Kansas Lawmakers Push to End Governor's Business Tax Cut
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A push in Kansas to end an income tax break promoted by Governor Sam Brownback is being led by fellow Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature. A state House committee held a hearing Thursday on a bill that would repeal a 2012 policy that benefited more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. The Republican chairman of the committee backs the repeal bill and the measure has bipartisan support. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through July 2019. It has struggled to balance its budget since the state legislature slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 in an effort to stimulate the economy. Kansas is one of several states, including Indiana and Oklahoma, where budget problems are severe enough that legislators are reconsidering past tax cuts.
Federal Officials Fault Kansas' Privatized Medicaid Program
The federal government is criticizing KanCare, the state's privatized Medicaid program. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that the state's program is "substantively out of compliance." Issues cited include a failure to adequately oversee the companies that the state contracts to provide managed care for the health care program that covers the poor. The letter gave the state until February 17 to submit a corrective plan for the program, which has an annual cost of about $3.4 billion. The letter said that failing to address the issues could lead to "financial sanctions." Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer said in a statement Thursday that the federal agency's letter was a politically-motivated "parting shot" from the outgoing Obama administration.
Kansas Financial Aid in Budget Would Trail Inflation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Under the recommended budget by Governor Sam Brownback, per-pupil state financial aid to Kansas public schools would trail inflation in the current fiscal year and following two fiscal years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Association of School Boards says appropriations between 2009 and 2019 would result in an increase of about $200 million over that time period. KASB says the 0.5 percent annual rise was not enough to cover inflation, student enrollment growth or changing educational needs. Brownback has urged legislators to develop a K-12 school finance formula relying on student outcomes. He says the state should measure success by student achievement and not by dollars spent.
Some GOP Lawmakers in Kansas Looking to Cut School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some top Republican legislators in Kansas are looking to cut aid to public schools significantly to close a shortfall in the state's current budget by June 30. Their goal is to avoid the accounting moves proposed by GOP Governor Sam Brownback and used in the past to cover budget holes. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn said Friday that she's working on a bill to cut spending to close the projected $342 million shortfall in the state's current budget. The Sedgwick Republican said she hopes to have it drafted next week. She said her proposal is likely to reduce aid to public schools by between $90 million and $125 million. Senate Majority Leader and Overland Park Republican Jim Denning suggested that schools could withstand a $200 million cut.
Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Law Ending Tenure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge from the state's largest teachers union to a 2014 law ending guaranteed tenure in the state's public schools. The court ruled unanimously Friday that lawmakers didn't practice logrolling when they passed the bill. Logrolling is the practice of including several topics in one bill, and the state constitution prohibits legislative bills from having more than one subject. The Kansas National Education Association filed a lawsuit claiming that the portion of the bill ending tenure violated the rule because the full measure dealt with both spending and general education policy. The court said they were sufficiently related to remain in the same bill. The decision upheld a Shawnee County judge's ruling that the law did not violate the one-subject rule.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill to Fix Psychiatrist Shortage
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at increasing access to mental health services in rural areas. The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony on the bill Thursday. It would approve loans for medical students who agree to practice psychiatry in rural counties in Kansas. The state's larger counties, Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte are not included in the offer. The state already provides loans for students who agree to practice primary care. Testimony from the Kansas Psychiatric Society says all but five counties have shortages of mental health professionals. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck says the bill could also help address staffing shortages at the state's mental health hospitals, Larned and Osawatomie.
Rupture That Spilled Oil in Kansas Leads to Settlement with Pipeline Company
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A subsidiary of Magellan Midstream Partners will complete $16 million in upgrades to pipelines and pay a $2 million fine as part of a federal settlement following pipeline ruptures in three states including Kansas. Federal officials say that the first incident occurred in February 2011, when a pipeline carrying petroleum ruptured north of Texas City, Texas, spilling hundreds of gallons. Later that year two lines ruptured near Nemaha, Nebraska, causing more than 2,800 gallons of diesel and jet fuel to spill. The third leak spilled about 1,800 gallons of diesel near El Dorado, Kansas in May 2015. Magellan is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Friends Pray for Safe Return of Missing College Student
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Friends of a missing University of Missouri-Kansas City student are praying for her safe return. The Wichita Eagle reports that a candlelight vigil for 20-year-old Toni Anderson was held Thursday night at a church in her hometown of Wichita. Anderson was last seen early Sunday when she was pulled over by a Missouri police officer for an improper lane change. The officer watched Anderson, who was alone in the car, drive to a nearby convenience store. She texted a childhood friend about being pulled over and hasn't communicated with anyone since then. Anderson worked as a server at Chrome, a strip club in Kansas City, Missouri. Anderson's car was a black 2014 Ford Focus with Kansas license plate 989-GAX. She is white, about 5-feet-4-inches tall and 140 pounds.
Report: Little Industrial Space for Lawrence Job Growth
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A recent report from a real estate agency says a lack of industrial inventory in Lawrence is hurting the city's prospective job growth. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Colliers International presented the market report Thursday, saying there are only 14 vacant industrial spaces in the city. According to the report the year-end industrial vacancy rate for 2016 was 2.3 percent, making it difficult for potential businesses to take shape and existing businesses to expand. Panelist Tim Cowden says the lack of already built space in Lawrence makes the city less competitive with other areas. The report also lists some positives about the city that boosts economy such as its schools, parks and neighborhoods.
3 Men Charged in Kansas with Smuggling Meth
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Three men from Mexico are charged with smuggling more than 1,000 pounds of liquid methamphetamine into northeast Kansas in the gas tank of a semi-trailer truck. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said the men, all from Mexico, appeared in court Thursday and were each charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The defendants are 30-year-old Heraclio Estrella-Montero; 30-year-old Yoan Alejandro Castillo-Zamora; and 40-year-old Fernando Chavez-Rodriquez. Beall's office says the men were arrested in Kansas City, Kansas, on Friday after pumping the liquid drug from the truck into five-gallon buckets. If convicted, they face a penalty of not less than 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $10 million.
Kansas City Man Charged in Stabbing Death
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas City man has been charged in the 2013 death of a 22-year-old man whose brother found him suffering from stab wounds in his bed. Twenty-four-year-old John Seger was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of Corey Laykovich, of Independence, Missouri. Bond is set at $250,000. Authorities say Laykovich walked to his Independence home after he was stabbed. His brother said he went to check on Laykovich after hearing him breathing heavily. Laykovich was suffering from a large cut to the side of his neck and to his abdomen. Police says Seger told investigators that Laykovich pulled a knife on him during an argument. Seger said the stabbing happened during a struggle.
Pretty Prairie Misses Chance at Federal Grant to Fix Water
PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) _ The city of Pretty Prairie has lost out on a federal grant to help clean up a decade-old problem with high nitrates in its water. The Hutchinson News reports that a technicality derailed the city's application for a $500,000 grant to install a reverse osmosis system. The city sought Community Development Block Grant funds, which are federal dollars distributed by the state. City officials had said the project would be on hold if the grant wasn't received. Regulations required the city to have two public hearings before September 15. The city was unaware of the deadline and held its second public hearing September 20. The next application period for the funds will be in the fall.
KU Vice Chancellor Announced as Preferred Candidate for Western Kentucky Job
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Western Kentucky University's Board of Regents is considering an official from the University of Kansas to become the university's next president. The WKU board said that University of Kansas Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Timothy Caboni is its "preferred candidate" for the job. Caboni, a Western Kentucky alumnus, has been invited to visit campus on January 25 and January 26. The board will discuss extending a formal offer to Caboni at its quarterly meeting on January 27. Caboni acts as the official spokesman for the University of Kansas and is also a professor of educational leadership and policy in the university's School of Education. The New Orleans native holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in higher education leadership and policy.
University President's Residence to Be Torn Down
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Parts of the residence of Emporia State University's president will be sold at Topeka's Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the 1960 house will be torn down and replaced with a new university house. Salvageable items of the house such as doors, windows and fixtures will be donated to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. The Emporia State University Foundation Board found in a 2015 review that the house lacked acceptable separation between public and private space, required critical infrastructure updates and had limited functionality. The new home will feature both private and public spaces.
Missouri Man Charged in Death of Man Found Stabbed in Bed
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas City man has been charged in the 2013 death of a 22-year-old man whose brother found him suffering from stab wounds in his bed. Twenty-four-year-old John Seger was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of Corey Laykovich, of Independence. Bond is set at $250,000. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. The probable cause statement says Laykovich walked to his Independence home after he was stabbed. His brother said he went to check on Laykovich after hearing him breathing heavily. Laykovich was suffering from a large cut to the side of his neck and to his abdomen. The statement says Seger told police that Laykovich pulled a knife on him during an argument. Seger said the stabbing happened during a struggle.
Cab Driver Charged After Fatal Polk County Crash
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines cab driver has been charged with vehicular homicide for a crash that killed one Kansas man and injured another. Authorities say 29-year-old Mohamed Diriye also is charged with second-offense operating while intoxicated. Online court records don't list an attorney who could comment for him. The crash occurred shortly before 4 am Thursday, when the cab ran off a road into a ravine. The Polk County Sheriff's Office says 49-year-old Shawn Koltiska, of Augusta, Kansas, died in the crash. Another passenger was injured: 48-year-old Joseph Foster, of Garden Plain, Kansas. He was taken to a hospital. Diriye was treated and released.