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. 

Bloomsberries, flickr Creative Commons

Court-appointed lawyers in Kansas say they need more money to defend high-profile murder cases, like the Carr brothers from Wichita.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the death penalty sentences handed down in that case and in another Kansas murder case. Because of the ruling, court-appointed attorneys will have to continue working on those cases, and that will take more money. 

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bill before a Kansas House committee would allow the state to deny financial assistance for some school district building projects.

Under the current system, school districts issue bonds for improvement projects and the state helps pick up the tab. The proposal would create a state board that would determine if school district building projects are directly related to instruction. If they aren’t, the board can cut back or eliminate state support.

Ervins Strauhmanis, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas tax collections came in nearly $7 million below estimates last month, despite some bright spots in the January report.

Kansas individual income tax collections came in $8 million higher than expected, but corporate income tax collections were well below the estimate and sales tax receipts also came up short. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says weak oil, aviation and agriculture industries are hurting tax collections.

Christopher Sessums, flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers will hold hearings this week on a bill that could trim back the number of school districts in Kansas significantly.

The bill sets requirements for the minimum size of districts. If districts are too small, they would be merged. The strategy behind the bill is efficiency, not by closing schools, but by consolidating administrations between schools districts.

Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, spoke to education officials about the potential impact. He says the bill could affect local control.

Hugo Phan

Democrats in the Kansas Legislature have introduced a bill that would allow colleges and universities to continue banning concealed guns on campus. State law allows concealed firearms in most public buildings that don't have adequate security measures in place.

Universities have been exempt from that law but the exemption expires next year. This new proposal would give universities a permanent exemption. Democratic Senator Tom Holland says the state shouldn’t be dictating these policies.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bill before a Kansas Senate committee would protect firearms businesses from discrimination. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, a hearing on the bill also brought out other groups seeking protection.

Trevor Santos, with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says firearms businesses can be the victims of discrimination. He used the example of a shooting range owner in Olathe who tried to insure a new vehicle.

Stephen Koranda

A Kansas House committee is considering a proposal that would cap the legislative session at 60 days during odd-numbered years, down from the normal 90 days.

Republican Rep. Marvin Kleeb says while the session is only supposed to last 90 days, in reality it often stretches into five months. He says that length discourages many average Kansans from serving in the Legislature.

“You have people who can’t leave their businesses that long. You have employees who are unable to earn their income. It impedes their career, so it impacts their lives,” Kleeb says .

Paul Joseph / Flickr Creative Commons

A House committee has approved a bill that would allow microbreweries in Kansas to produce up to 60,000 barrels of beer per year. That’s double the current limit.

Under state law, microbreweries would have to build a separate facility and get another license if they wanted to go beyond the existing limit. Philip Bradley, lobbying on behalf of craft brewers, says breweries can be more efficient if they’re allowed to produce additional beer at a single facility.

Stephen Koranda

Construction of a new energy center near the Kansas Statehouse has been delayed after lawmakers raised concerns about the plan. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the facility will provide heating and cooling to the Capitol and other state office buildings.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration reached a $20 million agreement to finance the project, but it was structured so it did not need approval from Kansas lawmakers. That rubbed some lawmakers the wrong way.

Wikipedia

A Kansas Senate committee has approved a bill that would lessen penalties for marijuana possession, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. While working on the bill, the committee removed a section that would have allowed the medical use of hemp oil.

Some lawmakers raised concerns because hemp oil hasn’t been evaluated by the FDA. Republican Senator Molly Baumgardner says even if it’s legal, a hospital told her they won’t use it.

“Their physicians will not prescribe because it has not gone through the rigorous scientific clinical trials,” Baumgardner says.

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