Kansas Lawmakers Mull Plans to Keep Schools Open
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman has outlined two proposals for keeping the state Supreme Court from threatening to close public schools in education funding lawsuits in the future. The proposals presented Thursday by Republican Sen. Jeff King of Independence are responses to a recent Supreme Court order that says the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The court warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 unless lawmakers make further changes. One of the proposed amendments would include a provision to prohibit legislators from closing schools in response to a court order. If lawmakers approved a proposal, it would go to voters. King presumed it wouldn't be until the November election but some lawmakers wondered whether it could be the August primary.
Kansas Democrat Calls for Boosting School Aid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker says the Kansas Legislature should increase state aid to public schools by $38 million to help poor districts but also soften the blow for other districts that might have some of their funds redistributed. Representative Jim Ward of Wichita said Thursday that even if lawmakers redistribute aid among school districts to satisfy a recent state Supreme Court order, there should be ways to address concerns in Johnson County. The county is the state's most populous, and its three largest districts would lose nearly $4.8 million in aid for the 2016-17 school year under the plan Ward embraced. Republican Governor Sam Brownback embraced the same plan. The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's school funding system remains unfair to poor school districts.
Kansas Chamber CEO Says No New Dollars Needed for State Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce is telling legislators that they're not required to increase spending to satisfy the state Supreme Court's latest ruling on education funding. Chamber CEO Mike O'Neal testified Thursday that legislators could direct the State Department of Education to shift unused funds among school districts to cover additional aid for poor school districts. The House and Senate judiciary committees were meeting to discuss potential responses to the Supreme Court's order last month that the education funding system be changed to help poor districts. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special session for June 23. Brownback has embraced a plan to boost state aid to schools by $38 million for the 2016-17 school year. Groups representing school boards and administrators also endorsed the idea.
Kansas Lawmakers Inquire About Lawsuits in Other States
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative researcher says the only known instance in which a court has shut down a state's schools as part of an education funding lawsuit occurred in New Jersey in the 1970s. Researcher Lauren Douglass discussed school finance lawsuits in other states during a joint meeting Thursday of the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary committees. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special legislative session for June 23 to respond to a recent state Supreme Court order on education funding. The court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts and warned that schools won't be able to reopen after June 30 unless legislators make further changes. Douglass said New Jersey's schools were closed for eight days after a ruling from its Supreme Court in 1975.
Johnson County Leaders Back $50 Million Schools Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Five school districts and nine chambers of commerce in Johnson County have endorsed a plan for increasing state aid to Kansas' public schools by $50 million for 2016-17. Superintendents and chamber of commerce representatives had a news conference Thursday in Overland Park as two legislative committees wrapped up a joint meeting on school funding issues in Topeka. The state Supreme Court declared last month that the state's school funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. It warned that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30 without further changes. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special legislative session for June 23. He has embraced a $38 million fix. But Johnson County districts would see a net loss of $4.5 million in aid under that plan.
Education Groups Oppose Changing Kansas Constitution
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Education groups in Kansas oppose proposals to amend the state constitution to prevent the courts from threatening to close schools in funding lawsuits. Representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards, Game on for Kansas Schools and Kansas Families for Education testified Thursday against proposed amendments during a joint hearing of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees. They said such amendments would prevent the courts from enforcing orders to improve education funding. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King outlined two proposals in response to a recent state Supreme Court order declaring that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The court is threatening to keep schools closed after June 30 if lawmakers don't make further changes. Republican lawmakers have decried the threat.
Judge Reiterates Kansas Secretary of State Unable to Encumber Voting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge is standing by his earlier ruling that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has no legal right to bar people who register to vote using a federal form from voting in local and state elections. This week, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis rejected Kobach's request to reconsider his January decision, which came after the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission required proof-of-citizenship on the national voter registration form in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. The court previously said the right to vote under Kansas law is not tied to the method of registration. It is unclear what impact the ruling will have on Kobach's instructions this week to allow thousands of people who register at motor vehicle offices without citizenship documents to vote only in federal races.
New Medicaid Cuts Threaten Rural Kansas Hospitals, Patients and Providers
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Health care analysts say Governor Sam Brownback's decision to cut money for Medicaid health coverage for the needy, disabled and elderly will add to the problems some hospitals are facing. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 4 percent Medicaid reimbursement cut takes effect July 1. Brownback made the cuts as part of an effort to balance the state budget. Health care providers already had been raising concerns that the state's decision to not expand Medicaid was harming them. Currently, Kansans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but don't make enough money to qualify for federal subsidies, fall into a coverage gap. When patients are uninsured and can't pay, the hospitals get stuck with the cost. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association, says the budget is being balanced "on the shoulders of providers and patients around the state." The chief financial officer at Lawrence Memorial Hospital told its board of directors Wednesday that the Medicaid cuts ordered by Governor Brownback will cost LMH approximately $500,000 to $800,000 in the next fiscal year.
State Medicaid Cuts to Cost Lawrence Hospital Nearly $750,000
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Medicaid cuts that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback ordered in May to balance the state's budget will cost Lawrence Memorial Hospital approximately $500,000 to $800,000 in the next fiscal year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the hospital's chief financial officer, Joe Pedley, told its board of directors about the effects of the cuts on Wednesday. Pedley says a 4 percent overall cut to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which is mostly coming from Medicaid, would lead to an estimated $462,000 in lost revenue for the hospital. He adds that an approximately 4 percent cut to reimbursement rates would also cost the hospital another estimated $272,000. The state must still get approval on the reductions from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
AP Files Open-Records Lawsuit Against Johnson County
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Associated Press says in a lawsuit that a Kansas county wrongly has withheld public records involving alleged fiscal misconduct by the county's former elections chief, who later took a top U.S. elections job. Filed Thursday in Johnson County District Court, the lawsuit names the county's governing board as defendants. The AP is seeking emails under the state's open-records law related to Brian Newby's role as county election commissioner before he took a job in November as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's executive director. An audit released after Newby's departure from Kansas uncovered alleged misuse of thousands of dollars in public funds and raised questions about his management of the office. Newby has called the audit "inaccurate, incomplete and misleading." A Johnson County spokeswoman declined comment Thursday, citing the pending litigation.
Court Records: Maize School District Lost at Least $1 Million in Scheme
MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — The former technology director for the Maize school system is among those accused in an ongoing lawsuit of defrauding the central Kansas district of more than $1 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office filed the civil case in 2014, although it wasn't unsealed until this year. It stemmed from a federal investigation into a fraud, money laundering and kickback scheme that spanned more than five years and involved several vendors that were paid more than $4 million for technology-related services. The investigation focused on former district employee Ramon Mosate, who committed suicide last year. The case seeks the forfeiture of a lavish northwest Wichita home previously owned by Mosate, about $80,000 in cash from a safe deposit box and about $5,400 in his checking account.
2 Die After Car Hydroplanes in Central Kansas
MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people are dead after a car hydroplaned and collided with an oncoming tractor-trailer in central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Wednesday on U.S. 56 in McPherson County. The victims were identified as the car's driver, 21-year-old Nicholas Schwarz, of Lyons, and his passenger, 19-year-old Rebecca Deist, of McPherson. The patrol says the tractor-trailer driver wasn't injured.
KC Couple Charged with Raping Children, Taking Pictures of Crime
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County, Missouri prosecutors have charged a 52-year-old woman and a 62-year-old man with raping two children, a boy and a girl, both less than 14-years-old. According to FOX 4 News in Kansas City, the children say Bob Bess touched them, raped them, while his wife Jamie Bess, took pictures. The girl says Bob Bess raped her and that Jamie Bess took pictures of her naked body on Bob’s’ cell phone. The boy said Bob fondled the boy’s privates numerous times. Robert Bess was arrested and read his Miranda Rights. Police say he denied the allegations and said the children were lying. He then invoked his right to remain silent. Robert Bess is charged with rape and child molestation. Jamie Bess is charged with rape and sexual exploitation. Bond was set at $100,000 cash-only. If released on bond, they are to have no contact with children under 17-years-old. Their next court date is scheduled for July 5.
Kansas Regents OK University Tuition Increases
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' governing board of the state's universities has signed off on requests to raise tuition higher than first proposed by many of the state's campuses. The vote by the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday came weeks after Governor Sam Brownback cut higher education spending by 4 percent. Many of the campuses responded by increasing their tuition requests. Tuition at the University of Kansas will rise by 5 percent. That's one percent higher than the school sought last month. The state's other universities' tuition boosts range from 4.9 percent at Emporia State to 6 percent at Fort Hays State. Only the University of Kansas' medical center and Wichita State didn't increase their rate requests. They will remain at 5 percent. See #MyKPR's Stephen Koranda's report on this issue here.
Heat Wave Expands in Midwestern and Southern US States
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A sweltering heat wave is expanding as temperatures in the Midwest and South approach near record-setting levels in the waning days of spring. The National Weather Service says the number of states under heat advisories nearly doubled Thursday to 12. The affected states are Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Temperatures are forecast in the 90s across much of those states, but the humidity is expected to make them feel much hotter. Heat indexes are expected to hit 115 degrees in central Oklahoma and northeastern Arkansas. The weather service in Little Rock said on Twitter: "It's DISGUSTING out there!" In central Kansas' Salina, the thermometer hit 106 degrees on Wednesday, tying the record for that date. Some relief is expected this weekend as the humidity decreases.
Kansas Deputy Sheriff Found Guilty of Vehicular Manslaughter
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff's deputy has been found guilty of vehicular manslaughter for a 2012 crash that killed a 59-year-old Madison man. KVOE Radio reports Lyon County deputy Tyler Pettigrew initially was charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and using a wireless device to write, send or receive a written communication while driving. Pettigrew was in his personal vehicle when he rear-ended a pickup truck driven by Michael Argabright in Lyon County in October 2012, then crossed the center line and struck a vehicle driven by Mark Harrison of Madison. Harrison was killed in the crash. The 27-year-old has been suspended since his arrest in November. Pettigrew is scheduled to be sentenced August 1.
Suspended Shawnee County Detective Worked on More than 600 Cases
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a suspended Kansas sheriff's detective who is charged with three counts of felony perjury worked on more than 600 cases. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office has found that the cases 40-year-old Erin Thompson handled ran the gamut — from traffic infractions to homicide. The newspaper obtained the list of 612 cases after filing an open records request. Senior assistant Shawnee County district attorney Matt Patterson says the office has an ethical obligation to notify those who currently have or have had cases involving Thompson. She was charged in May after an investigation into inconsistencies on investigative reports. An affidavit accuses her of repeatedly reporting she talked with people she had never contacted. Her lawyer, Tom Lemon, declined to comment.
Kansas Man Charged in Octopus-in-Throat Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man is charged with felony child endangerment in connection with a small octopus found wedged in the throat of his girlfriend's toddler in April. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County prosecutors charged 36-year-old Matthew Gallagher on Thursday. The criminal complaint alleges that Gallagher "unlawfully and recklessly" caused or allowed the 2-year-old boy "to be placed in a situation in which the child's life, body or health" is at risk. Gallagher made an initial court appearance Thursday with his attorney, whose name was not immediately available. Gallagher was later freed on bond. Police have said the boy's mother told investigators she returned home from work April 5 and found Gallagher performing CPR on her son. The boy was later released from the hospital.
Former NBA Player Kermit Washington Pleads Not Guilty
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former NBA player Kermit Washington has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges accusing him of embezzling nearly a half million dollars from his Project Contact Africa charity. The Kansas City Star reports that Washington's defense attorney entered not guilty pleas Thursday on Washington's behalf to charges of interfering with internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft. Washington was arrested last month in California after a federal grand jury in Kansas City indicted him. Washington played for several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. He's remembered for a nearly fatal punch to Rudy Tomjanovich during a 1977 game between the Lakers and Houston Rockets.
Convicted Lottery Computer Manager Argues Iowa Court Appeal
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The attorney for a former lottery official accused of fixing jackpots has argued that his client's conviction last year on fraud charges should be thrown out. On Thursday, Eddie Tipton, appealed his July 2015 convictions related to fixing a 2010 Iowa Hot Lotto game. The former Multi-State Lottery Association security director's attorney told the Iowa Court of Appeals the evidence doesn't support the convictions and Iowa's statute of limitations law should have prohibited prosecution. State prosecutors countered that they have plenty of evidence Tipton modified computers to pick numbers he later played to get a winning ticket. Tipton is free on appeal but faces 10 years in prison if the conviction is upheld. He faces a second Iowa trial on charges he fixed games in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
County Commission in Missouri Demands Treasurer Repay Money from Email Scam
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — Platte County commissioners are demanding that the county's treasurer repay more than $20,000 lost after he fell victim to an email scam. The three commissioners have signed a letter also demanding Treasurer Rob Willard pay more than $1,900 in attorney fees and gave him a week to come up with the money. Willard received an email last month that he thought was from presiding commissioner Ron Schieber instructing him to send $48,000 to a Florida bank to pay for a tax consultant. But Schieber didn't make the request. Instead, Willard was the victim of an internet scam that has victimized several other counties in Missouri and Kansas. Wells Fargo has returned about $28,000 to the county's general fund.
Kansas Offers Program to Help Smokers Quit the Habit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will start giving away nicotine gum, lozenges and patches next week to help smokers drop the habit. The Wichita Eagle reports that the effort will last from June 20 to July 1. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is distributing the nicotine replacement products. To participate, smokers can call the state's Tobacco Quitline. They also must enroll with a trained coach who will help them quit using tobacco. The program is part of a national tobacco education campaign through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State health officials say nearly one in five Kansas adults smoke cigarettes and that nearly 70 percent of all cigarette smokers want to quit. More information about the program is available online at: www.ksquit.org
KU Law School, Athletics to Split $3.5 Million Gift
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A $3.5 million gift from a University of Kansas alumna and her late husband will be split evenly between the university's law school and Kansas Athletics. The gift from Nancy Winter and Wint Winter Sr. will provide an unrestricted $1.75 million to the law school and add the same amount to the existing Winter Family Scholarship Fund in Kansas Athletics. Wint Winter Sr. is a Lawrence native who played football for Kansas and completed an undergraduate degree in business in 1952. After serving in the Marine Corps in Korea, Winter returned to Lawrence to go to law school and graduated in 1956. Nancy Winter studied theater at KU and started a small community theater in Ottawa soon after she and her husband moved there after his graduation from law school.
Items Connected to Wichita Gangster Shooting Given to Museum
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Items connected to a 1920s shootout between a notorious gangster and two law enforcement officers have been donated to the Wichita/Sedgwick County Historical Museum. The Wichita Eagle reports that gangster Eddie Adams fatally shot Wichita Police detective Charles Hoffman on November 23, 1921. Officer Charles Bowman was also fatally struck by gunfire before Adams was killed by Detective D.C. Stuckey. The gun Stuckey used to kill Adams, and other items the detective carried with him, including brass knuckles and a mugshot booklet called "Detecting Made Easy," will be made public for first time in a new exhibit by the end of June. Adams had escaped from Lansing State Prison before eventually making his way to Wichita, where the shootout happened. Stuckey died in 1978 at age 86.
Royals Roll Past Indians 9-4 to Complete 3-Game Sweep
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Salvador Perez homered for the second straight night while Royals' starter Ian Kennedy kept the Cleveland Indians quiet as the Kansas City Royals finished off a three-game sweep of the Indians with a 9-4 victory Wednesday. Perez hit a three-run shot during a go-ahead fifth inning against Corey Kluber (6-7), while Eric Hosmer added two RBIs and Whit Merrifield remained hot to help Kansas City win its fifth straight game. The Royals have now won nine straight at home, their best stretch since 2003. Kennedy (5-5) allowed just five hits, including two-run homers by the Indians' Rajai Davis and Michael Martinez, as he pitched into the seventh inning. Kennedy won for the first time since beating Cleveland on May 7th.