Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A divided Kansas Supreme Court has upheld a man's death sentence in the 2004 slayings of a woman and her boyfriend. The Wichita Eagle reports the 4-3 ruling Friday let stand the Barton County sentence of Sidney Gleason in the killings of Mikiala "Miki" Martinez and Darren Wornkey. The Kansas court had overturned Gleason's sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned that decision and ordered Kansas' high court to review Gleason's case. On Friday, the Kansas court's majority rejected Gleason's claim that his sentence was unconstitutional because it was more severe than the sentence of 25 years to life that accomplice Damien Thompson got. Martinez was a potential witness against Gleason in a previous robbery in which he was involved.
Kansas Health System Seeks Exemption from Concealed Carry
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Health System is seeking an exemption from a state law that that would allow adults to carry concealed handguns in its medical school and attached hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. Officials from the health system testified Thursday before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. Without the exemption, the hospital and medical school will be required to allow concealed weapons in its buildings on July 1, unless it provides security measures. Hospital officials and the chief of the hospital police force testified for the exemption, saying allowing guns would make the hospital less safe, not more secure. But some lawmakers raised concerns about taking concealed carry rights away from 10,000 employees and suggested the exemption was too broad.
Lawrence Plans to Expand Concealed Carry Exemption
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A resolution exempting Lawrence from the state's concealed carry law until January 2018 still stands, even though an amendment with a closer expiration date was added last year. Assistant City Attorney Maria Garcia tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the resolution was submitted before the amendment's July 2017 expiration date was added to the law, so the exemption will continue for another 11 months. Universities and municipalities were allowed to submit resolutions declaring an exemption to the state concealed-carry law that took effect in July 2013. The concealed carry law allows people to have concealed firearms in public buildings that don't already provide security measures.
Washburn Regents Delay Vote on Concealed Carry
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Washburn University Board of Regents is delaying a vote on a concealed weapons policy, which is scheduled to take effect July 1. At a meeting Thursday, Regent Brent Boles suggested the vote be postponed until an April meeting to see if the Kansas Legislature acts on a bill that would reinstate a ban on weapons on university campuses. The bill is currently stalled in a Kansas Senate committee. A new law requires the state's universities allow anyone 21 and over to carry concealed handguns on campuses beginning in July 1. The universities currently are discussing plans for enacting the law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that other Washburn regents wanted to see more details of the school's policy and the financial implications before voting on the issue.
Kansas Secretary of State Presses for Immigration Enforcement Bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking lawmakers to pass two measures that he says will help fight illegal immigration. Republican state Representative John Whitmer, of Wichita, introduced two proposals in a House committee Thursday at Kobach's request. Republican state Senator Caryn Tyson, of Parker, introduced identical versions in a Senate committee. One measure would bar cities and counties from adopting sanctuary policies protecting immigrants in the country illegally and would require their cooperation with federal immigration and customs authorities. A similar bill got a hearing in a House committee last year but did not make it to the House floor. The other bill would require the Kansas Highway Patrol to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the ``enforcement of federal immigration laws, detentions and removals, and related investigations.''
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Strengthening Open Government Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two bills before a Kansas Senate committee would make government meetings and records more accessible to the public. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard the bills Thursday. One bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Marci Francisco of Lawrence and Republican Senator Molly Baumgartner of Louisburg, clarifies a law that requires government bodies to justify going into private meetings. The reason for the private meeting would have to be recorded in public minutes. The other bill reduces how much government entities can charge for public records. It caps the price per page and requires staff time be charged at the lowest hourly rate for a qualified employee. Committee Chairman Jacob LaTurner says the bills will be discussed next week. LaTurner has advocated for legislation that would curb the costs of getting public records.
Official Says Kansas Will Explore Building New State Prison
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas corrections secretary says the state is exploring the possibility of building a new state prison on the site of its largest lockup for adult inmates. Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood said Thursday that the Department of Corrections plans to solicit proposals for the construction of a new prison in Lansing. Department of Corrections spokesman Todd Fertig said the plan is to mothball historic, maximum-security units of the prison built in the 1860s and to raze lower-security units of the prison built more recently. The department is not saying how it would finance the new prison. Norwood said the project would be "budget neutral," with savings from more efficient operations covering new costs. The Lansing prison has space for about 2,400 inmates and is currently near its capacity.
Company to Bring Distribution Plant, 315 Jobs to Kansas
EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A Wisconsin-based hardware and home improvement company plans to consolidate two distribution plants into a single facility in Edgerton. The Kansas Commerce Department says the move by Spectrum Brands Hardware and Home Improvement will bring 315 jobs to Kansas. The department said Friday that Spectrum will consolidate existing distribution centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Mira Loma, California, into one distribution building in Edgerton. Spectrum says it will begin transitioning operations immediately and plans to start receiving inventory in Edgerton in March and will start shipping out of Edgerton in April.
Cowley College Accepts $15,000 Degree Program Challenge
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A community college has accepted Governor Sam Brownback's challenge to develop a degree that costs only $15,000. Brownback and Cowley County Community College officials announced Friday that the Arkansas City school will try to develop a program that would lead to a $15,000 degree. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the proposal would require students to complete two years of courses at Cowley County while still in high school, then transfer to Fort Hays State University. However, the Legislature still has to appropriate scholarship funding and tuition rates haven't been set for Fort Hays. Brownback issued the challenge in his State of the State speech in January. He said he would award $1 million in scholarships to the first Kansas college or university to set up such a program.
Kansas Leaders Don't Want Lesser Prairie Chicken Listed as Endangered
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three top Kansas officials are asking the federal government not to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey made the request in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The Hutchinson News reports that the officials argue relisting the species as threatened or endangered would hurt Kansas' economy and agricultural industry. They also said it would impede Kansas' right to control how its land is used. The species was removed from the endangered species list in July 2016. Later that year, the service began to reassess the species' status after three environmental groups filed a new listing petition. That assessment is expected to be completed this summer.
Former Kansas Church Pastor Pleads Guilty to Abuse of 2 Children
PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — A church pastor and longtime eastern Kansas homeless shelter director has admitted that he sexually abused two children. The Kansas City Star reports that 58-year-old Jay Preston on Thursday pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated liberties with a child. Under his plea agreement, attorneys will recommend a prison sentence of 13 years. Preston was charged last July with the lewd fondling or touching of two children who were born in 2008 and 2006. He was pastor of Grace Revolution Church of the Nazarene and president and CEO of My Father's House, a homeless shelter in Paola. He was suspended from the church and shelter after his arrest.
Northeast Kansas House Fire Kills 86-Year-Old Man
VERMILLION, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say an 86-year-old man was killed during a fire in his northeastern Kansas home. WIBW-TV reports that Donald Jacobson died at the scene of the blaze early Thursday near tiny Vermillion. Jacobson's son managed to escape unharmed. WIBW reports that state fire investigators determined the fire's cause to be accidental.
Former Great Bend Coach Charged with Sexual Exploitation
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) - A former Great Bend High School track coach is charged with one count of sexual exploitation of a child. Barton County prosecutors charged 55-year-old Todd Kaiser on Thursday. Kaiser was arrested June 6 after investigators received a report of abuse against a juvenile. Barton County authorities say they served a search warrant for electronic media and the case involves sexting. Kaiser taught physical education and coached in the Great Bend District for 29 years. Kaiser posted a $50,000 bond after being booked in Barton County Jail. His first court appearance is scheduled for March 6.
Royals, Herrera Agree to $5,325,000 Deal, Avoid Arbitration
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals and closer Kelvin Herrera have agreed to a $5,325,000, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with one of the top relievers in baseball. Herrera can also earn $50,000 for making the All-Star Game, which he has done the past two seasons. The 27-year-old right-hander is assuming the closer job after the Royals traded Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs this offseason. But Herrera has plenty of experience in the role, saving 12 games last season when Davis was dealing with some lingering injuries. Herrera has a 2.63 ERA over parts of six seasons, and has appeared in at least 70 games each of the past three. His strikeout-to-walk ratio last season was also the best of his career. Kansas City has signed all of its arbitration-eligible players for this season.