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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The Kansas Legislature narrowly passed a two-year state budget over the weekend and wrapped up the 2013 legislative session. 

The single biggest responsibility lawmakers have every year is to pass a state budget. It was questionable whether this proposal could pass the House. The chamber’s leadership was putting pressure on Republicans to pass the budget, saying if they didn’t pass one over the weekend the state could miss payments, like a payment for state worker health insurance.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging Kansans who want to help the recovery in Oklahoma to make cash donations.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has announced a new initiative to cut down on and detect illegal use of state welfare benefits. 

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says her department has hired additional staff to root-out fraud.

“We now have a director, full-time, devoted to anti-fraud efforts," she said. "There’s a chief investigator, two hotline administrative assistants and 16 fraud special investigators across the state.”

It was an unusual day at the Kansas Statehouse Thursday, as Republicans from the House and Senate gathered to smooth out differences between the two chambers on tax and budget issues. Some lawmakers said it had been at least seven years since Republicans from the two chambers met as a group to discuss policy.

“It’s fun as we go out to our dinners and take potshots at each other almost as if we’re competitors," said Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover who heads the Kansas Senate budget committee. "But in reality, we’re all part of the same team, we are the legislative branch.”

May 15, 2013
Stephen Koranda / KPR

After making little progress for weeks, public negotiations on taxes have continued in the Kansas Statehouse.

Legislative leaders and the governor had been meeting behind closed doors, but this week it appeared those talks had stalled.

House and Senate negotiators held a public meeting Wednesday and House members offered a new compromise.

The House and Senate have been divided on the issue of sales taxes.

The chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court and a prominent legislator are butting heads. At issue are allegations made the the justice.

He says the legislator, who's an attorney, tried to make a deal tying a pay raise for court workers to a constitutional amendment.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote a letter to a group of judges outlining the allegations. He said that Senate Vice President Jeff King told a group of judges in a meeting if they didn’t support a plan to overhaul how Supreme Court justices are selected, then the pay increase might not pass.

Kansas lawmakers returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday, but reached the weekend having made little progress on the major issues that remain for this legislative session.

On Thursday, The House Appropriations Committee approved an amended version of Governor Brownback's proposal to issue more bonds for a federal lab.

Earlier, they'd delayed a decision on whether to approve an extra $200 million for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to be built in Manhattan, KS.

Some state lawmakers like Mark Hutton of Wichita, believe the deal between the federal and state government wasn't clearly defined.

Kansas lawmakers just returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday, but already it looks like a disagreement on taxes could push the session past lawmakers' 80-day deadline.

House and Senate Republicans disagree on whether to extend a temporary sales tax increase. It's set to expire on July 1, and House leaders want to let it end as planned. Republican leaders in both chambers want to lower income tax rates, and Senators say keeping the sales tax elevated allows the state to lower income tax rates more quickly.

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says the next federal farm bill is likely to cut back or eliminate some farm subsidies. The Republican from Manhattan says that while many lawmakers are focused on cutting spending, he's hoping to protect money allocated to support the federal crop insurance program.

Moran says that Kansas farmers' need for crop insurance has been shown in recent years, with drought and late spring freezes among the challenges they've been facing.

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