Kansas GOP Leader Defends Plan on Teacher Tenure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick is trying to blunt criticism of a proposal passed by legislators to end tenure for public school teachers. The Stilwell Republican said Wednesday the measure does not strip teachers of their right to due legal process when they face dismissal. The Kansas National Education Association contends the measure included in a school funding plan will eliminate protections against arbitrary firings. The teachers' union called Merrick's comments misleading. The measure would overturn Kansas law says a teacher who faces being dismissed after three years in the classroom has the right to have his or her case reviewed by an independent hearing officer. Merrick's office released a memo from legislative lawyers saying teachers still can have such hearings if they believe their constitutional rights were violated.
Police Link Kansas City-Area Highway Shootings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say they have linked some of the apparently random shootings targeting vehicles traveling on Kansas City-area highways over the past month. Kansas City, Missouri police didn't indicate Wednesday what led them to that conclusion. Federal authorities are helping investigate 13 shooting incidents between March 8th and April 6th, three in which drivers were wounded. Ten of the shootings took place in Kansas City, while the other three were in the suburbs of Blue Springs and Lee's Summit, Missouri and Leawood, Kansas. Police say several other possible victims came forward after hearing about the shootings in the media, but it's unclear how many are connected. They also say victims and witnesses have provided inconsistent statements, making it difficult to get a grip on how many of the shootings are related.
AP Source: Kathleen Sebelius Resigning from Top HHS Post
WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from the Obama administration. The move comes just a week after the close of the rocky enrollment period for President Barack Obama's health care law. Website failures marred the opening weeks of the six-month enrollment period, but the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling more than 7 million people in health insurance plans. Sebelius's resignation could set the stage for a contentious election-year confirmation hearing for whomever Obama nominates to replace her. Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas, has served as HHS secretary since the start of the Obama administration. The official was not authorized to discuss Sebelius's resignation ahead of the formal announcement and requested anonymity.
Man Awaiting Retrial in Lawrence Death Released from Jail on Bond
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man awaiting a retrial in the 2004 death of his wife has bonded out of jail. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 55-year-old Martin Miller met his $250,000 bond and was released from the Douglas County Jail Wednesday. Miller was convicted in 2005 for the death of 46-year-old Mary Miller. Prosecutors allege he strangled his wife at their home in July 2004 because he was having an affair and wanted to collect $300,000 in life insurance. That conviction was overturned in February when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the jury instructions in his trial were incorrect. Miller is scheduled to return to court on May 1, when a new trial will be scheduled.
New Kansas Revenue Projections on Horizon
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Kansas officials and economists will gather next week to study revenue projections for the coming year, determining if the state economy is growing and if tax receipts will keep government afloat. Legislative leaders on Thursday gave differing views of what the projections for the fiscal year that starts July 1 may look like, but agreed that the state faces challenges. Tax collections through March were $130 million above the forecasters' November 2013 estimate. Next week's projections are expected to be revised upward to reflect the growth, which will help legislators finish the fiscal 2015 budget when they return later in April. Legislative staff project the state will maintain positive balances at least through the next fiscal year before budget cuts or revenue increases would be necessary.
Child Killed When Car Fleeing Police Hits Vehicle
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a young girl died when the van her mother was driving was hit by a car fleeing from police. Authorities say Kansas City, Kansas police began chasing the car after it didn't stop for a routine traffic stop Wednesday night. The driver eventually ran a red light and hit a van, killing the girl and injuring her mother and two other children. The driver tried to flee but was arrested. KSHB-TV reports the victim was a 7-year-old girl. The mother, a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy were seriously injured. The highway patrol is investigating.
Kansas Firm Indicted in Pollution, False Reports
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors allege a Kansas metal finishing firm dumped untreated wastewater into a city sewer system. A 24-count indictment filed late Wednesday also accuses C & R Plating and its owner, Kevin L. Cline, with submitting fraudulent samples and reports of analysis to conceal the pollution from state environmental regulators. Cline did not immediately return a message left Thursday at his office in Minneapolis, Kansas. The indictment charges the company and its owner with 20 Clean Water Act violations, making a false statement to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, illegally introducing pollutants into the sewer system, among other charges. The wastewater from the firm contained high zinc levels. Treated wastewater from Minneapolis is discharged into the Solomon River via Lindsey Creek and a tributary.
Highway Patrol's Use of Twitter Expands
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Highway Patrol troopers say they are pleased how a new emphasis on using Twitter is helping communicate during storms or traffic problems. The patrol formed a group called the Tweeting Troopers earlier this year as a way to quickly spread information to a large audience. Trooper Gary Warner, who admits he was not a Twitter user before the group was formed, says he's been amazed at how popular the tweets have become. He told The Hutchinson News it's not uncommon to have 50,000 to 70,000 views of a tweet, which is often retweeted by others and media. Warner says he's attracted 2,000 followers in four months, and he's excited to discover new uses for the social media tool.
Officer Fatally Shoots Man After Wichita Chase
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Wichita say a man shot to death by police had advanced on officers with a knife and did not stop when officers fired stun guns at him. KFDI-FM reports that the shooting of 30-year-old David Zehring followed a chase that began at 2:30 am Thursday after an officer stopped his car for a traffic violation. Police Chief Norman Williams says that Zehring sped off at speeds that reached 75 mph. Sedgwick County deputies joined the chase. The chief said Zehring eventually stopped, got out and approached the officers with a knife. Williams said deputies fired at him twice with stun guns, but Zehring did not go down, leading a police officer to shoot him. Williams said police found more knives and a 16-inch sword in Zehring's car.
Judge Sets Hearing in Lawsuit over Boeing Sale
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas has set a hearing in the lawsuit against Boeing brought by two unions over pensions and retiree medical benefits. The litigation stems from the 2005 sale of Boeing's commercial aircraft operations in Wichita to Spirit Aerosystems. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Wednesday scheduled a June 23 status conference in the long-running litigation. The parties are now arguing over what information to exchange during discovery in the case. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace filed the lawsuit in August 2005. The Machinists union joined the lawsuit in January 2007, and the court later consolidated it into the litigation of a similar case brought by several workers.
Governments Pledge $260K to Draw GOP Convention
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Four governments in the bistate Kansas City metro area have pledged $260,000 for a campaign to bring the 2016 Republican National Convention to Kansas City, Missouri. Donations of $65,000 apiece were announced Thursday by Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James; Jackson County, Missouri Executive Mike Sanders; Mark Holland, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas; and Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County, Kansas Board of Commissioners. The Republican National Committee last week narrowed the field of cities competing for its presidential nominating convention to six, including Kansas City, Missouri. Thursday's announcement took place in Kansas City, Kansas at Sporting Park, home of Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City. Holland said the site was chosen to solidify the bistate effort to land the convention.
Kansas Chamber Lobbyist Departs for Energy Group
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Chamber of Commerce lobbyist is leaving the influential business organization to become executive director of a group that represents the state's oil and natural gas industry. Kent Eckles expects to begin his new position at the Kansas Petroleum Council next week. His new job was announced jointly Wednesday by the chamber and the American Petroleum Institute, the national group affiliated with the Kansas oil and gas group. Eckles has been the chamber's vice president of government affairs for nearly six years. He's been highly visible at the Statehouse, and the chamber considers him its expert on tax issues. The chamber noted that the American Petroleum Institute has been one of its members since 1954.
KS Senator Jerry Moran to Receive Science Award
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Senator Jerry Moran will be honored at the University of Kansas next week for his support of scientific research. The Kansas Republican will receive the Champion of Science award from the Science Coalition, an organization of more than 50 of the top U.S. research universities. The honor is presented to 35 current members of Congress for their support of scientific research. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will make the presentation Monday at the Dole Institute of Politics on the Lawrence campus. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, will speak at the award ceremony.
Corps: Plenty of Room Available in Missouri River Reservoirs
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers says there's plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff. But some groups are urging the corps to step up dam releases sooner rather than later, to guard against devastating flooding like the region experienced three years ago. The corps is holding a series of public meetings in Missouri River states on its plans for managing the river this year. Meetings were held in Bismarck, N.D., and Pierre, S.D., on Wednesday. Officials forecast runoff at 32 million acre feet — 27 percent above average but well below the 61 million acre feet recorded in 2011. Available storage in river reservoirs is about 53 million acre feet. Still, Bruce Engelhardt with the North Dakota Water Commission says "constant vigilance must be maintained."
WSU Announces $200K in Grants
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has announced a total of $200,000 in grants to 11 area school districts for engineering education. The university says in a statement that the money will come from the state's University Engineering Initiative Act. The funds will allow school districts to teach curriculum from a national program called Project Lead the Way. Lawrence Whitman, associate dean of Wichita State's College of Engineering, says it's important to maintain students' interest in science and engineering through the K-12 years.