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. 

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Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says he's offering some advice to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. As Stephen Koranda reports, the goal is giving Trump a leg up on agriculture issues over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Roberts is chairman of the Agriculture Committee. The Kansas senator says he hasn’t personally met Trump, but he was asked to help the campaign with agricultural issues.

Roberts has been telling them that none of the candidates who ran for president this election have talked enough about things affecting rural areas and agriculture.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is asking state agencies and universities to think about how they’d handle a 5 percent budget cut.

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Health insurance costs for state employees in Kansas will be rising again next year.

The increases vary depending on the plan, but rate hikes range from around 9 to 30 percent, with additional increases for dental and vision coverage. Rebecca Proctor, with the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says there are some state workers making around $12 to $14 an hour, so the rising costs really hit their bottom line.

Stephen Koranda

A group of family members and friends of those killed by the Carr brothers are kicking off a campaign to unseat four Kansas Supreme Court justices. The justices face a retention election on the ballot this fall.

Amy Scott James was the girlfriend of Brad Heyka, one of the victims of the Carr brothers. She says the Kansas Supreme Court didn’t follow the state’s death penalty law when the justices overturned the death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr. James says that was proven when the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the Kansas court’s decision.

The Kansas Board of Education is creating a group to study the teacher shortage that's affecting parts of Kansas. As Stephen Koranda reports, the group will recommend ways to make the job more attractive and keep teachers from leaving the career.

The new committee will look at issues like why fewer people are becoming teachers in Kansas and what they can do to reverse that trend.

“This ship will not be turned around in a day, but we have to start the process of turning the ship,” says Board of Education Chairman Jim McNiece.

It appears only a small number of voters affected by a recent court ruling turned out at the polls for the Kansas primaries.

A judge ruled just days before the election that 17,000 people who registered to vote at the DMV - but didn’t turn in a citizenship document - would be allowed to vote in local, state and federal races.

But only about a dozen affected voters cast ballots in Johnson County and even fewer did so in Shawnee County.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW/File photo

Kansas officials are counting votes from this month's primary election, including the votes cast on more than 9,000 provisional ballots across the state. It’s not yet clear how many of those are from 17,000 people affected by a recent court ruling.

Just days before the primary, a judge ruled that people who registered to vote at the DMV, without turning in a citizenship document, would be allowed to vote with a provisional ballot.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Two of the state’s three KanCare Medicaid contracts were making a profit by the end of last year, according to a report given to lawmakers Friday in Topeka.

Some previous records had shown losses at all three of the companies that manage the state’s privatized Medicaid program. By the end of 2015, the newest report shows UnitedHealthcare had made $44 million, Amerigroup had made $31 million and Sunflower Health Plan had lost $16 million.

The Kansas Board of Education has approved more than $7 million in additional funding for 34 school districts, but there’s a catch. As Stephen Koranda reports, the money might never materialize.

The block grant funding system in Kansas doesn’t take into account things like student enrollment growth, but it lets officials like Basehor-Linwood Superintendent David Howard ask for more money to cover new students.

“This isn’t just teachers. We’re actually having to add bus routes and equip new classrooms. That’s part of that total request,” Howard said.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the voting in yesterday’s primary election went smoothly across Kansas, with no significant problems. But one issue that remains is how many Kansans cast provisional ballots after a judge allowed 17,000 previously suspended voters to take part in the election.

The provisional ballots from those voters will be hand counted in the coming days. Kobach says he does not expect any issues handling those extra votes.

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