Kansas Legislative Leaders Say Work Already Started on School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature's top leaders say a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding won't require lawmakers to change course on drafting a new school finance law. Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said their chambers of the Legislature were already working on a new school funding law before the court's decision. The court said the state isn't adequately funding its schools and lawmakers must enact a new education funding law by June 30. Wagle and Ryckman put a positive spin on the court's decision by saying it recognized the Legislature's power to set school funding policy and appropriate money. While the court said the state's current funding is in adequate, the justices did not specifically say how much spending needs to increase.
Kansas Governor Calls for School Choice Measures
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is calling on legislators to enact school choice measures in response to a state Supreme Court ruling directing the state to increase its spending on public schools. The governor said Thursday that the Legislature has an opportunity to engage in what he called "transformative educational reform." Brownback said lawmakers should write a new school funding formula that puts students first and focuses on performance. But he added that the state should give parents of struggling students a greater say over their children's education. He said if parents do not believe a public school is best, they should have the resources to make other choices.
Kansas AG Urges Focus on Struggling Students
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the state Supreme Court ruling on school funding suggests that lawmakers should concentrate on helping underperforming students by boosting spending on public schools. Schmidt is calling for a "bold legislative response" to comply with the court's order in a lawsuit filed by four school districts against the state in 2010. The high court said the state's funding for public schools is not adequate but did not say how much more lawmakers must provide. In its decision, the court noted that about a quarter of the state's students aren't proficient in reading and math with higher percentages for minorities. Schmidt said such a statement implies that underperforming students should be lawmakers' main focus in crafting a new school funding formula before the court's June 30 deadlin
Kansas Secretary of State Splits with Governor on Firm Fees
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has split with Governor Sam Brownback on a measure that would increase business registration fees to help balance the state's budget. Kobach said in a news conference Thursday that he doesn't support a provision in Brownback's proposal that would increase annual fees on registered businesses. He says it would drive businesses in the Kansas City area across the state line into Missouri. Brownback proposed the fee hike to help end the state's tax exemption that benefits about 330,000 farms and businesses. He vetoed a bill last week that would have ended the exemption, raised personal income taxes and created a third income tax bracket for top earners. The House voted to override the veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of an override.
Federal Judge Defers Ruling in Kansas Voting Citizenship Case
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge is weighing the fate of two federal lawsuits in Kansas challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring prospective voters to prove their U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson didn't indicate when she would rule after presiding over a three-hour hearing Friday in Kansas City, Kansas, on motions seeking partial summary judgment. At the crux of the lawsuits is a disputed voter registration law requiring Kansas voters to provide documents such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. The cases challenge the requirement for people registering to vote at motor vehicle offices. Robinson heard arguments over claims that the state's requirement unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote and violates the right to travel because it allegedly discriminates against U.S. citizens who come to Kansas from elsewhere.
Highway Roundup: Truck Overturns, Freeing Dozens of Cows in Johnson County
LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A modern day cattle roundup shut down traffic ramps for about four hours on a busy section of Kansas highways in Johnson County. The Kansas Department of Transportation closed ramps about noon Friday near Kansas 10 and Interstate 435 after an semi-trailer truck overturned on the westbound Interstate 35 lanes to Kansas 10, releasing dozens of cows. At one point, between 55 and 60 cows were running loose. The ramps were reopened about 4 p.m. Friday after the cattle were all rounded up and the truck was hauled away. Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the roundup. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the truck to overturn.
Sentence Reduced for Man Convicted in 1988 Kansas City Fire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The youngest of five people convicted in a 1988 arson fire that killed six Kansas City firefighters could be released from prison soon. A federal judge ruled Friday that Bryan Sheppard, who is now 45, should have his sentence reduced to 20 years in prison. Because Sheppard has already served 22 years, he could be released. Details of his possible release were not available Friday. Sheppard was 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the November 1988 explosion. The Kansas City Star reports he was granted a new sentencing after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional unless a judge first considered their individual situation. The five people sentenced in the case have long maintained their innocence.
Westar Energy Says New Western Kansas Wind Farm Fully Operational
SPEARVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says its new wind farm near Spearville will allow the utility to provide more than half its annual electricity needs without carbon emissions. The 280-megawatt Western Plains Wind Farm in Ford County began full operations this week. The Hutchinson News reports the facility will make about $75 million in lease and other payments to local and county governments in the next 20 years. It also is expected to provide about three dozen permanent jobs. Westar owns two other wind farms and buys energy from eight wind farms and a landfill gas generator. Later this spring, the utility will add a community solar installation in South Hutchinson.
DA: Autopsy Finds Suicide Cause of Death in Deputy Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an 18-year-old who pointed a gun at a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop last year died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Sheriff Jeff Easter released the findings Friday in the death of Caleb J. Douglas. An autopsy ruled his death a suicide after the bullet in his head matched the handgun found in his car. A bullet fragment found in his left shoulder is believed to have come from the deputy's gun. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says no charges will be filed over the September 1 encounter. When the driver pulled a handgun, the deputy ran toward his patrol car before turning and firing multiple shots at the suspect's car. The driver sped off. His car hit a house about two blocks away.
Survivor of Kansas Bar Shooting Released from Hospital
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man who survived an apparently racially motivated shooting at a bar in Olathe has been released from the hospital. Ian Grillot was one of three men who were shot February 22 at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe. One of the men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed. Kuchibhotla's friend, Alok Madasani, was wounded. The University of Kansas Health System said in a statement Thursday that Grillot had been released from the hospital. A bullet hit Grillot in the hand and entered his chest when he tried to stop the suspected gunman, 51-year-old Adam Purinton, of Olathe. Purinton is charged with murder and attempted murder. Witnesses say he shouted racial slurs before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani, natives of India who were engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.
Pilot Goes Missing After Crash Landing in Rural Kansas
ROXBURY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a pilot went missing for several hours after a small propeller plane crash-landed in a central Kansas field. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner says the plane went down around 3:30 p.m. Thursday in a rural area near the small town of Roxbury. The Federal Aviation Administration says wind caught the Maule M-5 and that the left wing struck the ground during the landing. Gardner says troopers tried reaching out to hospitals in the area in an effort to locate the pilot but were unsuccessful. Gardner says the patrol didn't hear from the pilot until he called dispatchers about six hours later. Gardner says the pilot's plane was disabled and that it's unclear how he left the scene. Gardner says investigators are trying to determine what happened.
Ethanol Producer Considering Expansion in Sedgwick County
COLWICH, Kan. (AP) — Ethanol producer ICM says it is planning a $175 million bio-refinery in Colwich. The company said in a news release Thursday that the plant, ICM Element, will create 50 new permanent jobs, as well as construction jobs. At full production, the plant will buy more than 22 million bushels of corn and sorghum. ICM says the planning is in its final stages. The new plant would be on 80 acres just ICM's main plant in Colwich. Colwich Mayor Terry Spexarth says the city council is considering providing 10 years of tax abatements. He says after 10 years, the plant could provide about $1.8 million to the community.
Investigators Rule Fire in Manhattan's Aggieville District Accidental
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Investigators have determined that a fire in the Aggieville bar and shopping district near the Kansas State University campus was accidental. The Manhattan Fire Department says that floor finishing materials sparked the blaze around 3:45 a.m. Thursday in a building that had housed a bookstore called the Dusty Bookshelf and was being renovated. Thirty firefighters fought the blaze before it was extinguished about four hours later. No one was hurt. The fire also caused smoke damage to adjoining businesses. Investigators estimated $673,000 in damages to the former Dusty Bookshelf building and its contents. Another $149,000 in damages occurred in the other two buildings.
Suspect in Multistate Crime Spree Charged in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected in two slayings in Mississippi has been charged with attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of a Kansas convenience store clerk. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Thursday announced charges against 28-year-old Alex Bridges Deaton, who is also a suspect in other crimes in Mississippi and New Mexico. Deaton is accused of shooting 19-year-old convenience store clerk Riley Juelin in Pratt, Kansas, on Wednesday. Authorities arrested Deaton after he allegedly fled the store with the clerk's car and wrecked it in a neighboring county. Schmidt says Deaton is also charged with aggravated robbery, theft and fleeing a police officer. He is being held on $5 million bond. Deaton's first court appearance is scheduled for Monday in Pratt County District Court. Mississippi investigators have traveled to Kansas to interview Deaton. It's unclear when Deaton will be returned to Mississippi. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman said deciding the question of extradition could take time.
Wounded Kansas Store Clerk in Stable Condition
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —A convenience store clerk says he was afraid he was going to die after he was shot during what authorities are calling a multi-state crime spree by a Mississippi man. Nineteen-year-old Riley Juel is hospitalized in stable condition in Wichita. He was shot Wednesday at a Pratt, Kansas, Kwik Stop where he worked. The suspect, Alex Deaton, was arrested as he fled from officers after the shooting and is jailed in Kansas. From his hospital bed at Via Christi Hospital, Juel told KSN News that when Deaton entered the store, he walked to the counter and asked for Juel's car keys. Juel says when he turned over the keys Deaton shot him at point-blank range. Juel says he was able to call 911 and was alert the entire time before police arrived.
Kansas Veteran Claiming Blindness Indicted for Defrauding Government
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An Army veteran has been indicted for pretending to be blind to collect $63,000 in benefits. A federal indictment charges 61-year-old Billy J. Alumbaugh and his ex-wife, Debra K. Alumbaugh, both of Turon, with conspiracy to defraud the government and theft of government funds. Prosecutors allege that Alumbaugh fraudulently obtained a supplemental monthly pension of $700 between June 2009 and January 2017 by claiming he was legally blind. The indictment says that in October 2016 his wife drove him to the VA hospital in Wichita and drove away with him after his appointment. But after a few blocks, the couple stopped the car and switched seats so he could drive.
Man Sentenced in Deadly Kansas City Crash
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Prosecutors say a man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison in a deadly crash in Kansas City, Missouri. Cedric Boyles, of Kansas City, was sentenced Thursday for involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the June 2015 wreck that killed 47-year-old Jeffrey Shadlow. Court records say Boyles was speeding and failed to stop at a sign before broadsiding Shadlow's vehicle. Shadlow died later at a hospital. Prosecutors say elevated alcohol levels were detected in a sample of Boyles' blood hours after the wreck. Two children were in the backseat of Boyles vehicle at the time of the accident. He had a revoked drivers' license with six prior convictions for operating a vehicle while his license was suspended or revoked and two prior convictions for operating a vehicle without a license.
Ex-Kansas State Athletic Director Gets Five-Year Deal with Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — New University of Tennessee athletic director John Currie has a five-year contract worth at least $900,000 annually with opportunities for raises and additional bonuses. Currie, who has been Kansas State's athletic director since 2009, begins his new job April 1. His contract includes $300,000 in base compensation plus $600,000 in supplemental pay. He gets a $75,000 signing bonus plus $35,000 in moving expenses. Starting July 1, 2018, Currie will have $25,000 added to his base pay each year. If Currie remains Tennessee's athletic director when his contract expires, he gets a $1.5 million retention bonus. Currie also gets $5,000 per month for temporary housing, a payment expiring June 30, 2018 or upon sale of his Kansas home. Tennessee agreed to pay any buyout Currie might owe to Kansas State, up to $175,000.