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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas House and Senate negotiators have reached a compromise to balance the current year’s budget without cuts to state services. They have been facing a shortfall for the budget year ending in June of nearly $300 million.

The budget agreement would delay a payment into the Kansas pension plan, KPERS. It would also borrow some money from a state investment fund.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee has rejected giving pay raises to most state employees. Democratic Rep. John Alcala proposed the raises as part of a budget plan because some state employees haven’t had a pay increase for nearly 10 years.

The chairman of the committee, Republican Troy Waymaster, said with lawmakers facing a budget deficit, there simply isn’t enough money.

“We would like to do something for state employees. Is this the right time? In my opinion, no it’s not,” Waymaster says.

respectable_photography / flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill lowering penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch says lawmakers lowered penalties for first-time marijuana possession last year, but didn’t lower penalties for paraphernalia. That means people could face harsher sentences for possession of a pipe than for possession of marijuana.

“It does keep it at a crime. There is a potential jail sentence," he says. "It just makes it proportional with the possession of the underlying drug."

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