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Headlines for Saturday, January 24, 2015

School Funding Plan's Effects Uncertain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators from both parties say they're not sure how Republican Governor Sam Brownback's school-funding proposals would affect the power local districts have to raise local property taxes.  Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said local property taxes are a key unanswered question about the governor's proposals. The Topeka Democrat is critical of Brownback's call to repeal the existing funding formula.  The state's current funding scheme allows local school districts to impose property taxes to supplement their state funds, but caps the total amount they can raise. Brownback hasn't said whether he'd freeze local school taxes at current levels or eliminate the cap on districts' authority.  Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said those issues have yet to be determined.  Republicans said lawmakers must decide how much taxing power to give districts.

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Kansas Democrats Outline Opposition to Governor's Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas Democratic lawmakers are criticizing Republican Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposals.  Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City said in a news conference yesterday (FRI) that the governor's proposals would hurt ordinary Kansans. Hensley argued that Brownback's proposal to repeal the current school funding formula was unconstitutional.  Brownback's budget recommendations also call for sharp increases in cigarette and alcohol taxes and transfers. Hensley said these moves would disproportionately affect the poor. Kansas is facing a total budget deficit of more than $710 million in the current fiscal year and the one beginning July 1st. The Democratic leaders blame Brownback's tax-cutting policies. But Democrats haven't drafted alternative budget 
legislation.  Brownback said in a statement that he's willing to work with the Democrats.

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Brownback Marks 70th Anniversary of Battle of Bulge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is honoring veterans of World War Two's Battle of the Bulge and commemorating the 70th anniversary of its end.  Brownback signed a proclamation designating yesterday (FRI) as "Battle of the Bulge Day."  Joining him for the brief Statehouse ceremony were four veterans in their late 80s and early 90s who served in the Army when the battle was fought in Belgium and Luxembourg in December 1944 and January 1945.  The veterans were Bob MacLeay of Lawrence and Paul Scheid, J.D. Sexton and Henry Wanke of Topeka.  The six-week battle arose from the last major German offensive planned by Adolf Hitler himself, which created a bulge in American lines. More than 600,000 American troops fought in freezing temperatures to throw the Germans back.

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Firefighter Dies after Training Session

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 49-year-old southwest Kansas firefighter has died after experiencing difficulty breathing during training.  Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton says Ronnie Peek and other firefighters were participating in scheduled training Thursday night when he started having trouble breathing. The 16-year veteran of the fire department was taken to St. Catherine Hospital, where he died.  Shelton says the department will issue more information later about memorials or ways to help his family.

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Settlements Reached in 'Hot Fuel' Litigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Twenty-eight oil companies and retailers have agreed to settle litigation claiming customers were knowingly overcharged when gas station fuel temperatures rose.  The plaintiffs' attorneys said in a news release yesterday (FRI) that a federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas has given preliminary approval to settlements in the so-called "hot fuel" litigation.  As temperatures rise during warmer months, gasoline expands, meaning customers get less energy per gallon. But gas is price based on a standard of 60 degrees.  Defendants include ConocoPhillips Company, ExxonMobil Corp., Sinclair Oil Corp. and Sam's Club. They've agreed to a take a variety of steps, including upgrading to equipment that corrects for the effects of temperature on fuel. Some of the companies also will help pay states for fuel oversight efforts.

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