Stephen Koranda

Stephen is the statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

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Economy
10:00 am
Mon February 24, 2014

KS House Speaker Ray Merrick Vows To Focus On Economy

Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick says he'll be working to focus the chamber on economic issues for the rest of the legislative session.

Recently, some controversial bills in the House have caught national attention and criticism.

Merrick says he can't stop members from filing bills, but he can try to get lawmakers back to what he calls the basics.

"Making (Kansas) the most business friendly state in the country and emphasizing that the rest of the session," he says.

Kansas House
5:51 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Health Care Compact Bill Advances In House

A House committee has advanced a bill aimed at exempting Kansas from the federal health care overhaul.

State Representative Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican, said that if the bill ends up passing, it could move Kansas towards gaining more control over federal health care programs.

“The broad federal approach tries to apply a cookie-cutter approach to every state. I believe that’s too broad and we need to put it back at the state level,” Hildabrand said.

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Government
10:50 am
Tue February 18, 2014

'Religious Freedom Bill' Faces Uncertain Future In Kansas Legislature

A bill that supporters say will preserve religious freedom now faces an uncertain future in the Kansas legislature.

Bill Proponents say it will protect individuals, businesses and religious groups from being involved in same-sex marriage ceremonies for religious reasons. Opponents say it's so broadly written that it offers legal protection for discrimination. The bill passed the Kansas House last week.

House Speaker Ray Merrick says that he would not put the bill up for a vote again if he could do it over. Merrick says the House will work with the Senate to amend the bill.

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Kansas Legislature
4:36 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

House Will Work With Senate On Same-Sex Marriage Bill

House Speaker Ray Merrick says if he had to do it over again, he would not have brought a controversial religious freedom bill up for a vote.

The bill would allow businesses, individuals and religious groups to refuse service or employment benefits to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Critics of the legislation say it will allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

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Government
10:01 am
Thu February 13, 2014

State House Will Soon Consider Bill That Strips Local Governments' Power To Regulate Guns

The full Kansas House could consider a bill soon that voids local government firearm regulations.

A House committee amended and approved the legislation yesterday.

The bill would keep local governments from regulating the open carry of firearms.

Committee members added a provision saying Kansans could carry a loaded gun in their vehicle anywhere in the state, without requiring a concealed weapons permit. Now, local governments can bar keeping a loaded gun on your seat or in your glovebox.

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Government
10:30 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Kansas House Advances 'Religious Freedom Bill'

The Kansas House of Representatives has advanced a controversial bill that supporters say will protect religious freedom.

The bill is seen as a preemptive strike, in case federal courts invalidate the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The measure prohibits punishing individuals or religious institutions for choosing not to provide goods or services that would be used in same-sex marriages.

Supporters of the bill say it protects people who don't want to provide services for same-sex marriages or don't want to recognize the unions for religious reasons.

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Kansas Budget
3:23 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Committee Puts State Worker Raises on Hold

Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal includes a 1.5 percent raise for classified state employees.

But Monday, a Senate committee cut that raise out of its version of the budget, at least temporarily. Senator Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said the pay raise would affect more employees than originally thought.

“We weren’t fully aware that it would touch some judges, classified employees, it touches the Legislature. So we’re just trying to get our arms around it and then look at it globally,” Denning said.

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Gun Laws
3:57 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Bill Would Cut Back Open Carry Regulation

A legislative committee is considering a bill that would bar local governments in Kansas from passing any rules that restrict the open carry of firearms. It would also invalidate any local rules currently restricting open carry.

Representative Jim Howell, a Derby Republican, says the goal is to create consistency.

“So what this does, it just simply says we’re not going to let cities create a patchwork of laws, so that people can exercise their Second Amendment rights confidently, understanding the law, with simplicity," Howell says.

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Kansas Legislature
4:07 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Bill Would Speed Death Penalty Appeals

Testimony on a bill that would speed up death penalty appeals in Kansas concluded Tuesday at the state Legislature.

A staff member with the attorney general's office told a Senate committee that long filings and delays often extend the process. But Sarah Johnson, a defense attorney who has worked on death penalty cases, said the cases are very complex and a lot of time is needed to prepare.

Johnson said the bill could harm certain defense cases.

Kansas Budget
3:23 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Brownback Releases Details Of Budget Plan

Governor Sam Brownback is proposing a reversal of some state university salary cuts and a raise for classified state employees. He's also hoping to rewrite the Department of Corrections budget.

Senator Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, chairs the Senate's budget committee. He says most of the governor's proposed $460 million dollar spending increase is allocated for corrections, but some lawmakers will still have concerns.

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