Wind Speeds Increasing as Kansas and Oklahoma Fight Huge Wildfire
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) - Hundreds of firefighters are still battling the a wildfire that started Tuesday in northern Oklahoma and spread into southern Kansas. Meteorologists say the weather conditions could make it hard for crews to make headway against the blaze that has scorched hundreds of acres of sparsely-populated plains. The National Weather Service says wind gusts of up to 30 mph are expected through this (FRI) afternoon. Meteorologists say the major challenge will be keeping the fire from spreading again in the strong winds. The fire has consumed more than 600 square miles and state fire officials say the blaze is about 15 percent contained. Authorities say one home and an outbuilding were destroyed on the outskirts of the town of Medicine Lodge. The Kansas Livestock Association is accepting donations of hay for ranchers in southern Kansas who lost land in the fire.
Wildfire in Oklahoma, Kansas Displaces Cattle
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas livestock official says the wildfire that scorched hundreds of square miles in Oklahoma and southern Kansas has displaced cattle and destroyed miles of fencing. Todd Domer, spokesman for the Kansas Livestock Association, said Friday the most immediate problem for Kansas ranchers affected by the fire in Barber and Comanche counties is locating cattle that escaped when fences burned. He says ranchers are also working to figure out how many cattle may have died. The KLA is raising funds to help replace the fencing, which he estimates covered tens of thousands of miles. He says hay donations have been so swift and numerous there's no longer a need. Domer also says there would also have been a lot of newborn calves this time of year that may have either been separated from their mothers or been killed in the fire.
Officials Say Wildfire Largest in Kansas History
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Forest Service says a wildfire that crossed into the state from Oklahoma earlier this week is considered the largest in Kansas history and one of the largest ever in the U.S. The wildfire has burned at least 620 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas. The service said officials are looking at the damage in Barber County, Kansas, to determine if it meets the threshold for a FEMA disaster declaration, which would provide public assistance for damaged public infrastructure. In Oklahoma, officials said in a release Friday there's been very little growth in the wildfire near the town of Alva, thanks in part to "exceptional firefighting" combined with lighter winds and lower temperatures.
Hay Sought for Kansas & Oklahoma Ranchers After Massive Wildfire
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — Hay donations are being sought for ranchers whose land burned in a massive wildfire in Kansas and Oklahoma. The Kansas Livestock Association says it's accepting cash donations and that farmers' cooperatives in two Kansas communities are collecting hay donations. Hundreds of firefighters and have been battling the blaze that started Tuesday in Oklahoma and spread into Kansas. As of Thursday, it had consumed 620 square miles of mostly farmland and ranchland in the two states. Kansas Incident Management Team spokeswoman Kathleen Fabrizius says officials are planning to fly over the area Friday to evaluate the damage. Smoke from the blaze has been detected hundreds of miles away in St. Louis. At least one home has burned, but no serious injuries have been reported.
UPDATE: The Kansas Department of Agriculture reports that the hay needs of area ranchers in the wildfire zone have been met for the time being. For more information on cash donations and other ranchers' needs, visit the Kansas Livestock Association website.
Kansas Legislators Send Funding Bill to Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators have sent Governor Sam Brownback an education funding plan designed to meet a state Supreme Court order to help poor districts and prevent the justices from shutting down public schools in July. The House approved the bill Thursday on a 93-31 vote. The Senate approved the bill hours earlier on a 32-5 vote. The bill redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. Total spending on schools would not increase, but no district would lose any of the aid it was promised for the next school year. The court ruled last month that poor districts weren't getting their fair share of the state funding. The justices gave lawmakers until June 30 to fix the problems or face having schools shut down.
Kansas Senate Passes Bill for Juvenile Justice Reform
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would overhaul the state's juvenile justice system. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill was created to shift the juvenile justice system away from incarceration and use some of the cost savings to boost community-based programs that help young offenders. The bill is expected to save Kansas about $72 million over five years. It also replaces juvenile jail with programs that to try to cure problems such as inappropriate sexual behavior or substance abuse. The final bill was a result of months of legislative analysis, debate and research. Republican state Representative John Rubin of Shawnee led the path for the reform, but almost quit the Legislature last week when he was fired as chairman of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee over an unrelated floor argument.
Kansas Legislature Taking Annual Spring Break for 5 Weeks
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have started their annual spring break and will be out of session for nearly five weeks. The House and Senate adjourned Thursday afternoon after both approved a Republican education funding plan. The measure avoids increasing state spending while attempting to meet a state Supreme Court order to improve aid to poor school districts. Lawmakers plan to resume their session April 27. They'll reconvene after state officials and economists issue revised projections for state tax collections through June 2017. With monthly tax collections regularly falling short of expectations, legislators are likely to consider budget adjustments. They'll also be awaiting word from the Supreme Court on whether the school funding plan is acceptable.
Lawyer Says Kansas Supreme Court Will Reject School Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer representing four school districts suing the state over education funding is predicting that the Kansas Supreme Court will reject the school finance plan passed Thursday by the state Legislature. Newton attorney John Robb said the plan doesn't really change anything for poor districts. The measure redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts in an effort to comply with a Supreme Court order last month to help poor school districts. But the plan guarantees that no district loses any aid for the next school year and doesn't boost overall state spending. Robb represents the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas school districts. Those districts sued the state in 2010.
Kansas Senate Passes Bill Requiring Teacher Union Elections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has passed legislation that would require teachers to vote every three years in order to maintain their local union. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill passed the chamber with a 22-18 vote after more than two hours of debate. The measure would direct the Kansas Department of Labor to hold elections for teachers to decide whether or not to keep their union every three years. Unions would continue to have negotiating power as long as more than 50 percent of employees who vote in the election are in favor of the union. The task would entail more than 300 elections at an estimated $340,000 cost. The state might be able to charge professional organizations for the expense.
Foes: Kansas Bills Create 'Bounty' on Transgender Students
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislation in Kansas that would restrict how public schools and colleges accommodate transgender students is receiving national attention. Under separate but identical bills before House and Senate committees, students would be able to collect monetary damages if someone was in what is deemed the wrong bathroom. The bills are described as privacy protections for students and limit accommodations for transgender students. The measures say group bathrooms, locker rooms and showers must be limited to a single sex, and gender would be defined "by a person's chromosomes." If transgender students were discovered using group facilities for their identified genders, other students present can sue the schools and colleges. The measures allow an award of $2,500 for each incident, along with other damages. Critics call it a bounty on transgender students.
Moran's Comments on Supreme Court Nominee Rile Conservatives
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Kansas senator's comments expressing support for Senate consideration of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick have angered conservatives and underscored the passion the issue stirs in both parties' activists. Republican Senator Jerry Moran made the remarks at events in Kansas this week, days after Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the vacancy. They were reported by local newspapers and came to national attention days later. According to reports in The Garden City Telegram and Dodge City Daily Globe, Moran said he favored Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and indicated an openness to a full Senate vote. He said it was extremely unlikely he'd back the nominee. One conservative group, the Judicial Crisis Network, said "caving into" Obama was not serving Kansans.
Islamic Society Cancels Fundraiser After Congressman Objects
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Islamic Society of Wichita has canceled a fundraising dinner because of a congressman's objections and rumors an armed group of protesters planned to show up outside the organization's buildings. The Wichita Eagle reports that U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, questioned why the society invited Sheik Monzer Talib, who Pompeo says has ties to Hamas, to speak at the Friday event. Islamic Society spokesman Hussam Madi apologized for any concern Talib's planned participation might have caused. Madi says the threat of heavily armed protesters was alarming and the society didn't want to be the target of anything that might hurt its families or the neighboring Lutheran church. Pompeo says he understands the society has a First Amendment right to invite Talib, but doing so would hurt the community.
New Tool Shows Value of University Degrees from Kansas Schools
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has created a new tool that'll help students and parents research the cost and return of degrees available at state universities. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Kansas DegreeStats is now available online, but only includes data for bachelor's degrees. The tool uses real graduates' data to allow users to study statistics of 600 degrees with the typical costs to cover university fees as well as how former students paid the fees. The Kansas Department of Labor also provides wage information on the first five years of employment after earning each individual degree. Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson, said that the program was built in response to a state Legislature request to require a "degree prospectus" to be published for every postsecondary degree program in Kansas.
Amazon Plans New Shipping Center in Edgerton
EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) _ Amazon.com says it plans to open a 1,000-job fulfillment center in Edgerton. Amazon announced Thursday that the hourly, full-time employees at the planned 800,000-square-foot center will pick, pack and ship large items to customers. Amazon already has a shipping facility in nearby Lenexa. Governor Sam Brownback called the project "good news for Kansas.'' Amazon officials did not say how soon the Edgerton center would open.
K-State President Schulz Tapped for New Job at Washington State University
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The Board of Regents of Washington State University has chosen Dr. Kirk Schulz of Kansas State University as the 11th president of the Pullman-based school. The regents made the decision Friday morning at a meeting in the Tri-Cities. The regents were presented with three finalists for the job of replacing President Elson Floyd, who died last June. They unanimously voted to extend an offer of employment to Schulz, who has been president of Kansas State since 2009. Schulz is expected to visit the state next week. The names of the other two finalists were not revealed. Provost Daniel Bernardo has been acting president.
2 Students Hurt After Bus Collides with Car East of Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — At least two students have been injured after a school bus collided with a car east of Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bus was transporting about 15 middle and high school students when the crash happened around 7 am at a U.S. 40 intersection. Shawnee Heights superintendent Marty Stessman says one student was taken to a hospital with possible leg pain. Another student also complained of injuries and was taken home by a parent. Stessman says all other students were examined by school medical personnel. The passenger and driver of the car also were loaded into an ambulance. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
SUV Hits Kansas Cookie Sales Booth, Injures Girl Scout
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A Girl Scout and two adult troop leaders have been hurt after a sport utility vehicle plowed into their cookie sales booth in southeast Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports that the crash happened Sunday in Baxter Springs after an 81-year-old driver lost control of the SUV. The girl who was hit was flown to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, with serious injuries. Police said in a written statement that the troop leaders were treated for minor injuries. One of the leaders had tried to pull the girl out of harm's way when she saw the SUV coming but was struck herself before she could reach the child. No other information was immediately available.
Judge Denies Request for Delay of Kansas City Streetcar Launch
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Streetcars remain on track to open to the public in May in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the bus drivers' union had sought a temporary delay while a labor dispute is resolved. But Jackson County Judge W. Brent Powell denied their request on Thursday. Powell found that the union had failed to establish "irreparable harm" if the streetcar project opens to the public. The $100 million downtown streetcar system got $37 million in federal grants. The union argued that as a condition of those grants, the city must ensure the existing bus drivers aren't adversely affected by the new transit system. The streetcar will run 2.2 miles from the River Market area through downtown to near Union Station.
Police: Man Fatally Shot by Authorities in Blue Springs, Missouri
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a man suspected in several robberies has been shot and killed by law enforcement outside a Blue Springs Walgreens. Court documents say investigators that included agents from the FBI and the Kansas City Police Department followed Jermon Seals and two other men early Thursday morning as they attempted to rob a gas station before going to the Walgreens around 3:45 a.m. and forcing an employee inside at gunpoint. Authorities say the three men were confronted by law enforcement as they exited the store and at least one member of the group brandished a weapon at the officers. The officers fired, killing Seals. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said that it hasn't been determined which agency's officer or officers the shot that killed Seals.
Effort to Save New York's Plum Island as Work Continues on New Lab in Kansas
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Lawmakers in New York and Connecticut are renewing efforts to halt the planned sale of Plum Island. The 840-acre island off the eastern tip of Long Island houses the government's only lab studying infectious diseases that could imperil the U.S. livestock industry. The federal government is building a new lab in Manhattan, Kansas that is intended to replace the 1950s-era Plum Island facility. The government plans call for Plum Island to be sold. New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal have introduced legislation that would halt the sale of the Plum Island property. They want federal officials to study alternatives to auctioning the property.
Stanford Hires KU Alum Jerod Haase as New Men's Basketball Coach
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford hired University of Alabama at Birmingham coach Jerod Haase as its new basketball coach Friday, a week and a half after firing eighth-year coach Johnny Dawkins. Athletic director Bernard Muir is determined to return the Cardinal to being a regular NCAA Tournament contender as the program was under longtime coach Mike Montgomery over nearly two decades. Haase will be formally introduced Monday on The Farm. The 41-year-old Haase is returning to his Northern California roots to coach Stanford. He was born in South Lake Tahoe and even spent the 1992-93 season at rival California before transferring to Kansas, where he played for coach Roy Williams and later coached under him for 13 years with the Jayhawks and at North Carolina. His UAB team reached the NCAA Tournament last year then lost in the first round of the NIT at BYU this season.
Top-Seeded Kansas Defeats Maryland 79-63 to Advance to "Elite Eight"
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Jayhawks' Perry Ellis scored 27 points, Wayne Selden Jr. added 19 as top-seeded Kansas beat No. 5 Maryland 79-63 in the NCAA Tournament South Region semifinal Thursday night. The win put the Jayhawks back into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012. The Jayhawks (33-4) have been on a winning streak and this marked the team's 17th straight victory. The win means Kansas has earned a spot in Saturday's regional final against Villanova. The Terrapins (27-9) took a lead early in the game but the Jayhawks caught up and surged past Maryland before the end of the first half. Maryland's Rasheed Sulaimon led the Terrapins with 18 points.