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Headlines for Monday, March 31, 2014


KS House Panel's Leader Resigns over School Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The House Appropriations Committee's chairman has resigned from the committee because he says he can't support a school funding plan drafted by the chamber's Republican leaders. Newton Republican Marc Rhoades resigned Monday, just before the start of his committee's hearings on the plan. The proposal seeks to address two flaws in funding for poor school districts identified by the Kansas Supreme Court in a March 7 ruling in a school funding lawsuit. The court said the state must boost aid to poor districts. The fix is estimated to cost $129 million, but the House plan would fund part of that increase by adjusting transportation aid to school districts. Rhoades said even with the offset, the new spending isn't sustainable. He said his resignation allows the bill to move forward.


Kansas School Funding Solution Proves Elusive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — It would seem a simple task. Write a check for $129 million and satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court ruling regarding the constitutionality of school funding. But the process is proving difficult as legislators dive into the 20-year-old school finance formula, scanning about to look at various aspects of how $3 billion in state aid is distributed and whether the money is producing the desired results. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has asked for a clean funding bill before legislators leave town Friday, though he will look at changes to the formula. He wants something in place to meet the court's July deadline for resolving the issue. Legislators are looking a bit broader, but the governor's likely opponent in November says lawmakers just need to write the check.


Sales, Corporate Taxes Boost Kansas Revenues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says better-than-expected collections of Kansas sales and corporate income taxes helped swell state revenue by $12.2 million more than anticipated in March. Monday's report from the state Revenue Department also says tax collections through the first eight months of the fiscal year totaled nearly $4 billion, about $130 million more than expected. Corporate taxes in March had been projected at $30 million but totaled $47.7 million instead. Sales tax receipts in the month were $7.9 million more than the $155 million that was anticipated. The state's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.


Kansas Republican Spat Blunts Redistricting Edge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's redistricting experience shows that even when Republicans dominate a state, the outcome is not always preordained. Republican bickering between tea party conservatives and moderates landed the decision with federal judges, who approved a Kansas election map that gives Democrats at least a shot at breaking the GOP stranglehold on the state's four U.S. congressional seats. Republicans hold a nearly 20-percentage point advantage among registered voters in Kansas. There never was a chance that redistricting would make any of districts Democratic-leaning. But the map drawn by judges assigned the city of Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas and often seen as the state's most liberal community, to the district of Republican three-term Representative Lynn Jenkins, giving Democrats hope of being competitive.


UPDATE: KS Residents Rush to Meet Health Care Deadline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Consumers and health care counselors in Kansas are struggling through problems with the federal government's online insurance marketplace ahead of the deadline to sign up for coverage. Kansas residents had until 11 pm Central time Monday to get an application for coverage started under the 2010 federal law, which requires most Americans to have coverage or pay a tax penalty. At the Topeka public library, health care navigators initially had problems accessing the federal marketplace website. Later, they could access the site but found downloading information slow. Katrina McGivern of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved said navigators were swamped with appointments. The association trained most of the state's approximately 170 navigators. But the Republican-dominated state Legislature still was looking for ways to resist the 4-year-old federal health care overhaul.


700 Roofers Now Registered in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state attorney general's office is reminding Kansas residents of a new resource for making sure that roofing contractors are legitimate businesses. Legislators approved the Kansas Roofing Contractor Registration Act in 2013. The law requires every contractor that charges for commercial or residential roofing to obtain a registration certificate from the attorney general's office. The law took effect on July 1 of last year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says that 700 roofers had registered as of Monday. With the start of the spring storm season, Schmidt urged homeowners needing roof repairs to request a copy of a contractor's registration certificate and check it against an online directory kept by his office. Lawmakers created the registry to help protect consumers from untrustworthy and uninsured roofers.


Kansas Farmers Plan to Sow More Corn, Soybeans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are planning to put in more acres of corn and soybeans this season than they did a year ago. Monday's prospective planting report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service offers the season's first glimpse into the major crops Kansas farmers plan to grow. Kansas farmers told the agency they intend to sow 4.4 million acres of corn this spring, up 2 percent from last year. Expected soybean acreage in Kansas is up 8 percent at 3.9 million acres. But farmers plan to devote less land to sorghum, with an expected 2.7 million acres, down 13 percent from last year. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Corn Growers Association notes the figures are simply estimates at this point based on conversations with growers. There is little seed in the ground yet.


Parents, Teachers Walk for Kansas Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Despite sore feet and windy weather, five parents and teachers have completed a 60-mile walk from Johnson County to the Statehouse to show support for Kansas public schools. The hikers are part of a group called Game On for Kansas Schools, which is supporting higher state spending for public education. They set out Friday from suburban Kansas City and finished a ceremonial last mile Monday in Topeka. It was the second year for the walk, organized by parents and teachers. They're urging legislators to abide by a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision ordering additional funding for schools without making changes that would hurt the quality of education. The group says that schools have had to reduce spending in recent years, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer opportunities for students.


Sentencing Delayed for Butler County Woman

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing has been delayed for a 54-year-old southeast Kansas woman who pleaded guilty in the death of man whose decomposed body was found in her backyard. The Wichita Eagle reports that Susan L. May was scheduled for sentencing Thursday on one count of reckless and second-degree murder in the death of 55-year-old Richard Hrejsa. The hearing was continued after May's attorney asked the court to impose a reduced sentence in the case. Her new sentencing date is April 15. May would have faced up to about 10 years in prison under the state's sentencing guidelines. Hrejsa's remains were found in the open at May's home west of Augusta in October 2013, about a month after authorities think he was killed.

Crisis City Training Proves Popular

CRISIS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A mock community in central Kansas that provides training on responding to disasters has been expanding thanks to its popularity with emergency crews. Crisis City opened in October 2009 southwest of Salina on property owned by the Air Force. It hosts training drills that simulate various catastrophes, such as an active shooter, a train derailment or a building collapse. The various venues at Crisis City are designed to provide law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and military with hands-on training. Joe Pruitt, program consultant and manager, told The Kansas City Star that Crisis City serves military and civilian personnel from Kansas and other states, including Missouri, Nebraska and Texas. The site is expanding to 155 acres and a new shooting course is already nearly full.

Old Kansas Statehouse Dome Copper Reused

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some of the copper from the old Kansas Statehouse dome is being repurposed. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports several artists are using some of the weathered copper that was removed from the dome during renovations to make jewelry and sculptures. The creations are on sale in the Capitol gift shop. Artist Kristen Haug says the artists get the copper in rough-edged sheets, which they then work into their creations. She cuts hers into smaller rectangles or circles, applies lacquer to keep the green color from rubbing off and sets them in sterling silver frames to make jewelry.

Kansas Historic Site Hosts Bleeding Kansas Play

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Historical Society says an acting troupe of history re-enactors plans to present the play "Bleeding Kansas Characters." The Lecompton Re-enactors plan to portray notable people from the Bleeding Kansas era discussing slavery. The event is set for 2 pm on April 6 at Constitution Hall State Historic Site. Set in a 1850s Kansas territorial town hall political meeting, the dramatization is written by J. Howard Duncan. The April 6 presentation is the fifth in a series, with the final performance scheduled for May 4.

Moundridge Manufacturer Acquires Italian Plant

MOUNDRIDGE, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas company has bought an Italian manufacturing company. The Hutchinson News reports that Moundridge-based Bradbury Company, has acquired Industrie Pu. Ma. Bradbury's facility in Tribano, Italy, will include sales, engineering, assembly and equipment testing. The companies of The Bradbury Group, which employ about 600 people, manufacture and supply roll forming and coil processing equipment. The acquisition expands Bradbury's operations into 14 countries.

Kansas Extends Testing Amid Computer Problems

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials have extended this year's student testing period because of persistent computer glitches with the state tests. School districts statewide have reported technical problems with the March rollout of new state assessment tests. Delays have raised concerns that some schools would not complete the tests within the allotted time period. The Wichita Eagle reports because of the computer problems, the schools now have until May 16th to complete state reading, math and science assessments. That's two weeks more than originally planned, The State Board of Education also decided earlier this month that all public schools in Kansas will remain accredited next year, regardless of how they perform on the tests.

Hays Works to Conserve Water

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Hays City Commission has taken steps to increase water conservation measures for residents and businesses. The Hays Daily News reports commissioners unanimously approved resolutions Thursday to make plumbing more efficient in future construction and remodels. The resolutions the commission approved would also update the municipal water conservation plan and drought response plan and revise irrigation regulations. Commercial properties building new irrigation systems have to have 30 percent of their land xeriscaped, which is landscaping that uses vegetation that requires little water. New business customers using permanent irrigation systems will also need to install irrigation meters.

Grass Fire Burns 1,500 Acres in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a grass fire over about 1,500 acres in northeast Kansas damaged two homes and four outbuildings. No injuries were reported. Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones told The Topeka Capital-Journal it's unclear what started the fire Sunday. Fire crews from throughout the city and surrounding area fought the fire through strong winds and dry conditions. The fire was relatively under control by mid-afternoon. The National Weather Service also warned of fire conditions in Kansas on Sunday because of temperatures in the 70s, very low humidity and winds in excess of 25 miles per hour. The conditions were expected to continue at least into Monday.

Lawyer: Kansas Woman, 19, Doesn't Deny Killing

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The lawyer for a 19-year-old Kansas woman accused of killing her 52-year-old housemate says his client doesn't deny killing the man. Sarah Gonzales McLinn is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Harold Sasko, who was found dead January 17th after police went to the home the two shared and after McLinn's family reported her missing. McLinn appeared with her lawyer, Carl Cornwell, on Thursday in Douglas County District Court, where a preliminary hearing was set for May 16th. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Cornwell said after the hearing that McLinn has never denied killing Sasko. Cornell says understanding why the crime happened is another matter. McLinn has been in Douglas County Jail on a $1 million bond since being extradited from Florida last month.

US 50 Expansion in Dodge Deals with Historic Area

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The expansion of U.S. 50 in southwestern Kansas no longer includes leveling a historic rock formation. The Dodge City Globe reports the U.S. 50 expansion from a two-lane road into a four-lane expressway will use a paved 16-foot median as it passes the Point of Rocks formation, which was once used as a navigational aid for travelers and cowboys along the Santa Fe Trail. The original plan would have leveled the formation. But the Kansas Department of Transportation considered other options after discussions with groups, including the Santa Fe Trail Association. The 16-foot median, which emerged as a compromise solution, involves cutting into the rock formation and covering the face with a false rock retaining wall made to resemble sandstone. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

Wichita Immigration Mural Vandalized

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Volunteers have removed two swastikas that were spray-painted onto a Wichita mural that celebrates immigration. On Saturday, volunteers scrubbed off the two swastikas that had been sprayed in black paint onto the mural. The mural, which was painted by a group of high school students on the side of a store, depicts two people wrapped in flags, one an American and one Mexican. The mural reads: "Immigration is beautiful." In early February, vandals also spray-painted the words "KKK," ''welfare" and slur against people from Mexico on the mural. Volunteers removed that graffiti too and added a clear coat, which made the latest vandalism easier to remove. Security cameras have also been installed to catch any future vandalism.


Jayhawks' Wiggins Heads to NBA

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins made official Monday what he's been telling folks all along: He's headed to the NBA after his only season with the Jayhawks. The 6-foot-8 forward, who was voted second-team All-America earlier in the day, is expected to go in the top three picks in the June draft. Some believe he could go first overall. Wiggins was the top-rated recruit when he arrived at Kansas, and his brief career was a bit of a roller coaster. He struggled early in the season, caught fire midway through, and then flamed out when it mattered most in an NCAA tournament loss to Stanford. Wiggins only scored four points on 1-for-6 shooting in the third-round defeat. Afterward, he said that he let his team down with his poor performance.


Train Kills Pedestrian in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 45-year-old man has died after he was hit by a train in south Wichita. KAKE-TV reports the accident happened Sunday morning in south Wichita. Police say the train's engineers told officers the man was standing on the tracks and facing the train before he was hit. The man, who was not identified, died a short time after he was taken to a Wichita hospital.

PTSD Affects Military Members' Families

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Two Hutchinson middle-school age sisters want people to know that post-traumatic stress disorder can also affect the children of military men and women. Twelve-year-old Kristin Stowers, and her 14-year-old sister, Kaili Stowers, have learned first-hand about PTSD. Their father, Steve Stowers is a U.S. Marine veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010 after serving in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91. He recently finished an intensive PTSD treatment program at Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka. Kristin and Kaili told The Topeka Capital-Journal that their dad's PTSD affected them, making them more nervous and isolated. Kristin has written an essay about her experience, which Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp entered into the Congressional Record last week.


Polka Lovers Klub of Kansas Officially Disbands

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The dance is over for the Kansas chapter of Polka Lovers Klub of America. President Angie Kaiser announced in the group's March newsletter that the club disbanded because of a lack of new members. She says about $16,000 in the club's treasury has been given to charitable organizations. The club was formed in June 1983 and had about 250 dancers. But most of the members are elderly and it also had trouble finding people to serve as officers. The Wichita Eagle reports that the club's photo albums were donated to the Barton County Historical Society in Great Bend.




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