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Headlines for Monday, April 18, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas AG Says School Funding Law Fixes Constitutional Flaws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says a law signed by Governor Sam Brownback last week satisfies the state's constitutional duty to provide equitable funding to public schools. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Schmidt filed a brief with the state Supreme Court on Friday urging it to withdraw its threat to close the state's schools.  The court ruled in February that the state wasn't giving its poorest districts their fair share of funding and the justices threatened to shut down schools statewide if the problem wasn't fixed by June 30. The new law does not add any money for state schools but makes technical changes in how the funding is distributed among districts. Most districts won't see any change but 23 will get small funding increases after lawmakers decided to tap an existing state emergency fund.


State of Kansas Working to Bring Mental Hospital into Compliance  

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas hopes to bring its mental hospital in Osawatomie back in line with federal standards by July. The state is currently losing as much as $1 million a month in federal funds. Federal inspectors decertified Osawatomie State Hospital in December, citing a "systemic failure" to protect suicidal patients or adequately supervise care and perform required safety checks. Some legislators say they worry that the short-term focus on recertification means the state isn't paying enough attention to the longer term problem of whether it has enough hospital beds for the mentally ill. The state recently increased the pay for nurses, and it has filled nearly 60 positions since mid-January. The state also has hired consultants to help improve operations


Kansas Official Outlines $17M Package for Mental Hospitals 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas social services official has outlined proposals for nearly $17 million in additional spending at the state's two mental hospitals. Department for Aging and Disability Services Interim Secretary Tim Keck discussed the proposals Monday during a meeting of a legislative oversight committee on social services. Keck said he's asking Governor Sam Brownback's budget staff to include the spending in his proposals for legislators to consider. Lawmakers return April 27 from their annual spring break to wrap up their business for the year. Most of the money would be spent at Osawatomie State Hospitals in eastern Kansas. It would cover pay raises for nurses and mental health technicians. But the proposals include a pay raise for mental health technicians at Larned State Hospital in western Kansas.


Kansas Forest Service Deals with Fires, Budget Constraints

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Forest Service has faced budget constraints as it works to deal with a season of major wildfires such as the fire in southern Kansas last month that was the largest in the state's history. Larry Biles, director of the Kansas Forest Service, told The Wichita Eagle that the service has a budget of around $3 million, but only about 10 percent has come from the state. Biles is asking state lawmakers to provide at least $1 million in matching funds. As firefighters worked to control the fire that burned at least 620 square miles in southern Kansas and Oklahoma, in March, the forest service had to return more than $15,000 to the state as part of statewide budget cuts.  


Man Admits Shooting That Killed Kansas Education Lawyer 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has admitted firing a shot that killed a Kansas education official who was not the intended victim. Prosecutors say 35-year-old Calah D. Johnson pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Kansas City Star reports that court records indicate Johnson was shooting at someone in another car when a bullet hit 45-year-old Deanna Lieber in July 2009. Lieber and her 13-year-old daughter were returning to their home near Lawrence from Starlight Theater in Kansas City when she was shot. Lieber was an attorney for the Kansas Department of Education. Johnson already is serving 20 years in federal prison for trafficking in cocaine. His state sentence for second-degree murder will run concurrently with the federal sentence.


Kansas Woman Gets Nearly 27 Years in Prison in Killing

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — One of three suspects in the fatal stabbing of a former Oregon resident has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison. The Salina Journal reports that 27-year-old Kamra Kay Farrell, of McPherson, was been sentenced last week in McPherson County District Court. Farrell pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in the 2014 death of 39-year-old James Croft. Additional unrelated charges against Farrell contributed to the sentence. Authorities say Croft's body was found in a car in a ditch near Galva, 10 miles east of McPherson. Croft lived in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Kansas. A second defendant was sentenced to life in prison in the killing, and a third is awaiting trial.


Lawrence Considers Commemorating Indigenous Peoples Day 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence may soon join a growing number of cities that use Columbus Day to honor the contributions and culture of Native Americans. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a measure the City Commission is taking up Tuesday would dub the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. The federal holiday on that day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. But campaigns nationwide have complained that the holiday overlooks a painful history of colonialism and land grabs. A renaming push gathered momentum last year in Lawrence. Students at Haskell Indian Nations University helped lead 300 people on a march to City Hall, where a citywide indigenous peoples' celebration was declared. The resolution commissioners are considering would make the celebration an annual one.


Lenexa-Based Nonprofit Sending Team to Ecuador

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas-based nonprofit medical assistance group has sent an exploratory team to Ecuador to determine what type of medical assistance the group can provide in the wake of a deadly magnitude 7.8 earthquake. At least 270 people were killed in the massive quake and more than 1,500 were injured. Jim Mitchum, of Lenexa-based Heart to Heart International, says the organization has sent a three-member advance team to Quito, Ecuador. The team, which includes Heart to Heart's chief medical officer, will work with local officials to determine how the group can best be of assistance. Heart to Heart works with medical volunteers to provide aid during disasters in developing countries. Mitchum says the group typically sends medical professionals as well as supplies and medicine.


Kansas School District Considers Charging for All-Day Kindergarten

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - Another Kansas school district is considering charging parents for all-day kindergarten. KSNW-TV reports that the Newton district in south-central Kansas is looking into a $200-a-month charge per child. Half-day kindergarten would remain free because the state funds it. Newton Superintendent Deborah Hamm says expenses are rising and she says districts can't continue to offer the same services with fewer resources. Newton parent Ashley Horchem says the proposal is "frustrating" and that "education shouldn't be that costly at a young age." But Hamm says there are no other areas to trim in the budget. School board members haven't made a decision yet. Several districts in the Kansas City area are already charging for all-day kindergarten.


Kansas Man Dies After Electrocution on High Tension Line 

MERIDEN, Kan. (AP) — A man has died after he climbed a high tension line and was electrocuted. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig told WIBW that 21-year-old Nathan Robertson of Valley Falls died Saturday in Meriden. Herrig says the Rock Creek Fire Department and Jefferson County crews responded to calls Saturday night of a man on the ground. Robertson was reported to be climbing the high tension line of the tower and was electrocuted. He then fell several stories, landing on the ground. He was transported to St. Francis Hospital, but declared deceased almost immediately after his fall.


Auction of Salvaged Items from Kansas Statehouse Set for May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — History buffs and those with fond memories the Kansas Statehouse will be able to own a piece of the old building. The state is planning to auction off thousands of items salvaged from the renovated Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The online auction is scheduled May 2-9.  The Kansas City Star reports that bids will be taken on items ranging from brass hinges and door knobs to large desks and winding staircases. One of the most coveted pieces is the copper door that protected the staircase leading to the Statehouse dome. The salvage comes after a 13-year, $325 million renovation of the capitol building that was completed last year.


Wichita Man Who Posed as Veterinarian Given Probation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who pretended to be a veterinarian and stole thousands of dollars in fraud schemes was sentenced to five years' probation. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office announced Monday that 49-year-old Danny Thomas also was ordered to pay $6,559 to his victims and $29,347 to the Kansas Department of Labor for unemployment benefits he should not have received. Prosecutors say Thomas said he was Chase McKnight and passed forged checks to buy equipment for a pet-care facility that didn't exist. Thomas pleaded guilty to five counts of forgery, three counts of identity theft, one count of felony theft and two counts of misdemeanor theft. In exchange for his plea, the district attorney agreed not to file fraud charges for the stolen unemployment benefits.


KU Fraternity Supports Paralyzed Member 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas fraternity has raised about $30,000 for students with disabilities in honor of one of its members who was paralyzed while swimming in the ocean in Hawaii over winter break. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Beta Theta Pi chapter will host a 5k run this weekend in honor of fraternity member Tom Babb, a quadriplegic. Nearly 500 participants were registered as of Friday. Proceeds from the "TomSTRONG 5k Run/Walk/Roll" will go toward the newly established Tom Babb Student Accessibility Scholarship, which will give funds to University of Kansas students who require full-time, professional care. The fraternity also traveled to Colorado to initiate Babb, who was a pledge at the time of the accident. It has also been renovating its chapter house to accommodate Babb.


Texas Zoo Gorilla Given Name of Pittsburg State University's Mascot 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Fans of Pittsburg State University and its Gorilla mascot have taken over a contest to name a new addition to a Texas zoo. The Joplin Globe reports that the first gorilla born in captivity at the Fort Worth Zoo has been dubbed "Augustus," or "Gus" for short. "Gus is the official name of the gorilla mascot for the public university of about 7,500 students. Three other names were in the running — "Davy," ''Grover," and "Mosi." But when news of the naming contest spread to Kansas, "Gus" votes began increasing. The university then backed the "Gus" campaign officially and a landslide in its favor ensued. The zoo says most voters for "Gus" were not Fort Worth residents. Zoo communications director Alexis Wilson described what happened as "hysterical."


Amtrak Will Use Bus Line to Restore Service to Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Amtrak says it will use buses to connect people in Wichita with its trains in Oklahoma City and Newton. Several state and local officials announced the bus connection Monday, providing the first Amtrak service in Wichita since 1979. The Wichita Eagle reports that one bus route will connect with Amtrak's Southwest Chief in Newton while another route will connect with the Heartland Eagle in Oklahoma City. The Amtrak connection will run daily out of the Greyhound station in downtown Wichita. Kansas Secretary of Transportation Mike King says the bus service opens a new transportation option along the Interstate 35 corridor. And several officials said young people in particular had pushed for a way to connect to Amtrak, which provides routes to cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth.


Missing Kansas Man Found Dead in Vehicle

Y CITY, Ark. (AP) — Police say a 93-year-old Wichita man who was traveling to Oklahoma, but disappeared after leaving Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been found dead inside his crashed vehicle. Hot Springs police say the body of Harlan Swartzendruber was found inside his upside down vehicle that was submerged in a creek near the intersection of Highways 270 and 71 in Y City — about 70 miles west of Hot Springs. Police Corporal Kirk Zaner said in a news release that the vehicle could not be seen from the road and was spotted about 7 p.m. Saturday by someone who had stopped to take a photograph. Swartzendruber was last seen in Hot Springs and was traveling to Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was reported missing last Monday.


Midwest Farmers Get Head Start on Corn Planting 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A stretch of sunny and dry weather has given Midwest farmers a good start on planting corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report was released Monday. It shows 13 percent of Iowa's corn crop is planted, significantly ahead of the five-year average of 3 percent planted by mid-April. Missouri farmers have 58 percent planted, ahead of their average of 21 percent. Kansas has more than a third of the corn crop planted, compared to the average 16 percent. Other states ahead of average are Kentucky and Minnesota. Nebraska is at 7 percent, ahead of its five-year average of 3 percent. Planting corn early can result in an improved harvest because plants can mature to the pollination stage before summer heat stresses them.


Rains Bring Moisture to Kansas Wheat Crop
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest weekly snapshot of Kansas crop conditions shows the state's winter wheat crop is mostly holding its own with recent rains bringing much needed moisture to parched farm fields. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 49 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition, with 39 percent rated as fair. The agency says 12 percent of the crop is in poor to very poor shape. Wheat in Kansas is also maturing faster than usual, with 77 percent now jointed. That compares to an average of 55 percent at that stage normally at this point in the season. Corn planting is also progressing with 35 percent of fields in the state already planted, well ahead of the 16 percent that would be average by this date.


Oakland Comes from Behind to Beat Royals, 3-2

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Josh Reddick's sacrifice fly off Joakim Soria broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted the Oakland Athletics over the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Sunday. After KC relief pitcher Soria (1-1) started the eighth, the Athletics' Billy Burns tripled into the right-field corner and Reddick flied to center with one out. Reddick came across the plate standing up, easily beating Lorenzo Cain's throw. Oakland's Ryan Madson pitched a one-hit ninth for his fourth save in as many chances, retiring Raymond Fuentes on a game-ending lineout to first with a runner on second. Soria lost for the first time since July 11th.


Chiefs Lose Appeal of Anti-Tampering Violation Rulings 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs' appeal of anti-tampering violations has been denied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, meaning Kansas City will forfeit its third-round draft pick this year and sixth-round pick next year. The club did have its fine reduced from $250,000 to $200,000 on Monday, while coach Andy Reid's fine was reduced from $75,000 to $60,000. Team owner Clark Hunt said in a statement the Chiefs "continue to believe that the facts of this case combined with the league's inconsistent enforcement of its tampering policies do not warrant the most severe penalty for player-related tampering in league history." The violations stem from the Chiefs contacting then-free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin when prohibited by NFL rules. Maclin, who had been drafted by Reid in Philadelphia, eventually signed with Kansas City.


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