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. 

J. Schafer, Kansas Public Radio

A Kansas House committee has voted to reverse some of the funding cuts made to colleges and universities last year.

The proposal would divert money next fiscal year to help restore part of the cuts to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Under a budget provision last year, KU and K-State took a bigger hit than other schools.

Republican Rep. Troy Waymaster proposed restoring the funding.

“It really hurt KU and K-State. We needed to balance that out and just make it fairer to all the regents schools across the board,” Waymaster says.

Hugo Phan / KMUW

A Kansas legislative committee is considering tighter amusement park safety regulations following the death of a lawmaker’s son. Caleb Schwab died last year on the Verruckt waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas.

The death prompted Republican Rep. John Barker to look into the state’s regulations. He chairs the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on new regulations Thursday.

“It’s the nature of the tragedy. A young child gets killed at an amusement park, that’s concerning to everyone,” Barker said.

Reno County Fire District #6

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill that will make it a little more affordable for people affected by wildfires to rebuild damaged fences.

The new Kansas law will create a sales tax exemption for materials purchased to replace burned fences. The bill moved incredibly fast, from a legislative perspective. The House and Senate approved it just last week.

There are programs at the federal level to help with recovery, but Gov. Brownback says this is something the state can do.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A Kansas Senate committee has voted to restore some funding to higher education. Cuts were made to state colleges and universities earlier this fiscal year.

Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed adding millions of dollars in the coming two years to a state scholarship fund. As part of the Senate budget plan, the new money would instead be diverted and used to restore some funding to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Courtesy / Wichita State University

Kansas Senators crafting a budget plan don’t seem likely to reverse funding cuts made to higher education, but they could adjust how the cuts are distributed.

Higher education took cuts this fiscal year approaching $40 million. Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says it looks like those reductions will continue into the coming fiscal year’s budget.

“That ship has sailed,” Denning says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas lawmakers are wrestling with a budget deficit and looking at a wide range of tax proposals to help cover the shortfall. A House committee considered the merits of a flat tax Monday, but the bills don’t seem to have much support.

The plans would eliminate tax brackets, so there would only be one Kansas income tax rate. One bill would set that at 3.9 percent, the other at 5 percent.

Stephen Koranda

Most state employees in Kansas would receive about a 2 percent raise under a budget plan to be considered by the Kansas Senate. The Ways and Means Committee started work Monday on a spending plan for the next two fiscal years. They're battling a budget shortfall, but the committee voted to shift money around to provide the worker raises.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget plan assumes millions of dollars in savings on education based on an efficiency study. It looks like those savings might not materialize, at least for the coming fiscal year.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The top Democrat in the Kansas Senate wants the chamber to admonish a fellow senator who equated Planned Parenthood to Nazis. Republican Steve Fitzgerald compared Planned Parenthood to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp. He did so after someone made a contribution to the organization in his name.

Democrat Anthony Hensley says he'll formally ask Senate leaders to hold Fitzgerald accountable for his comments.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

The Kansas Senate has approved a budget-balancing plan for the current fiscal year that avoids cuts to state services. The 27-13 vote advances the bill to negotiations between the House and Senate.

Senators spent much of the debate considering whether they should use cuts to help close a nearly $300 million budget gap. They eventually rejected three proposals to make spending cuts.