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 / KPR/File photo

The Kansas House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee Monday advanced a bill making changes to the sweeping juvenile justice reforms put in place last year.

Rep. Russ Jennings, a Republican from Lakin who chairs the committee, said some people thought the reforms had some unintended consequences, leading to a request for a full repeal of last year’s bill.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

More than 100 people gathered for a rally at the Kansas Statehouse Monday aimed at understanding and acceptance of the Muslim community.

Moussa Elbayoumy, with the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a federal travel ban from six majority-Muslim countries and concerns over terrorism can lead to what he calls “irrational fear.” He said he hopes events like the rally can help combat that. The crowd at the Statehouse was made of mostly of other faith groups.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

State lawmakers need to write a new formula for funding Kansas schools and close budget gaps in the current and coming fiscal years. As Stephen Koranda reports, they’ll be attacking those issues separately.

Senate leaders are going to take a two-pronged strategy, starting with balancing the Kansas budget. Then they’ll focus on a new school funding formula. The Kansas Supreme Court says the current funding is inadequate.

If lawmakers add more money for schools, the Senate’s majority leader, Jim Denning, says that will be built into the school funding bill.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The top Democrat in the Kansas Senate says he believes lawmakers are off-track and haven’t made enough progress on big issues facing the state. Legislators have been in session almost 40 days, and Sen. Anthony Hensley says they haven’t done enough to erase a budget deficit and write a new school funding system.

“The Legislature over the years has wasted time, but I’ve never seen anything like this when we have such significant issues on the table that we have to deal with,” Hensley says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is staying tight-lipped about whether he might take a job as an ambassador in Italy. The job, which would be based in Rome, is an ambassadorship to U.N. food and humanitarian groups.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

At a time when Kansas is facing a serious budget deficit and a court order saying school funding is inadequate, Gov. Sam Brownback may be preparing to leave the state for a job in Italy. A former high-ranking government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells Kansas Public Radio that Brownback will be named the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas Senate voted almost unanimously Tuesday to kill Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax proposal. The 37-1 vote sends a message to the governor: Senate leaders want new tax and budget options.

Recently, leaders in the Kansas Senate have been frustrated with the governor’s proposal, which relies largely on increasing business filing fees and taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

Senate President Susan Wagle says she doesn’t like the plan because she says it won’t put the state on solid financial ground. She accuses the governor of not taking the state’s budget deficit seriously.

Stephen Koranda

Vending machines in Kansas could sell more than just soda and candy bars under a bill pending in the Legislature. The proposal would allow vending machines to sell lottery tickets. Supporters say it would be more convenient for players and would reduce staff costs for stores that sell tickets. They estimate it would increase sales by at least $25 million. Sherriene Jones-Sontag, with the Kansas Lottery, says 38 other states already sell lottery tickets through vending machines.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers are getting back to work on taxes quickly after taking a break. Leaders in the state Senate are planning to take up Gov. Sam Brownback's tax proposal Tuesday.

Brownback has proposed hiking Kansas tobacco and alcohol taxes and increasing business filing fees to help balance the state budget. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says they’ll debate the governor’s bill, even though they might not like the plan.

Michael Coghlan, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas lawmakers are reviewing a plan from the governor that would tear down a state prison and let a private company build a new one, which the state would then lease back.

A House committee has taken an initial step towards approving the proposal to tear down and replace part of the Lansing Correctional Facility in northeast Kansas.

However, some lawmakers raised concerns, prompting House Appropriations Committee Chairman Troy Waymaster to promise a public hearing.

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