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Headlines for Monday, March 21, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

High Fire Danger Across Much of Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — There will be a high danger of wildfires across much of Kansas for the next few days. The National Weather Service calls for dry conditions, low humidity and winds gusting as high as 50 miles per hour, along with temperatures in the 60s and 70s today (MON) and tomorrow (TUE). 


Kansas Senate Sends School Funding Bill Back to Committee 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has sent back to committee a school funding bill that would redistribute some state education dollars to help poor school districts. The measure senators returned on a voice vote is a response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling last month. The court said a 2015 school funding law has shorted poor schools on their fair share of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 local districts. The court gave lawmakers until June 30 to fix the problems and threatened to keep schools closed if they didn't meet the deadline. The bill would redistribute about $38 million in education funding during the 2016-17 school year. It would increase the state aid for 100 districts but reduce funding for 186 districts.


Kansas Lawmakers Continue Working to Meet Supreme Court School Funding Goal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers say they are worried that they may never be able to meet the Kansas Supreme Court's demands for more equitable education funding. They say they could be creating a yearly budget chaos as they constantly reshuffle dollars among local school districts. The Senate is expected to debate a bill this week that would redistribute a small part of the state's annual aid to its 286 school districts to help the poorer ones at the expense of wealthier ones. It's a response to a Supreme Court ruling last month that Kansas has shorted poor districts and that public schools must shut down in July unless lawmakers fix the problem. GOP lawmakers said last week that they were disappointed that the court rejected key parts of a law they enacted last year to make education funding more predictable year-to-year.


Kansas Lawmakers' Lawyer Questions Staff for School Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer hired by the Kansas Legislature is questioning its staff as he attempts to compile evidence for an ongoing lawsuit over school funding. Attorney Toby Crouse interviewed legislative researchers and bill-drafting attorneys during an unusual meeting Monday of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The committee's members were present, and the meeting was open to the public. A court reporter was compiling a transcript of the meeting. Four school districts have pursued a lawsuit against the state over education funding since 2010. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last month that the state is shorting poor school districts on their aid and ordered lawmaker to fix the problems by June 30. Legislative leaders hired Crouse to help them compile evidence to present to the high court in future proceedings.


House Votes to Free Nurse Midwives from Doctor Oversight 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Nurse midwives wouldn't need a doctor's oversight for routine deliveries under a bill that passed the Kansas House. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill advanced Monday on a voice vote. Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, says the nurse midwives would be allowed to prescribe medicines, order diagnostic tests and perform birth procedures such as episiotomies. The Board of Healing Arts would directly regulate them. The bill would open the door to independent practice by about 85 certified nurse midwives statewide. The majority already work in centers where they have collaborative agreements with doctors. Republican Representative Barbara Bollier says she usually supports doctor oversight over the practice of medicine. But the retired physician from Mission Hills says it's not needed in the case of routine births.


Kansas Supreme Court Seeks Dismissal of Kline's Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit from former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. The lawsuit is connected to the 2013 decision to indefinitely suspend Kline's law license over an investigation he led into abortion clinics. Kline's attorneys argue that the court lacked the four justices necessary to make the decision. That's because five of the court's seven justices recused themselves, partially at Kline's request. The case then was heard by two Supreme Court justices and five other Kansas judges from lower courts. At issue is whether the temporary justices' votes should count. Kline's attorneys say they shouldn't; the defendants say they should. 


Kansas Legislators Move to Gain More Control over State Debt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill to give lawmakers more control over the state's use of debt to finance big building projects. The House's 114-8 vote Monday sends the measure to the Senate. Lawmakers are considering it after the University of Kansas and Governor Sam Brownback's administration pursued projects without prior legislative approval. The bill would require the full Legislature to authorize bonds, borrowing against the state's credit or other debt for projects costing $25 million or more. The governor and legislative leaders would have to approve smaller projects. A nonprofit corporation affiliated with the University of Kansas went to a Wisconsin agency for $327 million in bonds for campus improvements. Brownback's administration pursued but canceled a $20 million plan for a new power plant near the Statehouse.


Kansas Lawmaker Compares Birth Control Proposal to Eugenics
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has rejected a proposal for encouraging the state to provide long-acting birth control to poor residents after a Republican member likened it to the discredited 20th Century eugenics movement that sought to control who could have children. Democratic Senator Marci Francisco of Lawrence offered the proposal Thursday as an amendment to a bill that would permanently block the state from sending federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services to Planned Parenthood. Her amendment failed on a voice vote. Francisco said her proposal would have reduced unintended pregnancies and abortions among young women. But Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee said such efforts target minorities and likened the proposal to eugenics. The Senate then gave the bill first-round approval on a voice vote, setting up final action Tuesday.


Kansas Lawmakers Vote to Overhaul Juvenile Justice System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have voted to overhaul the juvenile justice system by allowing more low-risk offenders to stay at home while participating in community-based programs like anger management. Juvenile offenders can currently be placed in juvenile detention centers or group homes for any level offense. Kansas has the sixth-highest rate of juvenile offenders placed in detention centers or group homes nationwide. The measure passed 117-6 in a final-approval House vote Monday, after it passed 38-2 in the Senate last month. Senators will review the changes before it is sent to the governor. The House version of the bill includes a provision to reserve up to 50 beds in group homes for juvenile offenders. The previous measure approved by the Senate says all group homes will close by July 2018.


Kansas Lawmakers Debate End-of-Life Treatment for Children 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have given first-round approval to a proposal aimed at giving parents of vulnerable children a say in end-of-life treatment. The so-called "Simon's Law" would require hospitals to obtain written parental or guardian consent for children under 18 years old before issuing a do-not-resuscitate order, or depriving children of food or medicine needed to survive. The proposal also requires health facilities, nursing homes and physicians to offer patients a written disclosure of policies that are either life-sustaining or nonbeneficial to their situation. State Senator Jacob LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican, spoke in favor of the bill during a debate Monday. He spoke of an incident in Missouri in which a baby named Simon was given a do-not-resuscitate order without his parents' knowledge.


Kansas Lawmakers Applaud Royals for World Series Victory 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are honoring the Kansas City Royals for winning their first World Series since 1985. Royals Hall of Fame director Curt Nelson held up the silver World Series trophy on Monday to the applause of legislators in both chambers. Both the Senate and House approved resolutions hailing the team's five-game triumph over the New York Mets in November. Republican Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe spoke about reliving the joy he felt as a young boy when he watched Kansas City win the Series in 1985. He praised the Royals for earning their title while playing "the boys' game like grown-up boys." Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, also congratulated the team for its accomplishment and urged his fellow senators to support the resolution in that chamber.


Kansas Psychiatric Hospital Cuts Spending Amid Budget Woes 

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A psychiatric hospital in west-central Kansas challenged with staffing troubles and leadership turnover has implemented stringent spending controls after burning through more than 60 percent of its annual budget in six months. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that as of December 31, Larned State Hospital had spent at least $34.2 million of its $57 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. The hospital has cut down on spending, increased auditor review of purchases and prohibited non-urgent expenditures. A January 15 memorandum to the hospital's administrators and program directors outlined the restrictions. The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the hospital, says the spending rate and memo had been extensively discussed at a House Social Services Budget Committee hearing.


University of Kansas Professor Cleared of School Policy Violation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A four-month investigation into a University of Kansas professor who used a racial slur in class, has concluded that the word was used in an educational context. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that assistant communication studies professor Andrea Quenette was notified by the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access that she did not violate school policies. Quenette used the slur a day after a heated, university-wide town hall forum on race. She told her class that unlike other campuses, she hadn't seen the racial slur spray painted on walls at KU. A group of eight graduate students filed a discrimination complaint because of her use of the word and Quenette was put on paid leave while the university investigated.


Escaped Kansas Inmate Re-Captured in Arkansas City

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prison inmate who was reported missing last week has been apprehended after investigators received a tip that led them to a family member's home. The Wichita Eagle reports 37-year-old Bradley Struble was taken into custody at 10:30 p.m. Saturday in Arkansas City. Struble had been missing from the minimum-security Winfield Correctional Facility since midnight Wednesday. He was apprehended without incident and is being held in the Cowley County Jail. Struble is serving time for violating parole. Department of Corrections records show he also has convictions for aggravated burglary, robbery, criminal damage to property, theft and misdemeanor battery. He was scheduled to be released in October.


Cleanup of Former Salina Air Force Base Ahead of Schedule

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A consultant working on a plan to clean up contamination at a former Salina military base says the project is ahead of schedule. A representative from Michigan-based Dragun Corporation told the Salina Airport Authority that cleanup at the former Schilling Air Force Base could begin as soon as 2018. That's sooner than local residents were previously told. Contamination issues arose in the mid-1990s, prompting city leaders to seek clarification from the U.S. Department of Defense about who was responsible for clean-up. The Salina Journal reports the solvent trichloroethylene is in the soil and groundwater and is moving toward city wells. The solvent is a carcinogen and was used as a degreaser to wash aircraft and weapons at the base.


Teens Survive Airplane Crash on Wichita Golf Course

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A pair of teenagers was able to walk away from a rented airplane one of them was flying when it crashed onto a Kansas golf course. Wichita police say the pilot was a 17-year-old boy and the passenger an 18-year-old woman who were on their way from Nashville, Tennessee, to Wichita on Friday when they crashed. The Wichita Eagle reports the 1966 single-engine Mooney came down on the 14th hole at the Tallgrass Country Club, narrowly missing nearby homes. Wichita authorities did not identify the pair. They suffered only minor injuries in the crash of the 50-year-old plane. 


Man Dies After Speedway Crash in South-Central Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A man has died after a crash at the Kansas International Dragway. The crash happened Sunday afternoon at the speedway in the south-central Kansas town of Maize. The victim was transported to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita. A Via Christi spokeswoman says the man was in critical condition when he arrived and died less than an hour later. A Sedgwick County dispatcher says the crash victim had participated in a racing event at the speedway. The site was featuring an event called "Import Face-off." Witnesses said the crash happened when a car went out of control and hit a wall after crossing the finish line.


Baby Sitter Charged with Scalding a 4-Month-Old Child 

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas City-area baby sitter has been charged with scalding a 4-month-old girl. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office announced Monday that 23-year-old Brea White, of Independence, is charged with first-degree child endangerment. It wasn't immediately known if she had an attorney. Court documents say that the baby was dropped off at White's home Saturday morning. Several hours later, the girl was rushed in an ambulance to Children's Mercy Hospital, where she was diagnosed with first- and second-degree burns over 60 percent of her body. She also was diagnosed with potential brain bleeding that was consistent with being shaken. White told an officer that the baby began having trouble breathing in the bath tub. White said she tested the bath temperature before placing the baby in the water.


Easter Egg Hunt Goes High-Tech in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - An Easter egg hunt has gone high-tech at a suburban Kansas City park. The Kansas City Star reports that children used GPS devices to search for goodies Sunday in Johnson County's Antioch Park. The Johnson County Park & Recreation District programmed the GPS devices, which were lent to participants in this year's Easter egg hunt. So many people registered for the event that a second round of searching was added after the first group had spent about an hour gathering eggs. Each child received two eggs, filled with candy or toys, at each of eight caches. The GPS devices directed the hunters to within about 20 feet of a cache. Then children had to search for it.

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