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. 

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.

Storem, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law a bill allowing many public employees to carry concealed weapons when they’re traveling on the job. The change means employees for cities, counties and government agencies can now carry guns when they’re working out in the community.

During debate earlier this month, Republican Sen. Forrest Knox said this allows workers to protect themselves.

“You should not, if you’re a public entity, a public employer, be able to require your employees to be defenseless,” Knox says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Update from the AP:

The Obama administration is telling public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The directive is in formal guidance being sent to school districts Friday by the departments of Education and Justice.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

Stephen Koranda

Gov. Sam Brownback is considering a budget plan that requires him to make spending cuts. Brownback says he has not yet decided if he’ll veto a provision in the budget affecting the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the budget item says spending cuts should hit those schools harder than other universities.

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