Stephen Koranda

Statehouse Reporter, Kansas News Service

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.

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Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts says he will not run for re-election in 2020, opening the door to a parade of candidates announcing a run or considering jumping into the race to replace him. Multiple Republicans are eyeing the seat, and it could be the first time Democrats have a competitive U.S. Senate primary since the 1990s.

Here’s the rundown of who’s seeking the seat in Washington: 

REPUBLICANS

Bob Hamilton

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas no longer will impose a statewide phased-in reopening plan, Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

In deciding to veto a bill that would have restricted her powers to respond to the coronavirus, she issued a new emergency declaration.

“This legislation creates more problems than it solves,” Kelly said. She argued it would ultimately delay coronavirus aid from the federal government. “This would only prolong the economic pain of this crisis.”

TOPEKA, Kansas — In a one-day marathon session that wrapped up a legislative year upended by the coronavirus, Kansas lawmakers reined in the governor’s powers to respond to the public health crisis.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly sharply criticized the all-night rush that drafted the bill, but she stopped short of threatening a veto. Instead, she said, she will read the legislation carefully and make a decision at a later date.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Tobias Wood is thinking twice about working at a polling place in Shawnee County this year. He’s done it since 2018, but now he’s practicing social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

He knows that might be difficult during elections, when he needs to handle people’s IDs and have voters sign in on a tablet.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas may not have any limits on the number of people who can safely gather — at all.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The week started with a Kansas House Democrat making an unusual request to not just his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but to the Lord: “Please nudge our counterparts in the Senate. Please help them to work with a little more urgency.”

With the threat of the new coronavirus growing by the day — businesses were shutting down, universities moving fully online — legislators knew time was running out to pass the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. The action was pretty much restricted to the Statehouse’s document room and the chambers. No visitors or school groups in the halls of the Capitol, the hearing rooms empty, the whole place a reminder of how quickly things changed.

TOPEKA, Kansas — If Kansas lawmakers pass a bill allowing student-athletes to make money off endorsements, you might see the next five-star KU or K-State basketball recruits selling cars, shoes or soda.

Dozens of states, including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, are thinking about changing the rules since the NCAA said in October that it will eventually allow student-athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness. These bills are stopgaps, aimed at putting rules in place should there be a period of time before national rules are approved by the NCAA or Congress.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas lawmakers passed an important milestone this week: the midpoint deadline called “turnaround.”

In simple terms, it means most bills must have passed one chamber or they’re pretty much dead for the year — though are there are ways around the rules for things legislators really want to pursue (and bills from some committees are exempt).

Here are a few of the dozens of bills that are moving on to the House or the Senate, and a few that reached the end of the line, at least for now.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas is unmatched in its tracking of ex-convicts, resulting in more than 21,000 people convicted of sex, drug or violent crimes being registered on a public database.

One of them is Marc Schultz, who was convicted of manslaughter for hitting and killing a cyclist while driving drunk in 2010.

“I will forever live with the burden of taking a man’s life for a decision that I made,” Schultz said Monday. “But I didn’t intend for this to happen.”

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas legislative session began with what seemed like a done deal for expanding Medicaid. Gov. Laura Kelly and a top Republican senator had forged a compromise to offer health coverage for up to 130,000 low-income Kansans.

About a month later, the deal has ground to a halt — and even the state budget could be held up — because of abortion politics. 

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