also be recognized by state agencies.

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Government
1:55 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

New Kansas Legislators Prepare For First Session

New members of the Kansas House of Representatives have been taking orientation classes this week preparing for their first legislative session. They're learning about their legislative email accounts and getting their official photos, but as Stephen Koranda reports, looming budget issues are already on their minds.

Kansas lawmakers will have to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years to balance the budget.

Republican Linda Gallagher, from Lenexa, believes they need to look at raising revenue. She says lawmakers have already made the easiest budget cuts.

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Government
12:54 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Merrick Re-Elected As Kansas House Speaker

House Speaker Ray Merrick
Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas House Republicans have re-elected Ray Merrick to a second, two-year term as speaker. Fellow conservative Virgil Peck had challenged Merrick, but Merrick easily won in an 80-16 vote.

"I would like to think that most of them have seen me for two years and know what I've done and what we got accomplished and I think it validates that," says Merrick.

Merrick says one of his priorities this session will be finding ways to fill a budget hole. He says he'll focus on spending cuts, rather than raising revenues.

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Science
1:34 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

State Council Delays Kansas NBAF Bonds

The Kansas State Finance Council, which is composed of lawmakers and Governor Sam Brownback, has delayed issuing bonds for a federal disease lab being built in Manhattan.

The bonds will help construct the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF. Stephen Koranda reports...

Lawmakers have approved a total of $300 million in state bonds.

They have stipulations, saying the state wouldn't be responsible for cost overruns and the bonds wouldn't be issued until the federal governments supplies its full share of the cost, which hasn't happened yet.

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Government
12:58 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Gov. Brownback Won't Rule Out Tax Increase To Fix Budget

Governor Sam Brownback is staying tight-lipped about his plans to fix a hole in the state budget. But as Stephen Koranda reports, Brownback says he's looking at all the options.

Following a meeting at the Statehouse, Brownback gave few details to the media about what he'll propose. He says all options are on the table, including tax increases or slowing future scheduled decreases.

Brownback also won't say whether he'll make budget cuts, known as allotments before lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January.

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Transportation
12:41 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

KS Transportation Funding Might Help Balance Budget

Kansas lawmakers may dip into highway funding to help balance the state's budget. As Stephen Koranda reports, the state Senate's top budget write say transportation money could help fill the gap.

Andover Republican Senator Ty Masterson chairs the Ways and Means Committee. He says transportation is a big expense to the state and Kansas has already built a healthy system.

"Pulling back to a point of preservation, and not this aggressive expansion, wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. And it wouldn't be prolonged," says Masterson.

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