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

Kansas lawmakers wasted no time getting down to business on the first day of the 2017 legislative session. House tax committee members met and introduced their first tax proposal Monday afternoon.

The bill would repeal an income tax exemption for more than 300,000 Kansas businesses to help balance the state budget in the face of a deficit. Republican Steven Johnson, the committee’s chairman, said they’ll also be considering other ideas.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

As he officially took over his new job on Monday, Kansas Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman said lawmakers should work together to craft solutions and carry on the state’s tradition of small government.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

The Kansas Legislature begins its new session today. State lawmakers face several big challenges this year, like filling a huge budget hole and writing a new school funding formula. As Stephen Koranda reports, many new leaders and lawmakers will be working to tackle these issues.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas lawmakers have the tall order of writing a new school funding formula this year. There’s already some agreement between the governor and the organization representing school boards: They don’t want the current funding system extended.

Kansas legislators threw out the old school funding formula in 2015 and replaced it with block grants set to expire this year.

Some lawmakers are concerned they might get bogged down writing a new formula and end up extending the block grants. Gov. Sam Brownback says he’s not in favor of that.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

For the last two months, Kansas has met its state tax collection targets. That hasn’t happened for quite some time. Some state officials think it might be the start of a trend, while others aren’t so sure.

After the state lowered its revenue estimate, Kansas met the new forecast for November and December. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning told the Topeka Capital- Journal that he thinks Kansas now has a handle on the revenue numbers and will be consistently hitting them.

Gov. Sam Brownback says he sees some positive signs, but he isn’t as upbeat as Denning.

Stephen Koranda

Kansas tax collections beat the estimate in December by $6 million.

Individual income taxes and sales tax receipts were higher than expected last month in Kansas. That helped outweigh drops in other areas like corporate income and cigarette taxes.

Acting Revenue Secretary Sam Williams says he hopes the sales tax jump is an indication that some sectors of the state economy are improving.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

It will be easier for Kansans to monitor just what happens as laws are made when the 2017 legislative session kicks off next week.

The Legislature will offer online audio streaming of some committee meetings. At first, the feed will come from the rooms where some budget and tax committees meet.

“The whole idea here was to basically start off with committees that we knew for sure were going to get a lot of attention, particularly given the legislative agenda this year,” says Jim Miller, the Legislature's chief IT officer.

Wikipedia

A Kansas lawmaker hopes legislation that would allow the medicinal use of hemp oil can make headway next legislative session. It would allow the use of hemp oil to treat certain conditions.

The oil is made from hemp, a plant that’s the same species as marijuana, but hemp oil doesn’t cause a person to feel high because it doesn’t contain enough of marijuana’s active ingredient.

Democratic state Rep. John Wilson says medical use of the oil can give Kansas families new options for treating children with seizure disorders.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

The crop of new legislators and Kansas Statehouse leaders means a new chance for some issues to make headway in the coming session. Stephen Koranda reports on one topic that might get more traction: expanding Medicaid to cover more people.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A Kansas law will require universities to allow concealed guns on campus starting next year. Some lawmakers want to amend the policy in the coming legislative session, but Gov. Sam Brownback said this week he’s not in favor of that. Stephen Koranda reports on what that could mean for efforts to amend the rule.

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