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Headlines for Monday, April 7, 2014


Kansas Lawmakers Back School Funding, Tenure Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have given final approval to a plan that would increase aid to poor school districts and eliminate tenure for public school teachers. The House voted 63-57 on Sunday to approve a compromise bill drafted by Republicans in both legislative chambers. The Senate earlier backed the bill in a 22-16 vote. It now goes to Republican Governor Sam Brownback for consideration. The plan is designed to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order last month in a lawsuit filed by parents and four school districts in 2010 over education funding. The court directed lawmakers to boost aid to poor districts. The plan does so, but conservative Senate Republicans insisted on eliminating tenure for public school teachers. The proposal brought dozens of red-shirted teachers to the Statehouse to protest.


Attorneys Concerned About Kansas School Package

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for parents and school districts at the heart of the Kansas school funding battle have concerns about the plan approved by lawmakers to address a state Supreme Court ruling. Attorney John Robb issued a statement Monday saying the plan to spend $129 million to address two issues of equity for poor districts contains little new money for schools. At the same time, Robb says, taking money from some programs for at-risk students and changing local property tax provisions widen the gaps between rich and poor districts. Robb is still looking at the overall plan to see if it will meet the court order. Legislators finished the package late Sunday and adjourned for three weeks. Governor Sam Brownback hasn't said how quickly he would sign the package.


Kansas Gay-Rights Group Opposes Tenure Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The leading gay-rights group in Kansas also is lobbying against a proposal in a school funding bill to end tenure for teachers. Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said Sunday the group opposes the proposal because it would allow administrators to fire teachers because they are gay or lesbian. State law says that after three years on the job, a teacher who's facing dismissal must be told why in writing and has the right to challenge the decision and have a hearing officer review the case. The school funding bill strips teachers of those rights. Witt said those protections have kept gay and lesbian teachers from losing their jobs. He said if the state takes away those protections, "It's not like people can go back in the closet."


Kansas Legislature Taking Its Annual Spring Break

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are now taking their annual spring break. They adjourned late Sunday night after the House and Senate approved a school funding plan. Lawmakers are not scheduled to be in session again until April 30. They'll return on that day to wrap up their business for the year and consider any vetoes made by Governor Sam Brownback. Legislators began scheduling such wrap-up sessions in 1969, when the Republican-dominated Legislature faced Democratic Governor Robert Docking.


Analysis: Costs Spurred Kansas School Policy Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Public school teachers in Kansas are likely to lose their legal protections against getting fired. State legislators tacked that and other policy changes onto a court-mandated plan to boost aid for poor school districts. The plan narrowly approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature late Sunday night provides Kansas' poorest districts an additional $129 million during the next school year. It's the full amount needed to reverse recession-driven cuts that led the state Supreme Court to declare last month that there were unconstitutional gaps in funding between poor districts and wealthier ones. Driven by low-tax, small-government views, Republicans wanted to spend far less but quickly found their hopes dashed. Once that happened, they pursued changes to overhaul public education and promote school choice for parents, most of which had foundered previously.


Brownback Signs Fossil Designation, 9 Other Kansas Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The flying pteranodon and the sea-roaming tylosaurus are now the official fossils of Kansas. Governor Sam Brownback's office said Monday the bill designating the prehistoric creatures as official state symbols was one of 10 signed Friday by the governor. The fossils are remnants of the massive creatures that roamed much of western Kansas when it was a vast ocean millions of years ago. The region remains rich with fossils that attract researchers and tourists. Other bills signed by Brownback include the expansion of the state's no-call list to add mobile devices to those protected against unwanted calls from telemarketers. The governor has signed 24 bills since the start of the 2014 legislative session in January.


Report: Kansas Wheat Condition Continues Decline

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Winter wheat in Kansas continues to deteriorate from lack of rain across most of the state. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 27 percent of the Kansas crop is now in poor to very poor condition. About 44 percent is in fair shape, while 27 percent is in good and 2 percent in excellent condition. The agency says southwest Kansas continues to suffer through drought conditions that were made worse last week by high winds. The report says that some farmers are planting cover crops and others are preparing fields. But NASS says most farmers are still waiting for soil temperatures to warm up and hoping for rain. Corn planting is also underway in Kansas, with 4 percent of the anticipated crop now seeded.

Kansas Testing Pushes on Despite Problems

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas student testing is moving forward despite several hurdles, from computer problems to cyberattacks. After the tests in mathematics, science and reading started March 10, system glitches prevented many schools from completing the federally mandated tests. Once those issues were fixed, the tests were hit by cyberattacks that flooded the testing system with unwanted traffic and block legitimate traffic. By Thursday, the tests were moving ahead. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported officials say schools completed 77,500 annual state assessment tests on Thursday and Friday, which is more than the first three weeks of the testing season combined. Marianne Perie, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, says 25 percent of tests are complete and many more are partly complete.

Kansas Governor to Help Launch Tourism Campaign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas tourism officials are planning an event in Wichita this week to launch this year's promotional campaign for promoting the state's destinations. The event is scheduled for Wednesday morning at Exploration Place in Wichita. Brownback and the other officials are unveiling the campaign under the Kansas tourism brand. It will be "There's No Place Like Kansas." State Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison plans to participate, along with Assistant Secretary Linda Craghead. The tourism agency also said that the event will feature Kansan and Nashville country music artist Logan Mize. Promotional videos to be shown around the nation will feature a Mize song called "Sunflowers." Representatives from several Kansas tourist destinations and period re-enactors will also be on hand.

KU Grad Students Concerned Hours Might Be Reduced

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas graduate students are concerned the school might reduce the hours they are allowed to work on campus. The concern continues although the provost's office recently said it is considering the students' input. The Lawrence Journal-World reports graduate students currently can work up to 30 hours a week at campus jobs. Those hours include assistantships but many students take second jobs to make ends meet. The school sent an email in March that suggested graduate students might be limited to 20 work hours a week in order to comply with health care reform. The university says it has not initiated a new policy, but the idea is being considered to respond to a requirement to provide health insurance for employees working 30 hours a week or more.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Class-Action Dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will consider the requirements for transferring class-action lawsuits from state courts to federal courts. The justices on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from a Michigan energy company that asserts it should be allowed to move a class-action case from Kansas state court to federal court. Federal law allows such transfers in cases involving more than $5 million. A group of royalty owners sued the Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company alleging they were underpaid royalties on oil and gas wells. The plaintiffs did not seek a specific damage amount, but the company claimed it would far exceed $5 million. A federal judge rejected the transfer request because the company did not offer any evidentiary support. The company says the law does not require detailed evidence.


Wichita to Review Options for Water Supplies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials plan to review the city's water options for new supplies and conservation. A workshop Tuesday at City Hall will include presentations from utility employees on strategies for ensuring a stable water supply through 2060. Some of those include revamped programs to reduce water usage and adding new sources of water. The city says in a news release that some of the conservation options include a modified rebate program, education and mailings to residents about leak repairs. Other options include studies about outdoor water conservation and re-use in industrial processes. Potential new water sources include El Dorado Lake and non-potable reuse of treated wastewater.


Missing Topeka Man Found Dead

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka man reported missing recently has been found dead in northeast Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jackson County authorities were notified Sunday about a missing Topeka man who was reportedly headed to Jackson County. Jackson County Sheriff's deputies and Potawatomi Tribal Police Officers began searching for the man in southwestern Jackson County and found the man's body Sunday morning in a wooded area. He apparently died from a gunshot wound. The man's name hasn't been released, but authorities say they don't suspect foul play.

KC Police Say Highway Shootings Might Be Connected

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say 13 shootings aimed at drivers on area highways since March 8 might be connected. Three people were injured in the shootings. A driver was shot in the leg Sunday night near Interstate 435 and Interstate 470 in Kansas City, and another shooting happened downtown earlier that day. The Kansas City Star  reports that 10 of the shootings happened in the city, while single shootings also have occurred in Leawood, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit. Police don't have evidence linking the shootings, but say the frequency, geographic area and time of the shootings indicate many of them could be connected. They believe the gunman is traveling in a vehicle. Most of the shootings have occurred at night in an area known as the Grandview Triangle.

Employee Stabbed at Garden City Wal-Mart

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in western Kansas are looking for a motive in the weekend stabbing of a Wal-Mart employee. KAKE-TV reports that a man entered the Garden City store around 8 am Sunday and walked to the electronics department, where he stabbed the 31-year-old woman several times. The suspect ran out and was arrested about four hours later. The employee was taken to a hospital with wounds to her head and face. Her condition Monday was unknown. Police said the 31-year-old suspect had no known association with the victim. He was booked into the Finney County Jail on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. Authorities said the burglary count stemmed from his conviction for robbing the same Wal-Mart last year. A judge had ordered him to stay out of the store.


Wichita to Consider Water Supply Options

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council is expected to consider several options for the city's long-term water supply. The Wichita Eagle reports the council on Tuesday will hear from public works officials who'll present several options for a new long-term water source. The options were still being fine-tuned late last week. Before the public works study, council members were considering various options, including completing the city's Equus Beds recharge project northwest of Wichita. The Equus Beds groundwater aquifer is being drained by the city of Wichita and other municipal and agricultural users faster than the $240 million recharge project would replenish it. Financing a new water supply is the biggest reason council members might ask voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase, perhaps as early as November.


Dodge City Election Decided by Drawing

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Dodge City official has won re-election after his name was drawn from a hat. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that a canvass of votes in last week's elections showed City Commissioner Kent Smoll and challenger Joe Peters with 424 votes each. On Monday, both names were placed in a red baseball cap, and a Ford County employee drew Smoll's name. Peters is a businessman and part-time sheriff's deputy, and several other officials — including a fellow deputy — passed on the responsibility of picking the winner. Smoll will serve a two-year term on the city commission. Incumbent Rick Sowers was also re-elected, and voters chose former Kansas House member Jan Scoggins for the third seat at stake.


Lawrence Bank Robber Took Cab to Omaha

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say they've arrested a man accused of robbing a credit union and making his getaway to Nebraska in a waiting taxi. Sergeant Trent McKinley says police responded Saturday to a robbery at the credit union. Bank employees said a man entered the bank and demanded money, then left with an undisclosed amount of cash. No injuries were reported. Police say surveillance video shows the suspect left the bank parking lot in a waiting taxi. Investigators later located the taxi driver and determined the driver wasn't involved in the robbery. McKinley said Sunday that a 35-year-old suspect in the robbery apparently paid the cab driver "a significant amount of money" to drive him to Omaha, where was dropped off at a bus station. Police arrested him there Saturday evening.

North Texas Man Arrested in Kansas After Shooting

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A North Texas man has surrendered in Kansas on accusations that he shot his estranged wife. Devanne Jones was being held Monday morning in the Sumner County jail, about 35 miles south of Wichita. Police in Arlington say the 36-year-old Jones and 35-year-old Latoya Alexander got into an argument in the driveway of a home around 1 a.m. Sunday. Authorities say the fight escalated and ended with Jones shooting Alexander and fleeing. Jones turned himself in later Sunday in Sumner County, about 350 miles north of Arlington. He was being held on a murder warrant and $500,000 bond. The Sumner County Jail did not have an attorney listed for Jones.

Jury Awards Nearly $3 Million in Malpractice Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The parents of a Missouri man awarded nearly $3 million by a Kansas jury say they hope the case helps raise awareness of the risks and possible complications from pain injections. A Johnson County, Kansas jury last month awarded the family of Joel Burnette $2.88 million, the largest such award in a malpractice case in the county in more than a quarter century. The Kansas City Star reports the 40-year-old Gladstone, Missouri resident killed himself in February 2013 after suffering spinal damage from a steroid injection administered in an infected area where he had received previous shots. Attorney Bruce Keplinger, representing pain doctor Kimber Eubanks and his Overland Park pain clinic, says the verdict will be appealed. Keplinger says Burnette's history of psychiatric issues led to his suicide.

KU Libraries Hosting Brown v. Board Symposium

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is hosting a symposium in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling on racial segregation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the symposium, called "The Legacies and Unfinished Business of BvB, 2.0," is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the university. The event is coordinated by University of Kansas Libraries, and includes an exhibition opening and a daylong event featuring law and civil rights experts. Both events are free and open to the public.

Kansas City to Re-Open Its Film Office

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Members of Kansas City's film community say they are looking forward to more "lights, camera, action" after funding was restored for a city film office. The city budget, which takes effect May 1, provides $50,000 in tourism tax dollars for the film office. That will be matched by the Convention and Visitors Association. The funds will pay for a full-time director who will lead efforts to attract movies, commercials, reality TV and more to Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the film office suffered following budget cuts in 2002. It had received partial funding from the Convention and Visitors Association before closing about two years later. Volunteers had tried to keep film efforts going but had difficulty coordinating with crews interested in working in the city.

Man Arrested After Chase, Standoff in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Hutchinson man is facing several charges after a car chase and standoff. Police Lieutenant Thad Pickard says in a news release that the chase began Sunday afternoon in Hutchinson when a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper saw a man he thought was wanted on outstanding warrants. The vehicle's driver refused to stop, leading the trooper and Hutchinson police on a chase across the city. Pickard says the driver eventually abandoned the car and fled into a house. After about an hour, four people left the house. The driver of the car, a 35-year-old man, was arrested. No one was injured.

Kansas Massage Parlor Worker Faces Sentencing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita massage parlor worker ensnared in a sex trafficking scheme has been sentenced to time served and probation as she rebuilds her life. Xiuqing Tian of Framingham, Massachusetts had served more than six months in jail before her release to a halfway house pending Monday's sentencing. She pleaded guilty in November to helping induce an immigrant to reside unlawfully in the United States. She apologized and thanked the government for its help in turning her life around. In her plea deal, she admitted working for co-defendants Gary Kidgell and Yan Zhang. The document alleges they encouraged her to perform sex acts at the massage parlors where she worked. Tian has also admitted helping Kidgell recruit other Chinese women by providing translation services and conducting interviews.

Boulevard Brewing Plans to Expand in US, Europe

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing Company plans to expand its sales across the U.S. and into Europe. Boulevard founder John McDonald recently sold the company to Belgium-based Duvel Moortgat. McDonald said Duvel has a long history of making a well-regarded, high-quality beer. The Kansas City Star reports that Boulevard is sold in 25 states. In two to five years, Boulevard beers could be sold in every state, as well as in Europe. Simon Thorpe, chief operating officer of Duvel Moortgat USA says the potential to develop overseas is greater than the company originally believed. About 35 percent of Boulevard's sales are within a 50-mile radius of its Kansas City headquarters, but Boulevard's Bully Porter and its Single-Wide I.P.A. are already sold in Scandinavia.

Topeka Hospital Joins Mayo Clinic Partnership

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka health care system has become the first in Kansas to join a partnership with Minnesota's renowned Mayo Clinic. The Capital-Journal reports patients of Stormont-Vail Healthcare can benefit from the expertise of the Mayo Clinic's doctors without having to travel hundreds of miles. The Mayo Clinic is a destination for people with unusual and complex medical conditions because of its extensive research. Its Mayo Clinic Care Network was created about three years ago and lets doctors at participating hospitals receive second opinions from Mayo experts within 48 hours. Stormont-Vail's partnership took effect April 1st, after nearly a year's work with Mayo officials. Network medical director David Hayes said Mayo looks for hospitals around the country that share its culture and put patients first.

Sedgwick County Jail Starts Mentoring Program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County has started a mentoring program aimed at helping the jail inmates transition back into the community. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the new program is designed to help inmates change their thinking and guide their actions in a positive way. Ten inmates recently graduated from the program. The Wichita Eagle reports the free program uses community volunteers, such as educators and ministers, to guide the inmates with support, problem-solving and anger-management. Under the program the inmates meet regularly with their mentors and then continue to meet with mentors after their release from the jail.


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