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. 

Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators hit adjournment Friday with some big tasks left for their wrap-up session that starts May 1.

At the top of the list is a tax and budget plan, which largely will be influenced by the amount of school funding that legislators decide to add in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last month. In the health policy arena, Medicaid expansion supporters are regrouping after the governor’s veto — and holding out hope for another shot this session.

Kansas Health Institute/File photo

Kansas lawmakers have wrapped up the first part of the legislative session and will return to the Statehouse in May.

Legislators did manage to send a bill balancing the budget for the fiscal year that ends in June to the governor, but they haven’t finalized tax and budget plans for 2018 and 2019.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said she isn’t frustrated by the slow progress.

“It’s expected. Coming to a compromise, an agreement on a tax package is probably the most difficult thing any state legislature would have to do," she said.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

After sitting on the sidelines since his veto of a tax bill in February, Gov. Sam Brownback this week re-engaged with lawmakers working on a solution to the state’s budget crisis.

He needn’t have bothered.

The Senate on Thursday rejected the “flat” tax bill that he was lobbying for by a decisive 37-3 vote.

“This is bad tax policy,” said Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio/File photo

Editors Note: This story was updated at 5:05 p.m.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is endorsing a flat tax proposal that a Senate committee advanced this week. Legislative leaders had previously said Brownback would offer a new tax bill, but instead Brownback says he's willing to back the flat tax plan or something similar to it.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service/File photo

Kansas lawmakers could leave early for their three-week spring break if they don’t start making progress on a tax proposal. They’re currently scheduled to work through the week, but Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman said Tuesday that they could start the break early.

“We don’t want to have people here if we’re not being very productive, but if we see some momentum in one direction or another we’ll stick around,” Ryckman said.

Ryckman and other legislative leaders met with Gov. Sam Brownback Tuesday afternoon, and after the meeting, Ryckman said no deal had been reached.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a bill that would throw out the current state income tax brackets of 2.7 and 4.6 percent, so all taxpayers would pay the same 4.6 percent rate. The so-called "flat tax" plan would adjust deductions and credits, and lower the sales tax on food to try to limit the impact on lower-income Kansans. Jim Denning, the Senate’s Republican majority leader, says it still might need some adjustment.

“I think it’s just a starting point. We’re going to find out if there’s an interest in a single-tier tax plan,” Denning says.

Courtney Bierman

Members of the Kansas House shot down a motion to debate the issue of guns on college campuses. A move made by the chamber’s top Democrat would have forced the House to consider a bill regarding out-of-state concealed carry licenses. However, the real motivation was for critics of the state’s concealed carry law to propose changes during the debate.

House members rejected the idea of even bringing up the bill for debate on a 44-81 vote. Republican Majority Leader Don Hineman says they’ve been working on a compromise and most lawmakers want to continue those negotiations.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday morning vetoed a bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in Kansas, spurring a short veto override effort in the Kansas House that likely will continue next week.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a proposed spending plan for the next two fiscal years.

It includes raises for many state employees in Kansas, and it would shift money to restore some of the higher education cuts put in place last year. Republican Carolyn McGinn said they increase spending only in some targeted ways.

“The committee did a wonderful job in trying to hold the line. There’s a lot of need out there in our state. We’ve had a number of cuts,” McGinn said.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Some Kansas lawmakers want more detailed information provided to women who seek an abortion.

The Kansas House has advanced a bill that requires abortion providers to disclose additional details about a physician’s credentials, insurance and any disciplinary actions against them. It also says physicians must disclose if they have clinical privileges at any hospitals within 30 miles.

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