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. 

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

On Thursday, China announced plans to begin buying beef from the U.S. again. That’s after a 13-year ban based on concerns about Mad Cow disease.

China banned imports of American beef in 2003 after a dairy cow in Washington State was discovered with BSE, also called mad cow disease.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that forced U.S. producers to build exports elsewhere, and a deal with China could further boost the industry.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced on Thursday that she will step down next summer.

Gray-Little has led the school since 2009, when she became the first woman and the first African-American to serve as KU chancellor.

In a message to campus students and staff, Gray-Little said she’s proud of the school's accomplishments during her tenure, including the Far Above fundraising campaign, which raised $1.6 billion to help pay for scholarships, faculty and new buildings.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A judge in Topeka is considering if he should permanently block a policy that says some Kansans can only vote in federal races. As Stephen Koranda reports, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the ACLU butted heads in court on Wednesday.

The Kansas policy was created in response to a federal court order earlier this year. The rule says people who registered at the DMV, but didn’t prove their citizenship, can only vote in federal races. Kobach says that complies with the federal court while still enforcing the state law that says you have to prove your citizenship.

Christopher Sessums / flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in the latest lawsuit over school funding. At issue is whether the state is spending enough on schools.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will head to court again this week in a lawsuit over the state’s voter registration laws. At issue are thousands of people who registered to vote at the DMV but did not provide a proof-of-citizenship document required under Kansas law.

After a federal court ruling earlier this year, Kobach said those Kansas DMV voters could only cast ballots in federal races; their votes in state races would not be counted.

Courtesy Kelly Arnold / File photo

Former Republican Kansas Sen. Bob Dole says this presidential campaign is harsher than the times he ran.

Dole ran for president multiple times and was the Republican nominee in 1996. He said during a stop in Topeka that this year’s presidential campaign has been a “name-calling race” and the candidates aren’t hitting on some important policy issues.

“The American people, I really believe, want to know what you think about farms," he said. "Nobody’s discussed farm policy, which is pretty important to Kansas."

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Last month, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback asked for help on how what should be in a new school funding formula. On Thursday, he got some pretty vague suggestions from the state school board association.

Kansas lawmakers threw out the old funding formula last year and legislators will work on a new plan next year. Brownback offered no specifics when he sent a letter around two weeks ago asking for suggestions.

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents have approved the higher education budget request they’ll send to the Legislature.

The main priorities are to avoid any additional budget cuts and restore the $30 million cut to higher ed put in place earlier this year. The proposal also asks lawmakers for $20 million more for maintenance projects. Regent Joe Bain says they wanted to offer a realistic request.

alamosbasement, flickr Creative Commons

The largest teachers union in the state is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to overturn a law making it easier to fire teachers.

The 2014 bill took away a teacher’s right to an impartial hearing before being fired. Under a previous law, after three years, teachers were awarded that protection under the previous law.

At a hearing today, the union said lawmakers violated the state Constitution, which says bills can only contain one subject. KNEA General Counsel David Schauner says lawmakers improperly took a school funding bill and added the provision stripping tenure.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The Kansas employee pension plan has not been getting a very good return on its investments recently.