Stephen Koranda

Contributing Reporter

Stephen Koranda reports on the Kansas Legislature, state government and everything else for Kansas Public Radio. He previously worked in Mississippi and Iowa, where he covered stories ranging from hurricanes to state executions. 

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Gov. Sam Brownback kicked off the Kansas legislative session by drawing lines in the sand on taxes, spending and Medicaid expansion, and he has defended those positions with his veto pen.

The question when lawmakers return Monday to Topeka is whether those vetoes will hold up.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he will not be taking a job in President Donald Trump's administration.

Kobach was an early Trump supporter. He was an adviser during the campaign and had some high-profile meetings with Trump after the election. That fueled speculation he could be in line for a cabinet job or other administration position.

In an interview on Fox News, Kobach put those rumors to rest.

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Lawmakers in Washington must approve spending legislation or face a government shutdown, and discussion of funding a border wall is complicating the situation. Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said during a stop in Topeka this weekend that he hopes they reach a solution in time.

President Trump has called for budget bills to include funding for a wall on the Mexican border. That has drawn opposition from some members of Congress. If both sides dig in, that could cause a government shutdown.

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Republican Ron Estes will take his seat in Congress Tuesday after Kansas officials certified his victory in the state's special election.

Gov. Sam Brownback, state Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker on Monday certified the results in the race for Kansas' 4th Congressional District seat, the first congressional special election in Kansas since 1950. 

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Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran met with state education officials this weekend to talk about federal issues. Much of the discussion focused on spending cuts proposed by President Donald Trump.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Advocates for science education will rally at the Kansas Statehouse Saturday. They’ll be promoting the importance of science and the role it plays in policy making.

Dr. Steven Case directs the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Kansas. He says they’re concerned about science being politicized and efforts to discredit some types of science.

“Which is not a good thing," he says. "We need good information, good education and really solid understandings of the natural world to inform our policies as we move forward as a county."

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A panel of Kansas officials has boosted the forecast for the state’s tax collections. They raised the revenue projection by almost $160 million.

That puts a dent in the Kansas budget deficit. After accounting for the new money, the state still faces a shortfall of around $900 million over the coming two fiscal years.

“There certainly remain big challenges for legislators and us between now and when the session ends,” said Shawn Sullivan, Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director.

However, Sullivan added that "up is better than down."

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A group of state officials and university economists will meet on Thursday to update the forecast for how much the state will collect in taxes.

The numbers provided by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group give Kansas lawmakers a better idea of the state’s finances as they work to write a new budget plan for the coming fiscal year.

The group might change the economic projections it made earlier. If that happens, the budget deficit facing lawmakers will either grow or shrink.

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Kansas regulators have blocked the $12 billion purchase of Topeka-based Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy. Members of the Kansas Corporation Commission raised concerns that the purchase price was too high and there wouldn’t be enough efficiencies created to guarantee lower costs to customers.

The order from the commission called the proposal "too risky."

David Nickel is with the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents consumers. He said the only testimony in favor of the merger came from the two companies.

Stephen Koranda

Paul Davis, a former legislator and Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, said Thursday he is considering a run for the 2nd District congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

Davis narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Sam Brownback in the 2014 race for governor. Davis is from Lawrence and served as the Democratic leader in the Kansas House of Representatives.

In an interview Thursday, Davis said he has concerns about some of President Donald Trump’s proposed policies.

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