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

Advocates for science education will rally at the Kansas Statehouse Saturday. They’ll be promoting the importance of science and the role it plays in policy making.

Dr. Steven Case directs the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Kansas. He says they’re concerned about science being politicized and efforts to discredit some types of science.

“Which is not a good thing," he says. "We need good information, good education and really solid understandings of the natural world to inform our policies as we move forward as a county."

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A panel of Kansas officials has boosted the forecast for the state’s tax collections. They raised the revenue projection by almost $160 million.

That puts a dent in the Kansas budget deficit. After accounting for the new money, the state still faces a shortfall of around $900 million over the coming two fiscal years.

“There certainly remain big challenges for legislators and us between now and when the session ends,” said Shawn Sullivan, Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director.

However, Sullivan added that "up is better than down."

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A group of state officials and university economists will meet on Thursday to update the forecast for how much the state will collect in taxes.

The numbers provided by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group give Kansas lawmakers a better idea of the state’s finances as they work to write a new budget plan for the coming fiscal year.

The group might change the economic projections it made earlier. If that happens, the budget deficit facing lawmakers will either grow or shrink.

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Kansas regulators have blocked the $12 billion purchase of Topeka-based Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy. Members of the Kansas Corporation Commission raised concerns that the purchase price was too high and there wouldn’t be enough efficiencies created to guarantee lower costs to customers.

The order from the commission called the proposal "too risky."

David Nickel is with the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents consumers. He said the only testimony in favor of the merger came from the two companies.

Stephen Koranda

Paul Davis, a former legislator and Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, said Thursday he is considering a run for the 2nd District congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

Davis narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Sam Brownback in the 2014 race for governor. Davis is from Lawrence and served as the Democratic leader in the Kansas House of Representatives.

In an interview Thursday, Davis said he has concerns about some of President Donald Trump’s proposed policies.

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A Kansas law will allow guns on university campuses and in public hospitals later this year. Efforts to amend the policy have faltered in the Legislature, but the issue is likely to come up again after lawmakers return to the Statehouse in May.

The law says most public places in Kansas must allow concealed weapons, unless there is security in place to make sure no one carries a gun. An exemption for universities and hospitals expires this summer.

Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators hit adjournment Friday with some big tasks left for their wrap-up session that starts May 1.

At the top of the list is a tax and budget plan, which largely will be influenced by the amount of school funding that legislators decide to add in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last month. In the health policy arena, Medicaid expansion supporters are regrouping after the governor’s veto — and holding out hope for another shot this session.

Kansas Health Institute/File photo

Kansas lawmakers have wrapped up the first part of the legislative session and will return to the Statehouse in May.

Legislators did manage to send a bill balancing the budget for the fiscal year that ends in June to the governor, but they haven’t finalized tax and budget plans for 2018 and 2019.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said she isn’t frustrated by the slow progress.

“It’s expected. Coming to a compromise, an agreement on a tax package is probably the most difficult thing any state legislature would have to do," she said.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

After sitting on the sidelines since his veto of a tax bill in February, Gov. Sam Brownback this week re-engaged with lawmakers working on a solution to the state’s budget crisis.

He needn’t have bothered.

The Senate on Thursday rejected the “flat” tax bill that he was lobbying for by a decisive 37-3 vote.

“This is bad tax policy,” said Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

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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