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Headlines for Friday, March 21, 2014


Kansas House Speaker Seeks New School Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick is promising a new measure to fund public schools but without language to expand the state's charter school laws that was included in a version introduced late Thursday. Merrick says in a statement Friday that the bill that would have created new public charter schools and oversight was not the agreement that he had reached in negotiations with Senate President Susan Wagle and Governor Sam Brownback. The three top Republicans had agreed on a measure that would satisfy a March 7 Kansas Supreme Court ruling and increase spending by $129 million in the next fiscal year. The court found two funds aimed at providing aid to poor school districts were unconstitutional and needed to be equalized to put those districts on better financial ground.

Plan to Bring KS into Health Compact Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that would bring the state into a compact with other states hoping to become exempt from the federal health care overhaul. The House's voice vote Friday advanced the measure to another that is expected Monday. That final action will determine whether the bill goes to the Senate. The measure also would let participating states remove themselves from other federal health regulations if Congress consents. Many Republican lawmakers strongly oppose the federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama and see it as intrusive and burdensome. Critics call the measure symbolic and say Congress wouldn't approve such a compact. A Texas-based group is pushing the compact and says eight other states have enacted similar laws, including Missouri.

Kansas Committee Votes Against Renewable Energy Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has voted to repeal the state's renewable energy standards. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the measure would repeal the 2009 Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, which required major utility companies to have the capacity to generate 10 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2011. It also called for the companies to generate 15 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. The Senate Utilities Committee approved the measure repealing the standards Thursday. Renewable energy advocates said repealing the standards would hurt the state's ability to recruit industries that say an RPS helps provide a reliable and equitably priced energy source. State Senator Rob Olson, R-Olathe, however said the standards are to blame for increased electric costs.

Kansas Committee Changes Records Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has made major changes to a measure that sought to make it easier for the public to get documents used to justify police searches and arrests. As originally written, the bill would have presumed that affidavits to obtain search and arrest warrants are open records after the warrants are executed. Lawyers would have to prove such documents should be sealed or redacted. Kansas is one of the few states that seal probable-cause affidavits. But in the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Greg Smith on Thursday came up with amendments that would separate out the arrest warrant affidavits and continue to seal them as in current law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Representative John Rubin, who sponsored the original bill, said Thursday he'll work to debate the changes.

Panel Votes to Repeal KS Endangered Species Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has voted to repeal the state's 39-year-old endangered species law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the vote came Thursday as the Senate Natural Resources Committee was considering a bill to remove two snakes from state protection. The committee's Republican chairman, Larry Powell of Garden City, inserted an amendment repealing the entire 1975 Kansas law, then placed the language into a unrelated bill already approved by the state House. Powell says the endangered species law has cost the state economic development opportunities. The law puts the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in charge of identifying and undertaking appropriate conservation measures for endangered species. The Audubon Society of Kansas criticized Powell's move as a "stealth attack" on conservation of state-designated threatened and endangered species.

KS Bill Seeks to Raise Lawmakers' Pay

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new proposal in the Kansas House would raise legislative pay by about $10,000 a year. Under the bill introduced by Representative Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, lawmakers would earn 80 percent of what the average teacher earns daily, meaning pay would fluctuate annually if teacher pay varies. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that based on current figures, the raise would amount to approximately $10,000 more per year. The raise would take effect for lawmakers elected in 2016. Lawmakers have earned $88.66 per day during the 90-day session since 2009. They earn about $14,700 a year with their biweekly interim compensation. Peck's proposal would increase total compensation to about $25,000. Peck says tying lawmakers' pay to teacher salaries would make lawmakers reflect on educators' earnings.


Kansas House Rejects Key Change in Evidence Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have rejected a change in evidence rules for personal injury lawsuits sought by the state Chamber of Commerce before giving first-round approval to a bill also raising limits on some damages. The House voted 82-33 Friday to delete a section to end a ban on having juries hear whether alleged injury victims already have losses covered by insurance or other sources. The Kansas Chamber contends that the law leads to double compensation for some injuries. Several attorneys said the current rule makes sure wrongdoers are held fully accountable. The House advanced the bill without the provision on a voice vote. A final vote is expected Monday. The bill passed the Senate last month. It increases the state's $250,000 limit on non-economic damages to $350,000 by 2022.

Effort for Liquor by the Drink Begins in Dry County

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — The manager of a sports bar in one of a dozen dry Kansas counties has begun a campaign to allow sales of liquor by the drink. The Clay Center Dispatch reports that Clay County now allows wine and mixed drinks to be served only in private clubs. Teresa Garcia, manager of Coach's Sports Grill & Pub in Clay Center, would like to change that. Garcia says adding other beverages besides beer would help her establishment. Kansas has allowed liquor by the drink since 1986 in counties where voters approve. At least 290 registered voters must sign Garcia's petition for the question to have a chance of going on a ballot. County Commissioner Jerry Mayo said the commission would support and put such a measure on the ballot assuming it receives a valid petition.


KDHE Names New Director of Bureau of Oral Health

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri dentist has been named director of the Bureau of Oral Health in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Agency Secretary Robert Moser announced the appointment of Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne this week. Taylor-Osborne is dental director of Cabot Westside Medical and Dental Center in Kansas City, Missouri. She succeeds Dr. Kathy Weno, who left the Kansas position last fall to become director of the Division of Oral Health for the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Taylor-Osborne holds a doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a master's degree in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University. She practiced dental hygiene for 15 years before pursuing her dentistry degree.

Range Fire in Lyon County Burns 4K Acres

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A range fire has burned about 4,000 acres in east-central Kansas, injuring one firefighter. KVOE reports that the injured firefighter suffered minor burns in the blaze Thursday. Authorities say the grass fire, which also destroyed a fire truck, started in Lyon County and pushed into Osage and Coffey counties. Rick Frevert, with Lyon County Emergency Management, said more than 4,000 acres had burned as of late Thursday. Authorities say that in a separate incident in southern Lyon County, a fire sparked by a controlled burn that rekindled destroyed a house, outbuilding, truck and tractor.


Finalists for Fort Hays State Presidency Chosen

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The field of finalists for the presidency of Fort Hays State University has been narrowed to five, with interviews on the northwest Kansas campus to begin next week. The state Board of Regents says the person chosen to succeed Ed Hammond will assume office around July 1. Hammond announced last year that he would retire at the end of a June, a month after he turns 70 years old. He has led Fort Hays State since 1987 and is the longest-serving current president or chancellor in the state university system. Names of the finalists will be announced one day before each candidate visits the campus. The visits will take place over three weeks, beginning Monday. The Board of Regents will interview the finalists later and make the final selection.


Kansas Woman, 91, Resists Developer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 91-year-old Lawrence woman has so far resisted a developer's offer of $600,000 for the modest home she bought for $850 decades ago. Georgia Bell told The Kansas City Star she has nowhere else to go if she leaves the small one-bedroom home where she's lived since 1946. The home has appraised for about $93,500. Lawrence officials and the developer, Jim Heffernan of HERE LLC, have made it clear that Bell can stay in her home. No one is talking about forcing her out through eminent domain. But city officials have approved the HERE project, and Heffernan says construction will begin later this year, regardless of what Bell decides. If she decides to stay, Bell's home will be within the middle of the U-shaped complex.

University of Kansas Gets $1M Donation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has received a $1 million donation that will be used for a new business school scholarship program. The gift from Jerry and Kay Jennett, of Valdosta, Georgia will create the Jerry and Kay Jennett Finance Scholars Program. Jerry Jennett is a 1963 graduate of the university and CEO of Georgia Sulfur Corp. The school said Thursday it's the second scholarship the Jennetts have established at the University of Kansas. They gave $200,000 in 2010 for a business school scholarship for undergraduates who work for or have internships with the university's athletics department.


Kansas City's May Technology to Expand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-based aerospace manufacturing company has announced plans for a $12 million expansion. May Technology and Manufacturing, which makes parts for aircraft including the B-2 bomber and Boeing 777 airliner, is planning to almost double the size of its Kansas City operation and invest $7 million in new equipment. The Kansas City Star reports the company is also getting a 20-year property tax abatement approved Thursday. May Technology now employs 120 people and hopes to add up to 30 employees over the next couple of years. The company also hired 20 new workers last year. Work on the expansion is expected to begin immediately.


Missouri Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Murder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 2010 killing of a 67-year-old woman. Twenty-three-year-old Rashod James pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder and armed criminal action. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office said James was sentenced Thursday to 30 years on the murder count and 10 years for armed criminal action, with the terms to run concurrently. The body of Fannie Young was found in her home more than a week after her death. The medical examiner said she died of blunt force injuries to the head and stab wounds. Thursday's sentence was ordered to run consecutively to a 10-year federal prison term James is serving for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Education Officials to Consider School Plan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Board of Education is taking up a plan for assisting and intervening in the state's school districts. The education board previously reviewed a draft that sought earlier interventions and greater state involvement in school districts as their performance declined. The State Board of Education was scheduled to discuss a plan Friday during a meeting at a hotel in Jefferson City. Missouri's three school districts currently unaccredited are Kansas City, and Normandy and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County. An additional 11 school systems have provisional accreditation.

Asbestos Cleanup in Kansas City to Cost Less

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials say cleaning up asbestos at a failed development site will cost about half the amount originally estimated. City officials said Thursday that test pits at the Citadel development site turned up less asbestos contamination than previously predicted. City planner Claude Page says that means the cleanup costs will likely come in at about $1.1 million instead of the $2 million or more that was originally estimated. The Kansas City Star reports that the city has a $500,000 federal grant for the cleanup, and the cleanup should be finished this summer. The cleanup is necessary because the developer failed to properly monitor asbestos removal before some homes were torn down in 2006 to make way for the failed shopping center.

Missouri Dad Charged with Abandoning 2 Kids

RICHMOND, Mo. (AP) — A 31-year-old northwest Missouri man faces charges accusing him of leaving his two young sons to die in a trailer fire and lying to authorities about trying to save them. Randy M. Garrison is charged with two counts of child abandonment in the deaths of 1-year-old Ashton Garrison and 3-year-old Roger Garrison. The boys died in the fire on December 10, 2013, in Ray County. The Kansas City Star reports that Garrison told authorities he returned home from work that morning and went to bed and then awoke to the sounds of his sons screaming from their bedroom as the small home engulfed in fire. Court documents did not say how the fire started. Garrison's being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond.



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