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

The Kansas House has unanimously approved a bill that would create a system for online audio streaming from Statehouse committee meetings. Right now, audio streaming is available only from the floors of the House and Senate.

Republican Rep. John Whitmer says an audio feed can help Kansans stay on top of legislative issues because much of the real work on bills happens in committees.

J. Stephen Conn, flickr Creative Commons

A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a bill that would expand the grounds for impeaching a state Supreme Court justice.

The bill says justices could be impeached for trying to exercise powers given to the governor or Legislature. Republican Sen. Forrest Knox says checks and balances in government are important.

"We have arrived at a point today in this country, in this state, where specifically Supreme Court justices have become kings, where there is no check," Knox says.

Jim McClean / Heartland Health Monitor

The chairman of a Senate committee abruptly canceled a hearing today on a bill that would have changed the agency responsible for distributing school funding.

The bill would have moved the authority to distribute education money from the Department of Education to the Department of Administration, which is one of the governor’s cabinet agencies.

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Local governments and economic development agencies in Kansas are expressing concerns about a bill that would speed up a so-called property tax lid.

Kansas already has a law in place that will force local governments to hold a public vote if they want to raise property taxes faster than the rate of inflation. But that law doesn't take effect until 2018. The bill now under consideration would strengthen the tax lid and make it take effect later this year.

Christopher Sessums, flickr Creative Commons

A bill in a Kansas Senate committee would require teachers union members to vote every year on whether to keep the union in place.

Supporters of the proposal say union members should have a right to vote on keeping the union, even if it was already in place when they were hired.

“Once the bargaining unit is there, it’s there," says Dave Trabert with the conservative think tank the Kansas Policy Institute. "If it’s been there 30 years, and you’ve been with the company 25 years, you never had an opportunity to vote on that."

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Three Republican Kansas senators say the state should overhaul a policy that lets thousands of business owners avoid paying income taxes. Under current law, owners of more than 300,000 businesses don’t have to pay any state income taxes.

Senate Vice President Jeff King says that was not their intention when lawmakers passed the tax cut. He says they only meant to exempt working capital from income taxes, not the wages a business owner takes home.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers are continuing work on a bill that would allow the state to deny financial assistance for some school district building projects. The legislation says a state panel should review school district construction projects and only award state aid for buildings directly related to student instruction.

The latest proposal would deny Kansas tax dollars for athletic facilities. Republican Rep. Ron Highland offered the plan. He says if a school district wants an Olympic swimming pool, local taxpayers should pay for it.

Stephen Koranda

A bill under consideration in the Kansas Statehouse would speed up implementation of a law making it more difficult for city and county governments to raise local taxes.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A Kansas House committee is considering bills that would bolster funding for the Highway Patrol with the goal of hiring more state troopers.

The proposals would either divert current registration fees to the Kansas Highway Patrol or add a new $2 fee to help hire 75 troopers over three years. Patrol Superintendent Colonel Mark Bruce says the current shortage means they can’t respond to every call, so local police departments have to pick up the slack.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders repeated his call for overhauling campaign finance during a campaign stop in Lawrence yesterday.

The presidential candidate singled out the Koch brothers specifically and said large campaign donors have too much power. He said his campaign has accepted small donations averaging $27.

“I am not indebted to Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuels industry. I’m indebted to millions of people for their 27 bucks,” Sanders said.