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Headlines for Friday, June 17, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Panels Split over Constitutional Changes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee has settled on the language for a proposed amendment to the state constitution to prevent public schools from being closed as a result of education funding lawsuits. The committee's vote Friday means it will introduce the measure when lawmakers convene next week for a special session on education funding issues. The House Judiciary Committee decided not to introduce the same proposal in its chamber. The proposed amendment is a response to a state Supreme Court order last month warning that schools could remain closed after June 30 if lawmakers didn't revise the state's education funding system. The proposal would prevent both the courts and legislators from closing schools in response to a school funding lawsuit. An amendment would have to be approved by voters.


Kansas Senator's Proposal Would Move Road Funds to Schools 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman is suggesting that lawmakers divert $25 million in highway funds to aid to poor school districts as part of a plan to comply with a recent state Supreme Court order. Republican Senator Jeff King of Independence proposed Friday that lawmakers increase the state's aid to public schools by $38 million for 2016-17 to help poor districts. King said lawmakers could divert $25 million set aside for an upgrade of U.S. 69 in southeast Kansas to school aid. Brownback's administration previously delayed the upgrade but announced recently it would go forward. The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts and warned schools could remain closed after June 30 without further fixes.


Kansas Lawmaker's Plan Would Cut School Spending 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  While most Kansas lawmakers are arguing over increasing state aid to public schools, one House member would eventually cut it 20 percent. Republican Representative John Rubin of Shawnee said Friday that he'll propose an amendment to the state constitution to limit aid to public schools to 45 percent of the total spending financed with general tax revenues. Rubin contends that Kansas spends too much on its schools and diverts money from other critical needs such as prisons and social services. The current spending percentage tops 50 percent. If Rubin's amendment were in effect now, education funding would be cut more than $700 million for 2016-17. Rubin plans to pursue his proposal during a special session next week for addressing a recent state Supreme Court order on education funding.


Kansas Senator References 1859 School Aid System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker has stirred up the debate over education funding with a brief history lesson about school finance and the state's founding. Republican Senator Greg Smith of Overland Park distributed a computer run showing how state aid to school districts would have been distributed under language on public education originally included in the state constitution in 1859. Voters adopted the current education article as an amendment in 1966. The original language distributed the state's funds "in equitable proportion" to the number residents between 5 to 21 years old. Using the 1859 method, the Wichita school district would lose $21.4 million in aid and the Kansas City, Kansas, district would lose $33 million. Meanwhile, the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County would gain a total of $67.5 million.


Kansas Panels Avoid Specifics on School Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas legislative committees have avoided endorsing specific recommendations for attempting to satisfy a recent state Supreme Court ruling on education funding. The House and Senate Judiciary committees convened a joint meeting Friday to consider potential responses to the court's ruling last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. But the committees voted separately to forward the testimony they gathered and a summary of their discussions to both chambers' budget committees when lawmakers convene a special session next week. Governor Sam Brownback called the special session to respond to the court's order. The justices warned that public schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make changes by then. Some lawmakers want to boost education funding by $38 million for 2016-17.


Kansas Chamber CEO Says No New Dollars Needed for State Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce is telling legislators that they're not required to increase spending to satisfy the state Supreme Court's latest ruling on education funding. Chamber CEO Mike O'Neal testified Thursday that legislators could direct the State Department of Education to shift unused funds among school districts to cover additional aid for poor school districts. The House and Senate judiciary committees were meeting to discuss potential responses to the Supreme Court's order last month that the education funding system be changed to help poor districts. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special session for June 23. Brownback has embraced a plan to boost state aid to schools by $38 million for the 2016-17 school year. Groups representing school boards and administrators also endorsed the idea.


Kansas Lawmakers Inquire About Lawsuits in Other States 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A Kansas legislative researcher says the only known instance in which a court has shut down a state's schools as part of an education funding lawsuit occurred in New Jersey in the 1970s. Researcher Lauren Douglass discussed school finance lawsuits in other states during a joint meeting Thursday of the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary committees. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special legislative session for June 23 to respond to a recent state Supreme Court order on education funding. The court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts and warned that schools won't be able to reopen after June 30 unless legislators make further changes. Douglass said New Jersey's schools were closed for eight days after a ruling from its Supreme Court in 1975.


Johnson County Leaders Back $50 Million Plan for Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Five school districts and nine chambers of commerce in Johnson County have endorsed a plan for increasing state aid to Kansas' public schools by $50 million for 2016-17. Superintendents and chamber of commerce representatives had a news conference Thursday in Overland Park as two legislative committees wrapped up a joint meeting on school funding issues in Topeka. The state Supreme Court declared last month that the state's school funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. It warned that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30 without further changes. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special legislative session for June 23. He has embraced a $38 million fix. But Johnson County districts would see a net loss of $4.5 million in aid under that plan.


Education Groups Oppose Changing Kansas Constitution 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Education groups in Kansas oppose proposals to amend the state constitution to prevent the courts from threatening to close schools in funding lawsuits. Representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards, Game On for Kansas Schools and Kansas Families for Education testified Thursday against proposed amendments during a joint hearing of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees. They said such amendments would prevent the courts from enforcing orders to improve education funding. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King outlined two proposals in response to a recent state Supreme Court order declaring that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The court is threatening to keep schools closed after June 30 if lawmakers don't make further changes. Republican lawmakers have decried the threat.


Journal-World Being Sold After 125 Years of Family Ownership 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas daily newspaper that has been owned by the same family for nearly 125 years is being sold to a different family-owned operation based in West Virginia. Lawrence Journal-World Editor Dolph C. Simons Jr. on Friday announced the pending sale to Ogden Newspapers Inc., which publishes 40 daily newspapers, several magazines, weekly newspapers and shoppers guides in 14 states. The Journal-World reports Ogden's Kansas holdings include Topeka-based Cappers, Grit and Mother Earth News magazines. The Simons family has owned the Lawrence newspaper since Wilford Collins Simons launched the Lawrence Journal in March 1892, acquired the Lawrence World in 1905 and merged the two in 1911. The sale also includes weekly newspapers in Shawnee and Tonganoxie, more than a dozen websites and Sunflower Publishing, which produces niche publications.


Harris Enterprises Seeks Buyer for Six Newspapers 
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Harris Enterprises has announced plans to sell its six newspapers. John Montgomery, vice president of Harris Enterprises and publisher of The Hutchinson News, announced Friday that the company's newspapers are up for sale. The Hutchinson-based company said it has hired a firm to sell the chain. Bruce Buchanan, president of Harris Enterprises, said in a release that the owners hope to sell all six newspapers as a group, but that it may be necessary to deal with more than one buyer. Harris family involvement in the newspaper business began in 1907 when Ralph Harris bought The Ottawa Herald. In addition to the Herald and The Hutchinson News, the family-owned company also owns the Salina Journal, The Garden City Telegram, The Hays Daily News and The Burlington (Iowa) Hawk Eye.


Judge Reiterates Kansas Secretary of State Unable to Encumber Voting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge is standing by his earlier ruling that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has no legal right to bar people who register to vote using a federal form from voting in local and state elections. This week, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis rejected Kobach's request to reconsider his January decision, which came after the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission required proof-of-citizenship on the national voter registration form in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. The court previously said the right to vote under Kansas law is not tied to the method of registration. It is unclear what impact the ruling will have on Kobach's instructions this week to allow thousands of people who register at motor vehicle offices without citizenship documents to vote only in federal races.


Most State University Leaders Won't Receive Raises in Fiscal Year 2017
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has voted not to raise the salaries of five of the six state university CEOs for fiscal 2017. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the board also voted Thursday to raise the base salary of Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott by 2 percent. His raise will come in the form of deferred compensation. Scott is the state's most-senior university CEO. All university CEOs received 2 percent increases to their salaries last year but they said at the time that they would donate their raises back to their universities, citing budgetary challenges.


AP Files Open-Records Lawsuit Against Johnson County 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Associated Press says in a lawsuit that a Kansas county wrongly has withheld public records involving alleged fiscal misconduct by the county's former elections chief, who later took a top U.S. elections job. Filed Thursday in Johnson County District Court, the lawsuit names the county's governing board as defendants. The AP is seeking emails under the state's open-records law related to Brian Newby's role as county election commissioner before he took a job in November as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's executive director. An audit released after Newby's departure from Kansas uncovered alleged misuse of thousands of dollars in public funds and raised questions about his management of the office. Newby has called the audit "inaccurate, incomplete and misleading." A Johnson County spokeswoman declined comment Thursday, citing the pending litigation.


Court Records: Maize School District Lost at Least $1 Million in Scheme 

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — The former technology director for the Maize school system is among those accused in an ongoing lawsuit of defrauding the central Kansas district of more than $1 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office filed the civil case in 2014, although it wasn't unsealed until this year. It stemmed from a federal investigation into a fraud, money laundering and kickback scheme that spanned more than five years and involved several vendors that were paid more than $4 million for technology-related services. The investigation focused on former district employee Ramon Mosate, who committed suicide last year. The case seeks the forfeiture of a lavish northwest Wichita home previously owned by Mosate, about $80,000 in cash from a safe deposit box and about $5,400 in his checking account.


New Tribute to Fallen Soldiers to be Dedicated in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new tribute to fallen soldiers will be honored at a war memorial in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a statue titled "Homage" will be dedicated Saturday morning at the Gage Park War Memorial. The statue depicts a soldier paying respect to a fallen comrade next to a rifle, helmet and boots on the ground. Sculptor Jim Brothers created the statue. He's known for the Eisenhower Statue in the U.S. Capitol's Hall of Statues, the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia, the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall and a statue of Gen. Omar Bradley. Other events in the area during the dedication include a USO show at the Gage Park Amphitheater and performances by Marshall's Band, the Fairlawn Road Swing Band, the Topeka Police Department, and Pipe and Drum Corps.


University of Kansas Assistant Prof Alleges Anti-German Discrimination 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A fired University of Kansas assistant professor is claiming anti-German discrimination and a hostile work environment in a civil rights lawsuit against the school. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Catherine Joritz is asking the court to reinstate her in the suit filed this week in Douglas County District Court. Issues arose when students in a spring 2014 basic video course complained about her. The suit said that student evaluations that became part of her permanent record made "angry, aggressive, anti-German comments" such as that she was a "Nazi sympathizer." The suit said one member of her tenure review committee cited Joritz's German background as a reason for the negative comments. University of Kansas spokesman Joe Monaco declined to discuss the case, noting that the litigation is pending.


17-Year-Old to Face Trial as Adult in Topeka Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A judge has ruled that a 17-year-old can be tried as an adult in a Topeka killing. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the decision to move the case against Christopher Shawn Pattillo to adult court was made Thursday in Shawnee County. Patillo was 16 in April when Brian Miller was fatally shot. Pattillo initially was charged in juvenile court with first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege Pattillo drove a van from which a gunman fired shots at two people. A second suspect also is jailed in the killing. Patillo's mother, Kimberly Hendrix, testified that her son has had a "hard life." The teen's father, also named Christopher Shawn Pattillo, is serving a sentence of 22 years and eight months in prison in the 2003 shooting death of a 36-year-old man.


Chinese Citizen Faces Federal Charges in Missouri 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal authorities have charged a Chinese citizen in connection with a software piracy case filed in Kansas City. Wen Tao Liu is accused of conspiring with other people convicted previously of trafficking in counterfeit computer software products and access codes. He faces charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and trafficking in illicit labels. The Kansas City Star reports Liu was arrested Thursday in Texas, where he made his initial court appearance. Court records don't list a lawyer for Liu, who's also known as Orland Liu. Prosecutors accuse him of serving as a primary supply source for unauthorized computer software products obtained in China and sold in the U.S. by conspirators since at least 2010. The office of the U.S. attorney for western Missouri says the investigation is ongoing.


Train Hits, Kills Man in Newton 

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and killed a man in central Kansas. The Newton Kansan reports that the man was killed Friday morning in Newton. Police say investigators are working to identify the man who had no identification with him when he died. The Kansas Highway Patrol is assisting with the investigation.


Officials Warn of Toxic Algae Levels in Several Kansas Lakes 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials are warning people of toxic levels of blue-green algae in several lakes. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued health warnings for Cheney Lake in south-central Kansas, the Sebelius Reservoir in northwest Kansas and the Marion Reservoir in central Kansas. The health warning for the Marion Reservoir does not include Marion County Lake. Officials say people, pets and livestock should not drink the water and should avoid swimming, wading or skiing. A less-serious advisory also was issued for McLaughlin Lake in south-central Kansas.


Second Teen to Stand Trial as Adult in Missouri Killing 

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A second teenager has been ordered to stand trial as an adult in the fatal stabbing of a suburban Kansas City woman. The Kansas City Star ( ) reports that 14-year-old Joshua Trigg, of Lee's Summit, was certified Thursday to be tried as an adult on a first-degree murder charge. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Trigg and a 15-year-old boy are accused of killing 43-year-old Tanya Chamberlain of Lee's Summit on November 1. Police say the victim was at a car wash when two people approached her, entered her car with her and drove off. According to courtroom testimony, Chamberlain was stabbed or cut 49 times in the face, neck, back, forearms and hands. The boys were 13- and 14- years old at the time of the killing.


KC Couple Charged with Raping Children, Taking Pictures of Crime

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County, Missouri prosecutors have charged a 52-year-old woman and a 62-year-old man with raping two children, a boy and a girl, both less than 14-years-old.  According to FOX 4 News in Kansas City, the children say Bob Bess touched them, raped them, while his wife Jamie Bess, took pictures.  The girl says Bob Bess raped her and that Jamie Bess took pictures of her naked body on Bob Bess's cell phone. The boy said Bob fondled the boy’s privates numerous times.  Robert Bess was arrested and read his Miranda Rights. Police say he denied the allegations and said the children were lying. He then invoked his right to remain silent.  Robert Bess is charged with rape and child molestation.  Jamie Bess is charged with rape and sexual exploitation.  Bond was set at $100,000 cash-only. If released on bond, they are to have no contact with children under 17-years-old. Their next court date is scheduled for July 5.


Kansas Man Charged in Octopus-in-Throat Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man is charged with felony child endangerment in connection with a small octopus found wedged in the throat of his girlfriend's toddler in April. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County prosecutors charged 36-year-old Matthew Gallagher on Thursday. The criminal complaint alleges that Gallagher "unlawfully and recklessly" caused or allowed the 2-year-old boy "to be placed in a situation in which the child's life, body or health" is at risk. Gallagher made an initial court appearance Thursday with his attorney, whose name was not immediately available. Gallagher was later freed on bond. Police have said the boy's mother told investigators she returned home from work April 5 and found Gallagher performing CPR on her son. The boy was later released from the hospital.


Items Connected to Wichita Gangster Shooting Given to Museum 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Items connected to a 1920s shootout between a notorious gangster and two law enforcement officers have been donated to the Wichita/Sedgwick County Historical Museum. The Wichita Eagle reports  that gangster Eddie Adams fatally shot Wichita Police detective Charles Hoffman on November 23, 1921. Officer Charles Bowman was also fatally struck by gunfire before Adams was killed by Detective D.C. Stuckey. The gun Stuckey used to kill Adams, and other items the detective carried with him, including brass knuckles and a mugshot booklet called "Detecting Made Easy," will be made public for first time in a new exhibit by the end of June. Adams had escaped from Lansing State Prison before eventually making his way to Wichita, where the shootout happened. Stuckey died in 1978 at age 86.


Deer Rescued from Backyard Pool in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A deer has been rescued from a backyard pool in Kansas City after it was discovered by the home's two dogs. The Kansas City Star reports that resident Heidi Martin-Parrish called 911 around 1:15 am Tuesday after the dogs led her to the nearly empty pool, where she heard splashing. Officers arrived and discovered a deer in the pool. An animal control officer told the officers via telephone to put down rugs or carpets to allow the deer to get traction on the pool's angled sides, but that plan didn't work. The animal control officer arrived around 2:15 am and the officers spent about 40 minutes trying to coax the deer out. Firefighters ended up using ladders and lassos to pull the deer free around 8:30 am.


Kansas City Judge Fines Walgreens $309,000 in Pricing Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's attorney general says a Kansas City judge has ordered Walgreens to pay $309,000 for violating an agreement between the drugstore chain and the state over allegedly deceptive pricing. Chris Koster says a Jackson County (Missouri) judge assessed a $1,000 penalty Friday for each of the 309 times it was found to have left sales tags on the shelves after the sales period ended. Koster says that was in violation of a 2014 deal mean to halt suspected overcharging of customers. That consent agreement barred Walgreens from leaving expired sales tags on display more than 12 hours from the time the offer expired. But Koster has alleged the problem persisted, leading to Friday's court action. Messages seeking comment were left Friday with Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.


Royals Lose to Detroit Tigers,10-4

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Detroit's Victor Martinez matched a career-best with three home runs, the Tigers pounded six as a team and Detroit sailed to a 10-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals Thursday night to open their four-game series. Martinez hit a pair of solo shots and Nick Castellanos went deep before James McCann homered off Royals reliever Luke Hochevar (1-1) leading off the seventh to knot the game 4-all. Cabrera followed moments later with a two-run shot that gave the Tigers their first lead of the game. Detroit added three more runs in the eighth before Martinez hit his third homer in the ninth. The veteran designated hitter's other three-homer game came on July 16, 2004, at Seattle. The Tigers' Justin Verlander (7-5) allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings, continuing his mastery of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Verlander improved to 13-5 in 22 starts in the ballpark.

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