Court of Appeals: State Constitution Protects Right to Abortion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision that the state's constitution protects a woman's right to an abortion independent of the rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. The court made the statement Friday in a 7-7 ruling that maintains a temporary hold on the state's first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester abortion method. Tie votes from the appeals court uphold the lower-court ruling being appealed. That means seven judges agreed with a lower court judge, who ruled that the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights has general statements about personal liberties that create independent protections for abortion rights.
Kansas AG to Appeal Court Ruling on Abortion Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he'll ask the state Supreme Court to review a ruling from a lower court that blocks the state from enforcing its first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure. The Republican attorney general said in a statement that Friday's ruling from the Kansas Court of Appeals provides little legal clarity. The Court of Appeals split 7-7, allowing a trial-court judge's decision against the 2015 law to stand. The split means the Court of Appeals upheld the trial-court judge's finding that the state constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution. Schmidt said he's always anticipated that the Kansas Supreme Court will have to decide the issue.
Abortion Opponents Decry Kansas Court's Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion leader and a top Kansas legislator are dismayed by a Kansas Court of Appeals ruling that blocks enforcement of the state's first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure. David Gittrich of Kansans for Life said his group will work to oust Kansas Court of Appeals judges in elections later this year. Gittrich says the judges aren't accountable to voters, but "they will be accountable to God." Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says he can't imagine a scenario where the framers of the Kansas Constitution meant to legalize abortion. Appeals court judges split 7-7 in a ruling Friday over whether the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution. The split means a lower court judge's injunction blocking the law remains in effect.
Abortion-Rights Group Calls Court Ruling "Groundbreaking"
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national abortion-rights group says the Kansas Court of Appeals has issued a groundbreaking ruling in blocking enforcement of a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights noted that the Friday decision was the first time an appellate court in the conservative state said the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution. The decision was 7-7, allowing a trial-court judge's injunction against the 2015 law to stand. Other abortion rights advocates also hailed the decision. Julie Burkhart, founder of the group Trust Women and the South Wind Women's Center, says she's elated. Burkhart says "women deserve the right to access necessary reproductive health care without undue governmental interference."
Kansas Supreme Court Voids Wichita Marijuana Ordinance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The highest court in Kansas has struck down a Wichita voter-approved ordinance that reduces penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The Kansas Supreme Court issued its ruling Friday. The case has been closely watched by activists in other Kansas communities who are considering similar voter-led initiatives if state lawmakers continue to block reform of marijuana laws. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt argued the ordinance conflicts with state law. Wichita voters approved the ordinance in April, with 54 percent in favor. The city council says it put the measure on the ballot because 3,000 people signed a petition for it. The Supreme Court had earlier put the measure on hold while considering its legality.
Kansas Democrats Back Plan to Shorten Legislative Sessions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats are backing a bill aimed at shortening the Kansas Legislature's annual sessions as part of a package of measures for making state government more open. Democratic lawmakers had a news conference Thursday to highlight what they're calling their good government proposals. The proposals include strengthening open meetings and records law and barring elected officials and Cabinet appointees from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office. Top Democrats are also endorsing a proposal from Democratic Senator Tom Holland of Baldwin City to cut legislators' pay off once they've spent 90 days in session in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years. Holland said the goal is to force legislators to be more efficient in how they handle their work. Last year's session lasted a record 114 days.
Official: Kansas to Seek Recertification of Mental Hospital
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top social services official says Kansas will ask the federal government within six months to recertify one of its two mental hospitals. But interim Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck faced pointed questions Thursday from legislators about staffing at Osawatomie State Hospital. The House and Senate health committees had a joint hearing. The federal government decertified the hospital last month after a critical survey found that the hospital failed to protect suicidal patients, adequately supervise care or perform required safety checks. The survey also cited a report of an employee's rape in October. Keck said the department is hiring a consultant to help regain certification. Legislators from both parties said the hospital needs more staff and were frustrated with the lack of a specific proposal.
Kansas Legislators Pushing Proposals to Repeal Abortion Laws
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Pro-abortion rights Kansas House members plan to introduce three bills aimed at increasing access to reproductive health care. One measure outlined Thursday would repeal laws that prevent women from deducting abortion expenses from their state income taxes and restrict private health insurance coverage of abortions. A second bill would repeal a ban on so-called telemedicine abortions. A third measure promotes the use of reversible contraceptives that can prevent pregnancies for up to 10 years. Republican Representative Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills said the measures are a reaction to attacks on women's right to make health care choices. GOP Governor Sam Brownback and other abortion opponents have argued that Kansas is a leader in helping to create what they call a culture of life.
Fights Prompt Lockdown at Hutchinson Correctional Facility
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The central unit of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility is on lockdown after four separate fights broke out among inmates this week. Corrections officials say no weekend visitors will be allowed for inmates in the central unit. The Hutchinson News reports that the lockdown will last until further notice. Prison officials say two inmates suffered injuries that were not life threatening in the fights. Inmates who weren't injured were placed on administrative segregation. No staff members were injured. Spokesman Jordan Bell says all four fights are believed to be gang-related. No further information on the fights was released.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Bomb Hoax at Kansas City Airport
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has pleaded guilty to a bomb hoax that caused the disruption at the Kansas City International Airport. David James Cain pleaded guilty Thursday to conveying false information. Prosecutors say Cain left his truck parked in front of Terminal B for more than an hour in August 2014. After announcements were made threatening to tow the truck, Cain told several Southwest Airlines employees a bomb was in the vehicle. Police and FBI bomb experts found no explosive materials. The terminal was evacuated for about two hours, causing significant delays for the rest of the day. A sentencing hearing has not been set.
Kansas Senator Blocks Female Witnesses from Wearing Revealing Attire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Senate committee chairman has imposed a dress code for Kansas residents testifying on an elections or ethics bill that prohibits women from wearing certain clothing while establishing no wardrobe restrictions exclusively for men. The Capital-Journal reports that a rule of Senator Mitch Holmes's 11-point code of conduct says "low-cut necklines and miniskirts" are inappropriate for women. Holmes says he offered detailed guidance to women because he had observed provocatively clad women at the Kansas Statehouse. He says it's a distraction to the Senate committee during testimony. A group of bipartisan women senators says no chairman ought to place gender-specific demands on those inspired to share thoughts on public policy with legislative committees. Holmes is a St. John Republican and chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.
Top Kansas Senator Predicts Dress Code Issue Will Be Revisited
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top leader says one of its committees is likely to reconsider a dress code for women imposed by its chairman. Senate President Susan Wagle said the Ethics and Elections Committee will probably discuss the issue when it meets again next week. The Wichita Republican serves on the panel but wasn't present when Chairman and St. John Republican Mitch Holmes outlined rules for the panel. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Holmes's rules included a dress code prohibiting women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. The rules have no dress code for men. A bipartisan group of women senators is criticizing the dress code. Wagle plans to let the committee handle objections to the dress code, saying the legislative process eventually moves toward a consensus.
Report Identifies 815 University Students Who Didn't Meet Minimum Requirements
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A report for the Kansas Board of Regents says a total of 815 students who don't meet minimum admission requirements are enrolled in the state's universities. The report says the exceptions to the standards made up between a fraction of 1 percent up to 7 percent of each university's 2014-2015 in-state freshman class. The exceptions comprised between 1 percent and 10 percent of universities' out-of-state freshmen admissions. The annual report on admissions is forwarded to the Kansas Legislature. The Lawrence Journal-World reports (http://bit.ly/1JouV3b ) Wichita State had the lowest percentage of exceptions, with two-tenths of a percent of in-state freshmen and 1 percent of out-of-state freshman. Fort Hays State University had the highest rate, with 6.9 percent of in-state freshmen and 9.7 percent of out-of-state freshmen.
Thieves Steal Disabled Wichita Woman's Wheelchair Ramp
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a disabled Wichita woman is asking for help after thieves stole the woman's wheelchair ramp from her front porch. Diane Tedrow discovered the $600 ramp missing when she woke up Thursday morning. Her family believes someone took the ramp, which was made of aluminum, to sell for scrap. KAKE-TV reports Tedrow had three strokes that made it difficult for her to use her right leg and to speak. Her goddaughter, Stephanie Rozendal, says the theft was reported to police but the ramp hasn't been located. She says Tedrow can't afford another ramp and feels like she's lost her freedom.
Sedgwick County Zoo Gets Permission to Obtain New Elephant from Africa
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Zoos in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas have received federal approval to bring in new elephants from Africa. KFDI-AM reports the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, the Dallas Zoo in Texas and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska, were part of the joint application. They made the request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The three zoos want to bring a total of 18 elephants from Swaziland to their facilities. Importing the animals would allow the country to make room for critically endangered rhinos that have been threatened by drought conditions. The Sedgwick County Zoo has a new elephant exhibit that will be opening in the spring. The facility is looking to get one male and five female elephants.
Kansas City Coalition Sticks to Approach as Homicides Rise
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Leaders of a Kansas City anti-violent crime coalition say last year's 109 homicides were troubling but not an indication the focused deterrence approach to fighting crime is failing. Two years after the Kansas City No Violence Alliance was formed, the city's homicides dropped to 81 in 2014, which was their lowest point in 42 years. Officials lauded the number but cautioned that the coalition's success couldn't be determined so soon. They're saying the same thing now after last year's homicide count returned to its 10-year average. And so far in 2016, the city has 11 homicides, which is more than it had at this point in previous years. Jackson County (Missouri) Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says the coalition's approach will eventually identify the small percentage of the criminal population committing violent crimes.
Man Accused of Kidnapping, Sexual Assault in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 20-year-old man has been accused of kidnapping a woman at gunpoint in Kansas City and sexually assaulting her with another man. Omar Lopez-Maldonado is charged with assault, sodomy and tampering with a vehicle in the January 9th incident. Court records say the victim was waiting in a car for a friend when two men approached, got into the vehicle and drove away.
Woman Faces New Charges in Blaze That Killed 2 Firefighters
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman who worked at one of the businesses destroyed in a fire that killed two Kansas City firefighters faces additional charges. Forty-three-year-old Thu Hong Nguyen is charged in an indictment returned Friday with causing a catastrophe and two counts of second-degree assault in the Oct. 12 fire. She was charged previously with second-degree murder and first-degree arson. When a wall of a burning building collapsed, 43-year-old Larry Leggio and 39-year-old John Mesh were killed and two other firefighters were hurt. Nguyen is being held on $2 million bond. Her attorney, Bill Shull, said he was "surprised about some of the new allegations" but that he couldn't comment further because he hadn't had a chance to review the new indictment.
Kansas City Fire Victim Identified as 75-Year-Old Woman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 75-year-old woman has been identified as the victim of a house fire in the northern part of Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Ida McKibben died in Wednesday's blaze. An off-duty firefighter who lives nearby rushed inside the house and found McKibben on the kitchen floor. He pulled her outside and his wife, a registered nurse, started resuscitation efforts. McKibben was taken to a hospital but later died. Fire investigators said unattended food caused the fire. The fire started in the kitchen and spread smoke throughout the home.
Kansas City's Jazz Museum Gets New Director
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new executive director has been named for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. The museum says Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner takes over at the museum in early March. Kositany-Buckner was previously the deputy director of the Kansas City Public Library.
Triple Murder Suspect Weds 'Essential' Witness Against Him
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man charged in the shooting deaths of three people, including his 1-year-old son, has married the woman who says she witnessed the killings. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors say they believe the marriage was intended to prevent Shellana Victoria Davis from testifying against Joseph L. Nelson because of the state's spousal privilege law. Nelson is charged with killing his former girlfriend, their son and the woman's current boyfriend in September. The Kansas City Star reports that court documents indicate Davis told police she saw him shoot the victims after he argued with his former girlfriend, 17-year-old Bianca Fletcher. He then allegedly shot the other two victims to eliminate witnesses. The state says in court documents that Davis's witness account was the basis for the felony charges against Nelson.
ISU Fans Get Early Wakeup When Tent Near Arena Catches Fire
AMES, Iowa (AP) — A tent fire meant an early wakeup for Iowa State University students lined up for a basketball game. The Ames Fire Department says firefighters responded about 3:30 am Friday to the fire in a tent outside Hilton Coliseum. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, which was caused by combustible material that was too close to a propane heater inside a tent. No one was injured. The tent was one of many being used by students who have lined up for a Monday night game between 19th ranked Iowa State and the University of Kansas, which is ranked third. Fire officials say that students lined up around the arena have general admission tickets and are hoping to get the best seats to watch the game.