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Headlines for Friday, February 12, 2016

Here are today's Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Senate Approves Budget Balancing Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill for balancing balance the next state budget. The vote Thursday night was 24-15. The measure eliminates a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state's $16.1 billion spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. The action came hours after the House approved its own budget-balancing plan, 68-56. Legislative leaders expect to appoint negotiators from each chamber to draft the final version. The bill from each Republican-dominated chamber contains most of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's proposals for juggling funds and capturing unanticipated savings. Both also accept Brownback's proposal to raise $25 million from selling off the assets of state economic development agency. Democrats in both chambers said the measures represented poor fiscal management.


Kansas Senate Rejects Democratic Attempt to Delay Debate on Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has rejected an attempt by its top Democrat to delay a debate on a bill that balances the next state budget. Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the debate Thursday should be postponed in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling invalidating a state law that distributes aid to public school districts. But the GOP-dominated Senate voted 30-8 against sending the budget-balancing bill back to its Ways and Means Committee. The debate went forward Thursday evening. Lawmakers must eliminate a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state's $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The House approved its own budget-balancing plan Thursday on a 68-56 vote after Democrats unsuccessfully sought to postpone action because of the Supreme Court ruling.


Kansas Senate Defeats Call to Extend Weapons Prohibition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has defeated a measure aimed at keeping concealed weapons off college campuses a few more years. Senators on Thursday rejected an amendment on gun legislation that would have extended a prohibition on conceal-carry on Kansas campuses until 2021. The ban will expire in 2017 unless lawmakers act. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Senators also voted down an amendment to move up the end of the gun ban to this summer. In 2013, the Legislature blocked prohibitions against concealed weapons in government buildings, but exempted colleges and universities for four years. Last month, the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs public universities, approved a policy that will allow concealed weapons once the current ban expires.


Kansas Senate Approves State Mental Hospitals Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to make it harder for the state to sell or turn over the operation of its two mental hospitals to private companies has been approved by the Kansas Senate. On a voice vote Thursday evening, senators added the measure as an amendment to budget legislation. It says the state can't spend any money on privatizing the hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie unless the Legislature approves the idea first. A critical survey in November prompted the federal government to decertify the Osawatomie hospital about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area. The state is losing between $500,000 and $1 million a month in federal funds. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has said privatizing the hospital is an option, but area legislators oppose the idea.


Kansas Senate Votes on Pension Payments Funding Through 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal to prevent Republican Governor Sam Brownback from balancing the budget through June 2017 by reducing or delaying payments to the state's public pension system. Senators approved the measure on a voice vote Thursday evening as an amendment to a bill eliminating a projected budget deficit of nearly $200 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. The Senate hoped to vote on the full bill Thursday night. The bill plan initially would have allowed the governor to delay up to $100 million worth of contributions to the public pension system to bolster the budget. The state would have had up to two years to make up for the delayed contributions but would have paid 8 percent interest. But that idea drew bipartisan criticism.


Senate Passes Bill Blocking Study of Clean-Power Rules 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a bill blocking a state regulatory commission from spending money to study how to comply with new federal clean-power rules until a legal challenge is resolved. The chamber's 37-2 vote on Thursday night sends the measure to the House. The vote came just two days after a divided U.S. Supreme Court agreed to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until a legal challenge by several states, including Kansas, is resolved The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission had been searching for a consulting firm to work on a study of what the state would be required to do to comply. Senator Rob Olson, R-Olathe, says the state shouldn't move forward until the legal challenges are fully resolved.


Kansas Governor Decries 'Activist' Court Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is describing the state Supreme Court as an activist court for threatening to shut down public schools if legislators don't write a new school funding law. Brownback was responding to the court's ruling Thursday striking down a school funding law enacted last year. The court said the law was unfair to poor districts and shorted their state aid by at least $54 million.The court declared that schools will shut down if a new law isn't enacted by the end of June. Brownback said in a statement, "We will review this decision closely and work with the Legislature to ensure the continued success of our great Kansas schools."


GOP Lawmakers Criticize Kansas Supreme Court School Funding Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —Two Republican lawmakers are accusing the Kansas Supreme Court of trying to hold taxpayers and schoolchildren hostage with a ruling striking down an education funding law. House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell and state Senator Jeff Melcher of Leawood decried the court's ruling Thursday. The court said the school funding law was unfair to poor districts and shorted their annual aid at least $54 million. The justices said if lawmakers don't rewrite the law by June 30, the state's schools must shut down. Melcher called the decision "a temper tantrum." He said, "It's kind of one of those things, 'Give us the money, or the kid gets it.'" Merrick told reporters that the timing of the ruling was fishy. It came just before the House voted on budget legislation.


Lawmakers Seek Advice on Docking Building Controversy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers say the Kansas attorney general has been asked to analyze state agreements on plans to implode a state office building and build a new Capitol Complex energy plant. The $20 million deal reached in December by the Kansas Department of Administration has been subject to scrutiny because the contract for private financing and a contract with a construction firm weren't vetted by the Legislature. The Topeka Capital Journal reports the House-Senate state building committee on Thursday said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been asked to provide legal analysis of agreements signed by the executive branch for implosion of Docking State Office Building and construction of the new Capitol Complex energy plant. Sarah Shipman, acting secretary of the Department of Administration, says the agency acted with statutory authority.


Wrongfully Convicted Kansan Seeks Videotaped Interrogations 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who spent nearly 16 years in prison for a killing his brother later admitted to testified for a measure that would require law enforcement to record some interrogations. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement groups oppose the measure, which mandates recorded interrogations of suspects arrested for capital murder, first-degree murder and second-degree murder. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a House committee Thursday heard testimony from Floyd Bledsoe, who was wrongfully convicted in the 1999 murder of Camille Arfmann in Oskaloosa. His brother, Tom, originally admitted to the crime but later recanted his confessions, which were not recorded. Floyd Bledsoe told the committee he might not have been convicted if jurors would've been able to hear his brother confess and hear him maintaining his innocence.


Dispute Between Lawrence, Upscale Hotel Escalates 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A dispute between Lawrence and developers of an upscale hotel located near the University of Kansas campus has escalated. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that city and developers of The Oread hotel slapped each other with notices of default Thursday on their redevelopment agreement. The city says the Oread Inn isn't cooperating, and Oread Inn says the city is withholding tax reimbursements. At stake is $8 million. That's the amount Oread Inn could still generate in city reimbursements if the redevelopment agreement were to stand. Since its creation in 2008, the agreement has brought in $3 million for developers. Issues arose when an audit found that sales tax data within a special taxing district was inflated, leading to tax rebate overpayments. The Oread Inn has repaid about $500,000.


Kansas Seeking Solution to Water Needs of Farmers, Refuge 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials are trying to hammer out a deal to address competing water needs of south-central Kansas irrigators and a national wildlife refuge that's lost considerable water to them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, has been asking Kansas for years to address the fact that hundreds of area farmers have been using water for irrigation that the refuge has prevailing rights to use. An area water manager says reducing access for farmers who are already dealing with limited water raises considerable concern about the economic impact on families and communities. Federal, state and local stakeholders say they're hopeful a solution can be reached that would work for the refuge and irrigators.


1 Person Dead After Amtrak Train Hits Car in Topeka 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a motorist has died after driving into the path of an Amtrak train in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the collision happened early Friday when the motorist drove around a crossing gate. The Shawnee County Sheriff's Department said in a news release that the train then hit the motorist's car. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Sergeant Todd Stallbaumer says a coroner is working identity the body. No one on the train was injured. The crash is under investigation.


K-State Reports 2nd Case of Mumps

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A second case of mumps has been reported at Kansas State University. The university said in a release Thursday that both students with confirmed cases of the mumps live off campus. The university says it's working to contact people who may have had close contact with the infected students. The university says it's asking students to review their vaccination records to see if they have had two measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccinations. Students are also being advised to contact a medical provider if they experience mumps symptoms, which include fever, headache and swollen salivary glands under the ears.


Great Lakes Airline Service Will Return to Salina April 1 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Scheduled air service will return to Salina beginning this spring. Salina Airport Authority officials said Thursday Great Lakes Airlines will fly 12 roundtrips a week between Salina and Denver beginning April 1. The Wyoming-based airline will use 30-seat Embraer EMB-120 turboprop planes. Great Lakes will take over from SeaPort Airlines, which ended its service from Salina to Kansas City last month. Seaport filed for bankruptcy protection last month. The two-year, nearly $2 million service comes under an Essential Air Service contract, which provides funding for airlines serving small airports. The Salina airport officials said in a news release Great Lakes has a code-share agreement with United Airlines, which provides more than 180 connecting flights in Denver. Great Lakes also provides service from Dodge City and Liberal to Denver.


Judge: Kansas City Convention Hotel Proposal Shouldn't Go to Voters 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has denied a public vote on a proposed convention hotel in downtown Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Circuit Judge Jennifer Phillips ruled Thursday against petitioners challenging the hotel financing. She found that the proposed ballot language was vague, conflicted with state law and would have caused the city to be in breach of contract with the hotel developers. Developers want to build a $311 million, 800-room Hyatt hotel just east of the Bartle Hall ballroom. Mike Burke, a Kansas City attorney working with the hotel development team, said it's time for the project to proceed. Petitioners' attorney Jonathan Sternberg says his clients "obviously disagree" with the judge's decision. He says he will talk with them to decide whether to appeal.


Kansas City Proposes $10M Project to Destroy Empty Buildings 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City has created a plan in the city budget to tear down about 800 vacant houses and buildings in struggling neighborhoods in the next two years. The Kansas City Star reports that Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte unveiled the plan Thursday to issue $10 million in bonds for the project, which would be paid off over a decade for about $1.3 million a year. The city is finally able to allocate resources to help the problem because revenue growth is more robust than it's been in years. Kansas City's general fund for basic services is projected to grow nearly 2 percent in the fiscal year to $542 million. The city council will vote on their city budget recommendation in late March. It would take effect May 1.


Kansas City Gang Member Sentenced to 30 Years for Drugs, Gun Possession

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man convicted of federal drug and weapons charges faces considerable prison time after authorities said he also killed five people. Rashawn Long was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in federal prison without parole for illegally possessing a controlled substance and firearms. Sentencing guidelines would have called for about 10 years in prison. The Kansas City Star reports that the judge cited Long's criminal history in tripling Long's sentence. Prosecutors say Long was a gang member who killed five people, including one person he was convicted of killing in 2001. He was released from prison in 2012. Prosecutors say in 2013 he killed four more people, including a woman and her 3-year-old daughter. Charges have only been filed in one of those cases. Long's lawyer says he's appealing.


Man Robs Kansas Convenience Store, Then Turns Himself In

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old man is behind bars after having second thoughts about an early morning convenience store robbery and turning himself in. The Wichita Eagle reports a man walked into a Kwik Shop in northeast Wichita around 2 am Friday, indicated he had a weapon and demanded money from the cash register. Wichita Police Captain Doug Nolte says the employee gave the robber a small amount of cash and the thief left in a black Honda CRV. Soon after that officers at Patrol North noticed a black Honda CRV drive up at the bureau offices. The man was interviewed and booked, and officers found evidence of the robbery in his car.


Former Kansas Coach Who Impregnated Teen Sent to Prison 

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A former southeast Kansas high school coach has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old girl and getting her pregnant. Forty-seven-year-old Larry "Scott" Madden faces lifetime court supervision upon his release under the sentence imposed this week in Cherokee County District Court. The Joplin Globe reports that he also will be required to register as a sex offender. The former coach and physical education teacher at Baxter Springs High School pleaded no contest in November to three criminal counts. Court documents say he began having sex with the girl in 2013 after helping her with softball hitting at a sports training business he operated. DNA testing gave a high probability of him being the father of the baby the girl delivered.


Man Killed in Wichita Drive-By Shooting Identified 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified a 26-year-old man who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Wichita. Wichita Police Department Lieutenant Todd Ojile said Thursday that Bishop Robles was shot several times in the front yard of his friend's house by someone in a blue SUV shortly after arriving at the home with his common-law wife on Wednesday morning. Robles was transported in critical condition to a hospital, where he later died. According to Ojile, two 17-year-old males were arrested Wednesday evening after leading police on a chase in a stolen car matching the description of the shooter's vehicle. They were arrested on outstanding warrants and auto theft charges. Ojile said that it is unclear why Robles had been targeted. An investigation is ongoing.


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