Colyer Says Kansas Governor's Budget Proposal is Ready
LAWRENCE, Kan._ Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer says state administration officials have worked out a budget plan that will close a more than $930 million dollar state budget gap projected for the next year and a half. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Colyer says the administration's budget proposal will not require state employee layoffs, tax increases or large spending cuts. Colyer said that the budget will focus on key priorities such as education and public safety. The administration will present its budget proposal to lawmakers after the annual legislative session convenes on January 9th. State budget officials released data last month forecasting a revenue shortfall of nearly $350 million dollars for the rest of this fiscal year. Lawmakers will also have to come up with nearly $600 million dollars to fund state spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1st.
Kansas Lawmaker Says STAR Bonds Legislation Needs Hard Look
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas lawmaker says the economic development incentive tool that could finance a proposed outdoor activity center near Lawrence will be examined during the upcoming legislative session. Republican Senator Julia Lynn of Olathe leads the Senate Commerce Committee, which is expected to conduct hearings on whether STAR bond authority should be allowed to continue. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that she has raised questions about whether the aggressive form of public incentives should be an option for the recreation center project at Clinton Lake or other future developments in Kansas. She says the "program needs a lot of work and attention." Governor Sam Brownback and other state officials have backed the STAR bond authority in the past. The special taxing district allows projects to keep large amounts of state and local sales taxes generated at the development.
Officials at Kansas Agency Step Down After Leadership Change
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two of the Kansas Department of Revenue's top officials have stepped down shortly after Governor Sam Brownback appointed a new revenue secretary, who is expected to make changes to the department. The Wichita Eagle reports that Brownback announced in the first week of December that former lawmaker Nick Jordan would step down as revenue secretary and Wichita businessman Sam Williams would replace him. Jim Conant, the agency's director of resource management, left December 9. Steve Stotts, the state's director of taxation, retired last week. Williams says Conant left before Williams became secretary, and that Stotts's departure was not Williams's decision. Stotts couldn't be reached for comment. Conant declined comment. Agency spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says both positions are vital and the agency will work to replace them with the best possible candidates.
KU Libraries Offer Students Pronoun Pins
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas students are being offered buttons through the school's library system that are meant to make their preferred gender pronouns clear. Some University of Kansas Library employees are already wearing the buttons. Library leaders say it's part of the library system's "You Belong Here" marketing effort targeted at luring undergraduates, including transgender students, into the library and ensuring they feel welcome. Gender-identity buttons have cropped up on other college campuses around the nation to promote the idea of inclusion.
Kansas Universities Review Earthquake Insurance Plans
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Regents universities in Kansas are reviewing earthquake insurance policies after several quakes were reported in the state this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the schools' chief financial officers decided to review the policies out of "due diligence." University of Kansas CFO Leisa Julian says the regents system has $1 billion in property insurance, at a cost of more than $2 million a year. The coverage includes $100 million in earthquake protection. Adding another $100 million would increase the annual premiums by $44,000. The CFOs have taken the matter under advisement for now. Wichita State University President John Bardo strongly supported increasing coverage. Some earthquakes centered in Oklahoma and south central Kansas were felt in Wichita. He says $100 million is not a lot of money to protect the entire system.
Murdered Woman's Sister Supports Killer's Execution
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The sister of a woman murdered more than 30 years ago in Fayetteville, North Carolina says the news that a judge has lifted the stay for execution for the killer is "life-changing." Honey Rosalie Schlehuber of Chickasha, Oklahoma, tells The Fayetteville Observer that her entire family has struggled since 18-year-old Tammy Cofer Wilson was raped and killed. Earlier this month, a Kansas federal judge lifted the stay of execution for former Fort Bragg soldier Ronald A. Gray, who's being held at Fort Leavenworth. Gray was convicted and ordered condemned in military court in 1988 for two murders and three rapes. He pleaded guilty in civilian courts to two other killings and five rapes and was sentenced to eight life terms, three of them consecutive. Schlehuber says she'd like to witness Gray's execution.
Shawnee County OKs $48K Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $48,000 settlement has been reached with two women who claimed they were wrongly terminated from their jobs in the Shawnee County prosecutor's office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County commissioners agreed to the settlement Thursday. It only frees the county commission, not the district attorney's office, from the litigation. The plaintiffs contend in court filings that outgoing Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor had a propensity to use "insulting and intensely degrading language and sexual epithets" to describe women. Taylor has called the claims inaccurate. Because the settlement doesn't release his office, a jury trial is expected to start as scheduled January 9 in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. Taylor didn't run for re-election in November, and his successor will be sworn in that same day.
Kansas Deputy Charged After Child Sex Crime Investigation
BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a fired eastern Kansas sheriff's deputy has been charged after an investigation into child sex crimes. KSNW-TV reports that 28-year-old Matthew Vander Linden was charged Wednesday in Coffey County with one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. A criminal complaint accuses Vander Linden of having sex with a 15-year-old. It wasn't immediately known if Vander Linden had an attorney. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said that its agents began to investigate last week at the request of the sheriff's office. The deputy was arrested Tuesday and has been fired. He had worked for the sheriff's office since March 2014. A preliminary hearing for Vander Linden is scheduled for February 7.
Haskell Attorneys Argue School Isn't Subject to Title IX Law
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Haskell Indian Nations University argue in a court filing that the school is not subject to the federal Title IX law, which prohibits gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence in education. A former Haskell student claims in a lawsuit that school administrators treated her unfairly after she reported being raped by two football players. In a recent court filing, Haskell's attorneys deny the woman's allegations and contend Title IX doesn't apply to Haskell because it is part of the federal government, which isn't subject to the law. Haskell is part of the federal Bureau of Indian Education. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the woman's attorney, Dan Curry, says courts have not resolved the issue of whether institutions like Haskell are subject to Title IX.
Manhattan Gears Up for Annual New Year's 'Little Apple' Drop
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas town known as the Little Apple is gearing up for a ball-drop event modeled after the one in New York's Times Square. Manhattan is staging its annual New Year's Eve celebration in the Aggieville bar and entertainment district. Saturday's festivities begin at 10:30 p.m. and include music and fireworks. The event culminates at midnight with the "Little Apple" drop. It's reminiscent of the ball drop in the Big Apple, a Times Square tradition for more than a century.
6-Year-Old Boy Dies in Northeast Kansas House Fire
WELLSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 6-year-old boy has died in a northeast Kansas house fire. Kansas State Fire Marshall's Office spokesman Kevin Doel says the victim of Tuesday night's fire in Wellsville has been identified as Brax Morris. Doel says a smoke detector outside his mother's bedroom alerted her to the fire. She was able to escape with her 3-year-old daughter. Investigators have determined that the fire started in the living room. The cause of the blaze is under investigation but no foul play is suspected.
Death of Man Found in Wichita Trash Bin Resulted from Natural Causes
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man whose body was found in a trash bin on Christmas Day died of natural causes. KAKE-TV reports that police said Wednesday there were no signs of trauma or suspicious circumstances. The coroner's office reports that the death was the result of natural causes. Police say the body was found while people were rummaging for food in a trash bin outside a bakery in the southwest part of the city. Investigators believe the man died in the trash bin. His name has not been released.
19-Year-Old Arrested for Deadly East Wichita Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 19-year-old man has been arrested in a deadly Wichita shooting. KAKE-TV reports that the suspect was booked into jail Wednesday morning on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Charles Hawkins. Police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says Hawkins was killed Friday when he pulled out a gun and attempted to rob the suspect during a drug deal. Ojile says the suspect also was armed and shot Hawkins. Prosecutors plan to present the case to prosecutors later this week. Hawkins' death is Wichita's 33rd homicide of 2016.
Kansas State Tops Texas A&M, 33-28, in Texas Bowl
HOUSTON (AP) - Kansas State's Jesse Ertz threw for 195 yards and a touchdown then ran for two more scores in the Wildcats 33-28 victory over Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night. Ertz had a 79-yard touchdown pass and scoring runs of 1 and 5 yards to help give Kansas State its fourth straight win and first bowl victory since the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Wildcats (9-4) led by five when Ertz bulled into the end zone on a 1-yard run that made it 33-21 with nine minutes left. Ertz set up the score with a 20-yard run two plays earlier. The Aggies (8-5) cut it to 33-28 on Josh Reynolds' 15-yard TD reception about a minute later. Texas A&M attempted to convert a fourth-and-8 with about two minutes left, but Trevor Knight's pass was short and that gave the ball back to Kansas State allowing the Wildcats to run out the clock.