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Headlines for Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tax Hike Appears Inevitable in Kansas After Schools Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A big tax increase for Kansas appears inevitable as the state wrestles with budget problems. Even many Republicans are focused on rolling back past income tax cuts that are widely regarded as GOP Governor Sam Brownback's biggest political legacy. GOP moderates were working with Democrats in both chambers. A state Supreme Court ruling this week that the state isn't spending enough money on its public schools only bolstered many lawmakers' support for raising income taxes. The court directed legislators to enact a new school funding law by June 30 without setting a spending target. Figures lawmakers are circulating involve hundreds of millions of new dollars. Democrats and moderate Republicans already were looking at boosting income taxes to close projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019.

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US Judge Defers Ruling in Kansas Voting Citizenship Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge is weighing the fate of two federal lawsuits in Kansas challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring prospective voters to prove their U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson didn't indicate when she would rule after presiding over a three-hour hearing Friday in Kansas City, Kansas, on motions seeking partial summary judgment. At the crux of the lawsuits is a disputed voter registration law requiring Kansas voters to provide documents such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. The cases challenge the requirement for people registering to vote at motor vehicle offices. Robinson heard arguments over claims that the state's requirement unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote and violates the right to travel because it allegedly discriminates against U.S. citizens who come to Kansas from elsewhere.

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Kansas Preparing for Increase in Opioid Addiction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With opioid abuse on the rise in Kansas, some officials are worried the state isn't adequately prepared. A measure passed by the House last week and some preparations by state agencies could help. The House bill would expand access to lifesaving drugs that stop overdoses by allowing first responders to carry and administer them. The state is also working to enhance addiction prevention and treatment. Overdose deaths in the state more than tripled between 1999 and 2015, but Kansas still sees far fewer deaths than parts of the Northeast, Southwest and eastern Midwest that have been hit hard by opioid addiction. The state is working on an action plan to deal with rising overdose rates and could get funding through a grant for prevention and treatment.

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Dry Conditions Spur Kansas Wildfire Worries

MARQUETTE, Kan. (AP) — Officials worry this year's potential for a fire outbreak in Kansas could be worse than last year, when the state saw its biggest known wildfire. Jim Unruh, a volunteer fire department chief in Marquette, helped fight last year's Anderson Creek blaze that charred 390,000 acres in Oklahoma and Kansas. Unruh tells The Wichita Eagle that this year "just scares me," because of already dry conditions and a lot of fuel on some pastures. Problems already have surfaced. Unruh's crew last month battled a wildfire of 3,600 acres. Kansas Forest Service fire specialist Eric Ward says the state had three large wildfires in January. "Large" is defined as a fire that burns at least 100 acres of trees or more than 300 acres of brush.

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K-State Makes $6 Million Budget Reduction

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University officials say the school will reduce its budget by $6 million. President Richard Myers said Friday the cuts to the current fiscal year budget are in response to a drop in enrollment and uncertain state funding. The Manhattan Mercury reports the cuts represent a 2.21 percent across-the-board reduction. Department heads will be responsible for determining how the reductions will be implemented. Myers says the cuts will allow the university to continue to provide scholarships and respond to a deficit in its central scholarship account. He said the university's future funding remains uncertain because the Kansas Legislature is still putting a budget together and hasn't chosen to raise taxes to respond to a budget deficit.

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'Missing' Pilot Explains Actions After Kansas Crash

ROXBURY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities were stumped when a damaged fixed-wing plane was found after an apparent crash landing in a field near Roxbury, Kansas, with no sign of the pilot. On Saturday, the pilot, Randy Shannon, a businessman from Drexel, Missouri, solved the mystery. He told The Kansas City Star the crash happened Thursday as he tried to land on a roadway near Roxbury, intending to glide to a parking spot. Because he wasn't hurt and no property was damaged, Shannon walked into Roxbury, told someone what happened and went to a business meeting. Later, he was taken to an airport where he had a truck and drove home. He says he called federal and aviation officials to report the crash. In hindsight, he says he also should have notified local authorities.

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Para-Educator Convicted of Sexually Abusing Student

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former para-educator for the Lawrence school district has been convicted of sexually abusing one of her students. A Douglas County jury on Friday found 34-year-old Teri Lynn Johnson, of Baldwin City, guilty of unlawful sexual relations, sexual exploitation of a child and promoting obscenity to minors. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that her victim, who is now an adult, testified during the trial that he met Johnson while he was a student at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center's Day School. The victim said his father eventually discovered sexual images and messages from Johnson on his phone. Johnson will be sentenced April 14.

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Second Mistrial Declared in Haskell University Rape Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — For the second time, a mistrial was declared in the trial of a man accused of raping a Haskell Indian Nations University student. The Douglas County jury on Friday acquitted 22-year-old Galen Satoe on one charge but a hung jury was declared when jurors couldn't reach verdicts on four other charges. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Satoe and 21-year-old Jared Wheeler were accused of raping a 19-year-old freshman in November 2014 at Haskell. Wheeler pleaded no contest in November 2016 to aggravated battery after his trial also ended with a hung jury. He is currently serving 60 days, followed by two years' probation. The two men, who said the sexual encounter was consensual, were expelled from Haskell. A hearing was scheduled for Thursday for prosecutors to decide how to proceed.

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Kansas Man Hopes for Resolution of Wife's 40-Year Disappearance Case

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man hasn't given up hope that the 40-year-old disappearance of his missing wife will be solved. The Kansas City Star reports that Donald Evitts's wife, legal secretary Loy Gillespie Evitts, went missing after leaving work to run some errands on Feb. 28, 1977. Police believe Loy Evitts was abducted. It's the Kansas City Police Department's longest unsolved missing persons case. The supervisor of the department's missing-persons section, police Sergeant Ben Caldwell, says there are no new leads. He says the case is suspended. Donald Evitts, of Overland Park, says he's cautiously optimistic someone will come forward with information that would solve the mystery. He says he's learned to never get his hopes up because "they all failed in the end."

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Kansas Town Largely Moving On Year After Mass Shooting 

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — A year since a gunman killed three people and wounded 14 others at a Kansas lawn equipment factory, residents of the town say they've not forgotten the carnage but are moving on. The Wichita Eagle reports one of the chief reasons for Hesston's resilience after the Feb. 25, 2016, shooting at the Excel Industries plant is that many of the 4,000 residents didn't know anyone directly tied to the tragedy. That's because many of the factory's workers commute to Hesston. The gunman, Cedric Ford, was killed by police. An ex-girlfriend who gave Ford the guns he used in the shooting was sentenced in November to a year on supervised release. Sarah Hopkins pleaded guilty to not alerting authorities that a convicted felon unlawfully possessed firearms.

 

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