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Statehouse

KPR opened its first full-time Statehouse Bureau in Topeka in January of 1978. Ever since, KPR's Statehouse Bureau, which is often called the KPR-Network, has provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislature, executive and judicial branches of Kansas government and other stories of statewide interest. KPR is the only broadcast outlet in the state that maintains a full-time, year-round bureau at the Capitol.

Topeka Hosting NAHL Championship

The city of Topeka is playing host to the prestigious Robertson Cup Championship Tournament, which crowns the playoff champion of the North American Hockey League. It's taking place at the Kansas Expocentre now through Saturday. Arch Ecker, the play-by-play announcer for the Topeka Roadrunners hockey team, says hosting the Cup Championship is a big honor:



The tournament is played as a three-game round robin between the champions of the NAHL divisions. This year's competing teams are the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, the Amarillo Bulls, the Michigan Warriors, and our very own Topeka Roadrunners, who were the regular-season champions. The Robertson Cup runs through May 7th at Landon Arena. Ticket information is available online at www.ksexpo.com.

State Could Help Pay For Busing Fort Leavenworth Students

The Kansas House has given first approval to a bill that will help pay for students at Fort Leavenworth to be bused to a nearby school district. The Fort Leavenworth School District serves the children of soldiers stationed at the facility, but the district has no high school. Students have been attending high school at a nearby school district. Representative Jim Ward, of Wichita, is the top Democrat on the House Education Committee. He says federal funds had been paying for the cost of busing the students.



The House bill would allow the state to help pay for some of the costs of transporting the Fort Leavenworth students. A similar provision has already passed the House as part of another bill, but that legislation is now mired in a conference committee and may not ultimately pass.

KPERS Talks Make Little Progress

Negotiations continued yesterday (TUE) between members of the House and Senate over bills to help fix a deficit in the public pension plan. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS, is facing a nearly 8 billion dollars deficit over the coming decades. Teachers, as well as state and local government workers take part in KPERS. As KPR Statehouse reporter Stephen Koranda tells us, lawmakers continue to find little common ground.



Lawmakers Resume Talks Over KPERS Changes

A conference committee resumed talks today (TUE) over a bill aimed at fixing a deficit in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS. Most of the discussion centers on proposed changes to KPERS that would make it a 401(k)-style system for new employees. House negotiators want to commit to a switch in 2014. Senate leaders don’t like that deadline and want a commission to examine the pros and cons of switching from the current pension plan. John Grange, an El Dorado Republican, is one of the House negotiators. He believes a deadline would help the study commission.



Both plans would have workers and employers paying more into KPERS. The goal is to fix a nearly 8 billion dollar projected deficit in the system. Meetings will likely continue later this week.

House Committee Rejects Attempts To Cut Budget Further

A Kansas House committee has rejected attempts to make further cuts to the chamber’s budget proposal. The House and Senate have both passed budget bills, and a conference committee is working to smooth out the differences. But as KPR Statehouse Reporter Stephen Koranda tells us, those bills don’t cut enough for some lawmakers.



Governor Pushing for Larger Ending Balance

As budget negotiations continue, Governor Sam Brownback is urging lawmakers to craft a bill that leaves the state with a healthy ending balance. That’s what Brownback told reporters today (FRI) during a news conference at the Statehouse. He says without the cushion, it could mean cuts have to be made partway through next fiscal year.



Brownback had initially proposed a 7 million dollar ending balance for the fiscal year starting July 1st. House members continued cutting beyond that and their bill would leave the state with around 50 million dollars. The Senate bill would leave the state with only a few million dollars, but would cut state services far less. Budget talks will continue next week.

Mental Health Services Bracing for Possible Budget Cuts

A conference committee meeting today (MON) at the Statehouse will continue efforts to finalize a budget bill. Mental health organizations are bracing for possible cuts in state funding. Robbin Cole is the executive director of Pawnee Mental Health Services, based in Manhattan. She says they have been reducing services to deal with cuts in recent years. That includes laying off employees and closing some offices. Cole says during that same time demand for their services increased by 10 percent.



In advance of possible budget cuts, Pawnee Mental Health Services has shut down their Glen Elder office in north central Kansas. Cole says they will continue to cover the ten counties they currently serve.

Moran: Regulations Could Hurt KS Farmers

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran believes one of the greatest threats facing Kansas farmers is overregulation. That’s what Moran, a Republican from Hays, told a group gathered in Manhattan last night (THUR). He says the majority of people in Congress are from urban areas and may not know a lot about what goes on in rural areas of the country.



Several regulations are pending with the Environmental Protection Agency, including one proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions. Moran says that could raise prices for diesel fuel and fertilizer, making it difficult for Kansas farmers to survive. Moran will be heading back to Washington DC next week, when the Senate returns from a spring break.

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