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. 

Axelboldt/Wikipedia public domain

Kansas lawmakers are slated to take up the issue of transgender bathroom use next week.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says she’s drafting a resolution opposing a federal directive. It says schools should allow transgender students to use bathroom and locker room facilities that match their gender identity.

Gov. Sam Brownback is also criticizing the directive, calling it an example of federal overreach. He says federal funding for other school programs might be cut off or reduced if schools won't comply.

Bill Kast, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Highway Patrol is preparing for its largest training class ever. This summer, 45 recruits will begin training to become state troopers. Superintendent Mark Bruce says the Highway Patrol has been struggling with a shortage of troopers.

The patrol developed a new salary structure and a recruiting system to help attract more applicants, but lacked the money to pay for new recruits. Bruce says a new $2 fee on vehicle registrations approved by lawmakers now makes it possible to hire more troopers.

Hillary / flickr Creative Commons

A deadline is looming for Kansas voters who want to change political parties in time for the August primary election.

State law says voters can’t switch party affiliation for the primary after June 1. This is only the second election affected by the new party registration deadline.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says some voters were caught unaware two years ago.

“We had a number of people -especially in July because of the old registration deadline which happens in July- who were used to redeclaring a party and they couldn’t,” Shew says.

PHIL CAUTHON, KHI NEWS SERVICE

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback this week signed bills that prevent privatizing troubled state mental hospitals unless lawmakers approve. There have been staff shortages and other issues at the Larned and Osawatomie state hospitals.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, has said in the past he wants to at least consider the option of privatizing state hospitals. This week, Brownback was asked by a reporter if privatizing the facilities is a long-term solution for the problems.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Gov. Sam Brownback is cutting most state agencies 4 percent to balance the Kansas budget for next year.

Lawmakers approved an unbalanced budget that required the governor to make almost $100 million in spending reductions to comply with the state Constitution. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the governor exempted some agencies and K-12 schools.

Carla Eckels

A lawsuit over voter registration in Kansas will likely continue, but some state election officials are getting prepared in case they need to make policy changes.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Updated Wednesday, 3:35 p.m.

A federal court says the state of Kansas went too far by requiring people registering to vote at the DMV to prove their citizenship. The document requirement has put thousands of voter registrations on hold.

Axelboldt/Wikipedia public domain

The Kansas Board of Education decided not to vote on Tuesday for a motion condemning new federal guidelines for transgender students. The federal rules say transgender students should be allowed to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Kansas Board of Ed member Ken Willard calls the policies “federal overreach.” The motion would have requested lawmakers and the governor take action to fight the guidelines. Willard says he generally opposes federal rules trumping local control, but he specifically mentioned the transgender guidelines.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas will have tighter welfare rules for cash assistance after Governor Sam Brownback signed some new restrictions into law. The changes will reduce the total amount of time Kansans can take part in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The limit for Kansas families receiving benefits will go down from 36 months to 24 months. The state can grant another year of benefits under certain hardships. Brownback says the goal is getting people off assistance programs and instead into the workforce.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Gov. Sam Brownback has until later this week to take action on a budget passed by Kansas lawmakers. It’s likely he’ll sign it into law, but as KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, there will be some budget cutting associated with the new spending plan.

Kansas lawmakers approved a budget that isn’t balanced, with the assumption that the governor will make millions of dollars in spending cuts. The state Constitution says there must be enough revenue to cover expenses. Brownback says he can make budget cuts before signing the bill into law to comply with that.

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