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Headlines for Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kansas House Panel Adds Funds for At-Risk Kids

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators looking to boost spending on programs for at-risk public school students have decided to be more generous than previously planned. A House committee worked yesterday (FRI) on a bill that would phase in a $783 million increase in annual aid to public schools over five years. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that the state's funding for its 286 local school districts is inadequate. The court said helping under-performing students is a key issue. The bill initially had a lower total cost, but committee members voted to add an additional $21 million for programs for students who are at risk of failing. That's an extra $111 per student for the 2017-18 school year. The committee hopes to vote on the entire plan Monday.


Kansas Lawmakers Advance Bill for Foster Care Oversight

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would increase their oversight of the state's privatized foster care system and the contractors running it. The House gave first-round approval to the measure yesterday (FRI) on a voice vote. Members planned to take another vote to determine whether the proposal goes to the Senate. The bill would create an 18-member task force to collect data from the state Department for Children and Families on the foster care system and its contractors and to make recommendations for improvement. Recent state audits have said the department and contractors weren't collecting enough documentation or data to oversee the program and ensure children were placed in safe and appropriate homes. Another audit said some parts of the state didn't have enough foster homes.


Kansas Students Bring Tiny House to Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Students in western Kansas have shown state officials a 330-square-foot tiny house they began building at the beginning of the school year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the students from a construction and entrepreneurship class at Ness City High School drove five and a half hours to bring the 12,500-pound tiny house to Topeka this week. They told the Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday that they want to "conquer the tiny house world." Students say the tiny home is more energy efficient than the average home, using only 900 kilowatt-hours per month. Sophomore Kris Liggett says he and his classmates used a variety of academic subjects to build the house. They're also using communication and social media marketing skills so they can sell the house for nearly $60,000.


Liberal Airport Seizes More Than 140 Pounds of Cocaine

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A pilot and a passenger have been arrested at a southwest Kansas airport after landing a plane carrying more than 140 pounds of cocaine. The Kansas City Star reports that the cocaine was discovered after the twin-engine plane landed at the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport on Wednesday. Kansas Bureau of Investigation officials say authorities received a tip about the plane and asked the Seward County Sheriff's Office to conduct a "ramp check" on the plane as well as review the documentation and identification of the pilot and aircraft. The two men were arrested after the drugs were discovered at an estimated street value of about $2 million. The bureau says the plane and drugs were seized. The bureau says the investigation is ongoing.


Kansas Lawmaker Announces Resignation, Cites Parkinson's

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas lawmaker is giving up his state House seat at the end of the month because he suffers from Parkinson's Disease. Republican Representative Pete DeGraaf of Mulvane said in announcing his resignation yesterday (FRI) that he doesn't have tremors or other visible systems of Parkinson's. But he says the nervous-system disorder has taken a toll on him and his family. DeGraaf is director of a financial services ministry. He has served in the House since Republicans in his Wichita-area district appointed him to fill a vacancy in May 2008. He is chairman of the House Government, Technology and Security Committee and a member of the Veterans and Military Committee. He is a former Air Force helicopter pilot. DeGraaf publicly disclosed his Parkinson's diagnosis in 2015.


Late Cash Infusion Narrowed Close Kansas Congressional Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released campaign finance reports show a late infusion of cash from mostly small donors helped Democrat James Thompson mount his surprisingly close congressional race as emboldened Democrats eye a 2018 rematch in the heavily Republican Kansas district. The margin of victory for Republican Ron Estes in the Kansas 4th District special election on April 11th slid to only seven percentage points from a 31-point margin in November, when incumbent Mike Pompeo was running before he was appointed Trump's CIA director. Reports filed late Thursday show that as of May 1st, Thompson raised a total of nearly $832,000, compared to about $494,000 Estes raised. Thompson spent about $562,000, while Estes spent about $421,000. Thompson has about $127,000 left as he mounts his next race. Estes' campaign had nearly $40,000 left.


Kansas Oil Rig Count Unchanged as National Count Rises

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by eight this week to 885. A year ago, only 406 rigs were active amid a slump in energy prices. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said yesterday (FRI) that 712 rigs sought oil and 172 explored for natural gas this week. Texas added eight rigs while Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio and Wyoming each added one. Oklahoma declined by two rigs while Alaska and New Mexico each lost one. Kansas, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out last May at 404 rigs.


Kobach Nominated to Trump Voter Fraud Commission

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Donald Trump has named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to help lead a voter fraud commission. But Kobach won't be leaving his post in Kansas. Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence will lead a commission to review alleged voter fraud and suppression. But Kobach spokeswoman Samantha Poetter says he does not plan to end his term as secretary of state early. Kobach also is considered a top likely contender in the 2018 Kansas governor's race. Kobach championed Kansas' tough proof of citizenship requirement as a way to keep noncitizens from voting. He has stood by Trump's unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in November. He also advised the Trump transition team and has been ordered to turn over proposals he took to a meeting with Trump.


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