Kansas Governor Signs School Aid Bill Meant to Satisfy Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has signed an education funding bill designed to prevent the state Supreme Court from shutting down the state's public schools. Brownback announced Thursday that he had signed the measure. He took the action Wednesday. The bill is a response to a Supreme Court ruling in February that the state isn't providing enough aid to its poor districts. The justices threatened to shut down schools if lawmakers didn't act by June 30. The bill redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid. Critics contend that the bill doesn't solve the problems identified by the court. But Brownback said in a statement that the bill arose from what he called a "delicate legislative compromise." He called on the court to review it with "appropriate deference."
League of Women Voters Joins Federal Suit on Citizenship Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The League of Women Voters of Kansas has joined a federal class action lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law that requires voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in November on behalf of all individuals who've unsuccessfully attempted to register since the state's citizenship requirement took effect in 2013. Plantiffs say that since then, nearly 23,000 Kansas residents have had their registrations placed "in suspense" or have been slashed from the voting lists altogether for failing to show the required proof of U.S. citizenship. The conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a brief this week arguing that a great number of non-citizens have been registered to vote and cast ballots in other states.
Kansas Cleans Up from More Wildfires in Largely Rural Areas
ALMA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents are cleaning up from another round of rural wildfires that have burned at least 18 square miles. KSNT-TV reports that Alma City Councilman Dan Deiter spent Wednesday sorting through debris at the Catholic school where he taught in northern Kansas. He says there was "no hope" for saving the building, which burned Tuesday. In nearby Riley County, authorities say workers from a Kansas State University agriculture program started a fire that burned about 300 acres and destroyed a mobile home. Riley County emergency management director Pat Collins told The Manhattan Mercury that the workers had been building a fence with a torch or welder. About 100 mobile home residents were evacuated. Fires also burned Tuesday in Morton County in southwest Kansas and Geary County in the north.
Public Support Sought for Cheney Firefighter
CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — A volunteer Kansas firefighter has been hospitalized after he collapsed while working to extinguish a weekend grass fire. The Cheney Volunteer Fire Department says the 48-year-old firefighter became unresponsive Sunday afternoon while he was operating a water truck used to battle the blaze. Cheney Fire Chief Brad Ewy says that the firefighter suffered a stroke. The man's name hasn't been released. He's been in critical condition at a Wichita hospital. Ewy says he's been a volunteer firefighter and EMT for seven years and that a fund has been set up to help the firefighter and his family.
TransCanada: Keystone Pipeline Leaked 16,800 Gallons of Oil in South Dakota
FREEMAN, S.D. (AP) — TransCanada estimates that about 16,800 gallons of oil leaked from the Keystone pipeline into a field in South Dakota. TransCanada says it reported the estimate today (THUR) to the National Response Centre and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration. The company says the estimate is based on the excavation of soil to expose more than 100 feet of pipe and takes into account a number of factors including oil observed in the soil and the potential area impacted. The company says the leak was reported Saturday. TransCanada hasn't said what caused the leak. The pipeline is shut down while officials investigate. Some 100 workers are at the site, about 4 miles from the Freeman pump station in Hutchinson County. The pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada, through Kansas and other states, on its way to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.
Advocacy Group to Seek Probe of Federal Election Official
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A nonprofit public advocacy group is calling for an investigation into the conduct of a top federal elections official. Allied Progress says it will send a letter Thursday to the Inspector General of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asking for an investigation of communications between that agency's executive director, Brian Newby, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The request follows a story by The Associated Press based on emails obtained through an open records request showing that Newby used ties to Kobach to help secure the job at an agency entrusted with making voting accessible, then used the position to implement rules requiring residents of three states to provide citizenship documentation to register to vote.
2 Tribes, State of Kansas Enter into Cigarette-Sale Compacts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Compacts between two Native American tribes and the state of Kansas approved by Governor Sam Brownback this week will allow the state to audit cigarette sales on tribal lands and continue to receive $60 million in annual payments that benefit children's programs. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says smokers go to reservations to buy cheap cigarettes. Under a 1998 settlement with four tobacco companies, 46 states, including Kansas, must account for all cigarettes and pay into an escrow fund. The companies said in 2003 that states weren't keeping up their end of the deal. Kansas settled its dispute in 2012. The state signed compacts with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and is in similar negotiations with two other tribes.
Kansas Could Block Transgender People from Updating Records
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is moving forward with a policy change that would make it harder for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates. The Wichita Eagle reports that under current regulations, one can change the gender listed on his or her birth certificate by showing medical paperwork that indicates an anatomical or physiological change occurred. The governor's administration has proposed changing the regulations so that the gender on a person's birth certificate can only be changed if the person signs an affidavit saying the gender was incorrectly recorded on the original certificate and also provide medical records backing up that claim. The change developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment seems to block transgender people from changing their birth certificates after transitioning.
Topeka District Unveils First of 11 New Emergency Shelters
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka school district has unveiled the first of 11 emergency shelters that are being constructed with money from a bond issue. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Whitson Elementary had a celebration Wednesday for the new gymnasium, where students can take shelter during extreme weather. In past years, students would have sought shelter in the hallways of their school. The new shelters are being built using Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for storm protection. In April 2014, voters approved $143 million in bonds to pay for projects that included school safety improvements, Chromebook purchases and a new career center. Whitson Elementary principal Keelin Pierce says she hopes her school will never need to use the gym as shelter, but knowing it is there offers peace of mind.
KCK Police Ask for Public Help in ID'ing Remains
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police are asking for the public's help in identifying skeletal remains found by a mushroom hunter. Police say the human remains were discovered Wednesday morning. Investigators say the remains appear to be those of a white man who was 20 to 30 years old, about 6 feet tall and wearing a Puka shell necklace with a shark tooth. Police suspect he probably had been missing for a year.
Man Who Killed Doctor George Tiller Back in Court
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man convicted of killing abortion provider George Tiller may have more leeway at his resentencing in Kansas to argue before a new jury. Scott Roeder has argued that he was acting in defense of unborn children when he shot and killed Teller in 2009. Roeder's life sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years was among the cases vacated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that juries, not judges, must decide whether aggravating circumstances existed to warrant increasing the punishment. Sedgwick County Judge Warren Wilbert says consideration of mitigating factors for lesser sentences could allow such evidence. Wilbert also said Tiller did not live to see another day, prompting an outburst from Roeder. Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder in the May 2009 death of Tiller.
Kansas Man's Hearing on Murder Charge Halted
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing for a northeast Kansas man accused of first-degree murder in a chase-related traffic death has been discontinued after his attorney cited an unspecified conflict of interest. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that a Shawnee County judge on Thursday halted the hearing for 62-year-old Sherman Norman Jenkins after his attorney said she no longer could represent him. Donna Asher did not publicly identify her conflict in the case. But District Judge Mark Braun said he would appoint a new attorney for Jenkins. Jenkins is accused in the February 4 death of Mia Holden. She was a passenger in a car when authorities say her car was hit by Jenkins's pickup truck while he was being pursued by police.
Judge Grants Defense Bid for Acquittal in Manslaughter Trial
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas judge has abruptly halted trial for a man who had been accused of causing a deadly 2012 wreck, ruling prosecutors failed to sufficiently prove the defendant was impaired at the time. The Hutchinson News reports Reno County District Judge Trish Rose on Wednesday granted a defense request for an acquittal in 46-year-old Troy Meitler's trial. The prosecution had just wrapped up its case. Rose ruled that prosecutors failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Meitler of Halstead was under the influence of drugs during the 2012 head-on crash that killed 49-year-old Brian Bush of Plevna. Meitler was charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and driving under the influence. Andrew Davidson, a prosecutor, demanded a mistrial after Rose's ruling Wednesday.
Man's Death Under Investigation in Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a suspicious death in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said in a news release that the victim was suffering from blunt trauma to his legs and head when he was found along a road. He was transported to an area hospital, where he died from his injuries. The identity of the victim wasn't immediately released. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.
Hearings to Remain Open for Kansas Teens Charged in Plot
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A juvenile court judge has ruled that hearings in the cases of two students accused of plotting to attack their Kansas high school will remain open to the public. The Hutchinson News reports that the ruling was issued Wednesday. The 15-year-old and 14-year-old suspects were charged last month as juveniles with conspiracy to commit capital murder. Prosecutors allege that they conspired to make pipe bombs and planned an attack against staff members at Hutchinson High School. Details in the complaint allege the pair wrote plans for the bombs, disassembled fireworks to obtain gunpowder and made blasting caps to trigger them. Attorneys for both teens filed motions attempting to have documents in the case filed under seal and proceedings closed to the public.
Woman, 81, Convicted of Threatening Animal Control Officers
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An 81-year-old woman has been convicted of firing a handgun while two animal control officers were trying to capture a dog from her Kansas property. The Hutchinson News reports that Cora Jeanette Jackson was found guilty Wednesday in Reno County of criminal threat but acquitted of aggravated assault charges. Jackson says she fired a shot "out of frustration" in July after officers couldn't capture the stray with catch poles and retrieved a tranquilizer gun. Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder says the state is satisfied because the verdict prevents Jackson from owning a gun for at least a few years. He says she refused an offer to plead to a misdemeanor because she wanted her gun back and prosecutors wouldn't agree to that. Sentencing is set for May 20.
Kansas City Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty in Tax Case
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri restaurant owner has admitted in federal court that he failed to pay income and employment taxes totaling more than $566,000. Sixty-seven-year-old Roger Geisler of Lenexa, Kansas, waived his right to a grand jury Thursday and pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Prosecutors say Geisler has owned Domo Sushi and Japanese Grill as well as Matsu. Geisler admitted that in the tax years 2007 through 2009, he submitted corporate tax returns under-reporting his restaurants' gross receipts. He also acknowledged he didn't report and pay employment taxes from 2007 to 2010. Court documents show Geisler spent roughly $157,000 in business funds on such things as a Lenexa home and a Lexus SUV, and that he gambled more than $400,000 at area casinos.
Police: Kansas Boy Found with Octopus in Throat Improves
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 2-year-old boy hospitalized after a small octopus became wedged in this throat is improving. Police Lieutenant James Espinoza said Thursday the boy has been upgraded to good condition and doesn't show signs of long-term injury caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain. The boy has been hospitalized since Tuesday night. That's when the child's 21-year-old mother returned home from work and found her boyfriend performing CPR on her son. Espinoza says the couple took the boy to the hospital, where doctors found and removed the dead octopus, which had a head about 2 inches in diameter, from the boy's throat. Police said the octopus was likely to be used for sushi. The 36-year-old boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of child abuse.
Missouri Man Gets 12 Years Prison for Father's Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-area man who admitted causing his father's death last year has been ordered to spend 12 years in prison. A Jackson County, Missouri, judge sentenced 44-year-old Kyle Webb of Grandview on Thursday. Webb pleaded guilty in February to a felony count of voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say Webb and his 75-year-old father, Franklin Webb, were upset with each other after the son had tried to fix a water leak in the basement. After a struggle, authorities said, the younger Webb laid on top of his father's head in an effort to restrain him and stayed that way until the older man lost consciousness. Kyle Webb then allegedly paced for a couple of minutes before calling 911.