Kansas Takes Out $900 Million I.O.U. to Fund State Government
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders have authorized a record $900 million in temporary borrowing to cover the state's expenses through June 2017. Brownback and the leaders met Wednesday as the State Finance Council and voted 8-1 to loan the state's main bank account the money from other, idle funds. It's a move the state has used repeatedly to cover bills when cash is projected to be tight. The vote was 8-1. The only dissenting vote came from Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican. The vote came after Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the state likely would have to divert transportation funds and Medicaid fee funds and delay payments to school districts until next month to avoid a projected short-term deficit of $45 million on June 30.
Special Session Convenes in Topeka; More than Dozen Kansas House Members Fail to Show Up
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have convened a special session to address a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding and avert a threat that public schools might not reopen next month. More than a dozen state representatives failed to show up in the Kansas House this (THUR) morning. Lawmakers have returned to the Statehouse after key Republicans negotiated with superintendents from various districts on a $38 million plan for increasing aid to poor school districts. With the state facing a budget crunch, they were looking at proposals to redistribute existing education dollars. They also hoped to lessen resistance from wealthy districts likely to lose aid, particularly in affluent Kansas City suburbs in Johnson County. The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor districts and warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make further changes by then.
Kansas Senate Panel Approves GOP Schools Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a Republican education funding plan aimed at satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate and averting a threat that schools will shut down. The Ways and Means Committee's 9-2 vote Thursday sent the plan to the full Senate for a debate that is expected Friday. Lawmakers are meeting in a special session to address a Supreme Court ruling last month. The plan would boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million, but much of the money would come from reshuffling existing education dollars. The votes against the plan came from the committee's two Democrats. The Supreme Court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The justices warned that schools wouldn't be able to reopen after June 30 without changes.
Kansas House Approves GOP School Funding Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a Republican education funding plan aimed at heading off a threat that schools will shut down and satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate. The Appropriations Committee's voice vote Thursday sent the plan to the full House for debate Friday. Lawmakers are having a special session to address a Supreme Court ruling last month. The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the same plan earlier in the day. The plan would boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million, but much of the money would come from reshuffling existing education dollars. The Supreme Court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The justices warned that schools wouldn't be able to reopen after June 30 without changes.
Some in Kansas GOP Have Alternate Schools Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Republicans in the Kansas House have a school funding plan that's an alternative to one from GOP leaders. Republican Representative Melissa Rooker of Fairway said Thursday that many GOP lawmakers are acting as if there's only one real plan, but she considers it flawed. Legislators are meeting in a special session to address a recent state Supreme Court mandate to boost aid to poor school districts. Both Republican leaders' plan and the alternative proposal would increase that aid by $38 million. The difference is in how each plan is financed. The Republican leaders' plan shuffles existing education dollars. The proposal backed by Rooker and other GOP moderates taps motor vehicle fees and uncommitted dollars in a jobs creation fund instead. House and Senate committees approved the GOP leaders' plan Thursday.
Kansas Senate Panel OKs Constitutional Change
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution to limit the power of the courts in education funding cases. The measure passed Thursday by the Judiciary Committee would bar the courts from shutting down schools in school finance lawsuits. The Legislature also would be barred from closing schools in response to a court ruling. The committee's voice vote sets up a Senate debate Friday. Any proposed amendment would go on the ballot in November. Legislators are having a special session to address a state Supreme Court ruling last month warning that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30 unless lawmakers change the education funding system. Some Republicans are upset over the closure threat. But Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley called the proposed amendment "frivolous."
Johnson County School Districts Back GOP Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two big school districts in Johnson County are reluctantly supporting a school funding plan from Republican legislators for satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court mandate. Superintendents Todd White and Jim Hinson of the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts told lawmakers Thursday that they're backing the plan as a one-year solution and because of a threat that schools might not reopen after June 30. The plan would redistribute dollars from wealthier districts like theirs to poorer ones to comply with a Supreme Court ruling last month. The court warned schools might not be able to reopen if lawmakers didn't make changes. Wichita Superintendent John Allison said his district would not object to the plan as a last resort if lawmakers couldn't find additional dollars outside education to divert to schools.
Attorney: GOP Funding Plan Won't Meet Terms Set by Kansas Supreme Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney representing four Kansas school districts that are suing the state over education funding says a new plan from Republican lawmakers won't satisfy the state Supreme Court. Lawyer John Robb said the plan is flawed because it shuffles some existing education dollars to boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million. The Legislature convened a special session Thursday to address the Supreme Court's order last month that the state's education system remains unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools might remain closed after June 30 without further changes. Part of the GOP plan trims all districts' aid for general operations to help cover the additional aid for poor districts. Robb said in an email, "The time for these shell games has passed."
Education Advocates Rally at Kansas Statehouse
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About 150 teachers, parents and other education advocates are rallying at the Kansas Statehouse while legislators are having a special session on school funding. Today's (THUR) crowd chanted "Do your job!" Speakers said they want legislators to increase aid to poor school districts quickly and go home. The state Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make changes. Education groups scheduled the rally, but at times it had the flavor of a Democratic Party event, with several Democratic candidates speaking. Kansas City, Kansas, middle school teacher Aubrey Kennedy said she attended because she wants her students to have the same opportunities as others across the state.
Kansas Prepares to Use Provisional Ballots for Thousands of Voters in Upcoming Elections
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is planning to use provisional ballots during the upcoming elections and then throw out all of the votes for state and local races cast by the thousands of voters who register to vote at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship. An email sent yesterday (WED) from Kobach's office to county election officials outlines the state's proposed plans for implementing a two-tiered election system in the wake of a federal court order requiring Kansas to allow these voters to cast ballots at least in the federal races. Kobach plans to use a process that allows election officials to go back into those ballots and count only votes cast in federal races. The move comes despite a Kansas judge ruling that Kobach had no such authority.
U.S. Senators Reach Deal on GMO Labeling
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators have a bipartisan deal on labeling of genetically modified ingredients, a week before a labeling law in Vermont goes into effect. The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday announced legislation to pre-empt Vermont's law and give food companies more flexibility with the labels. Instead of text that says the item was produced with genetic engineering, companies could instead use a symbol or an electronic label accessed by smartphone. The agreement couldn't become law before Vermont's law kicks in July 1, since the House is on vacation until July 5. Legislation passed by the House would make the labeling voluntary. The deal comes after more than a year of negotiations between Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Westar Seeking Updates on Costs That Could Reduce Rates
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy is seeking a change in its transmission costs that would reduce customers' rates by about $18 million. In March, the Kansas Corporation Commission approved a $25 million increase to the utility's transmission delivery system. That came a day after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a settlement between Westar and the KCC after determining the company collected too much money from customers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports those two decisions prompted Westar to update its transmission costs Tuesday, reducing charges to customers by $18 million. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says the when customers see the reduced costs will depend on when the KCC acts on the utility's request. She says if the request is approved, customers in average households should save about $1.50 a month.
Source of Elevated Lead in Saline County Under Investigation
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials are trying to determine what is causing elevated lead levels among about 30 children in central Kansas's Saline County. Farah Ahmed, of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says an investigation will be held through July. Since the start of 2015, elevated lead levels have been detected in the blood of 32 Saline County children, age 15 and younger. The Salina Journal reports that health officials discussed the issue with the public Tuesday night in Salina. Ahmed says health officials will review the potential sources for lead exposure, including grandparents' houses, child care centers, toys, food, cosmetics and where the parents work. Saline County has a history of elevated blood lead levels, with 21 cases in 2013, and 38 in 2014.
Sedgwick County Commission Tables Immigration Policy Resolutions
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Commission has tabled a resolution that would ask the Legislature to bar immigrants living in the state illegally from receiving in-state tuition and from using a federal nutrition program. The Wichita Eagle reports that the decision was made Wednesday after a two-hour discussion. About a dozen people, including elected officials, activists, immigrants and church members, asked commissioners to reject the resolution. They contended that providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants would be beneficial to the community rather than detrimental. Speakers also criticized the county commission for trying to limit access to the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides checks to low-income mothers for nutritious food and drink. Commission Chairman Jim Howell says the resolution will be taken up at a later meeting.
Documents Detail Abuse Allegations Against Adoptive Parents
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents say the adoptive son of a Kansas couple begged his teacher to not make him go home from school on Fridays because he was terrified of them. Several witnesses say the 11-year-old was regularly beaten with a wooden spoon and had his arm broken after he ran away from his North Newton home. Harvey County District Judge Joe Dickinson on Wednesday released the arrest affidavit detailing accusations against James Nachtigal, who ran a home for the aging, and his wife, Paige Nachtigal. They were charged in February with 12 felonies each, including child abuse, aggravated battery and child torture. They are accused of abusing the boy and two other children they adopted from a Peruvian orphanage while working as international missionaries. Their McPherson-based attorney declined to comment Thursday.
3-Year-Old Girl Drowns in Backyard Pool at Wichita Daycare
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 3-year-old girl drowned in a pool at her daycare provider's home. Police Sergeant Nikki Woodrow says the girl and a 5-year-old were playing in the backyard Thursday morning. The 3-year-old somehow got into an above-ground pool that was about 4 feet high. She died at the scene. Woodrow said the daycare provider and three other children were in the house when the girl drowned. She says it's unclear how long the girl was in the pool and an investigation is continuing.
Kansas Harvest Accident Claims Life of 43-Year-Old Beloit Man
BELOIT, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been killed in a wheat-harvest accident in north-central Kansas. The Mitchell County Sheriff's Office identified the victim in a news release as 43-year-old Michael Alan Anderson, of Beloit. The Salina Journal reports that he was pronounced dead Tuesday at the scene of the accident. No other details were immediately released.
Wild Mustang Adoption Event Scheduled in Tonganoxie
TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — Wild mustangs rounded up from the open range in Western states are up for adoption in northeast Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the adoption event is planned from Friday to Saturday at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds in Tonganoxie. This year, the Bureau of Land Management will have 36 mustangs and burros at Tonganoxie available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a minimum $125 adoption fee. The BLM started the adoption program in 1973 and has placed more than 230,000 horses and burros in its 43 years. BLM wild horse and burro specialist Crystal Cowan says the animals are rounded up to preserve healthy herds and to protect range-land resources. Adoptees must be at least 18 years old, have no animal abuse record and adequate facilities.
Topeka Dedicates Downtown Plaza to Author of GI Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka has dedicated a downtown plaza to the author of the GI Bill. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that more than 200 people gathered Wednesday for the dedication of the Harry Colmery Plaza. The plaza features a life-size statue of Colmery, a longtime Topekan who drafted the first version of the GI Bill in 1944. He is shown saluting a relief featuring a group of service members. Their images are reflected in a second relief on the opposite side that depicts them in civilian clothes as students and businessmen. Topeka artist Janet Zoble said the contrast was meant to highlight the effects of Colmery's legislation. A small group consisting mainly of American Legion members had worked since late 2014 to raise more than $400,000 for the project.
Hutchinson Man Convicted of Restraint in Domestic Dispute
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Reno County jury has found a Hutchinson man guilty of a lesser charge of criminal restraint after he was originally charged with aggravated kidnapping for not letting his girlfriend out of the car during an argument. The Hutchinson News reports that 27-year-old Arthur Pina Jr. was also convicted on one count of domestic battery and on counts of possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. The victim testified that she and Pina got into an argument while they were driving and smoking marijuana in November 2015. She said it escalated into a physical altercation in which he punched her in the face and put her into a headlock. Authorities say they found drug's in Pina's vehicle. Pina's sentencing is scheduled for July 29.
Wichita State University Unveils New Visualization System
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has unveiled a new visualization system at the school's National Institute for Aviation Research. The Wichita Eagle reports the 10-foot-tall system, known as The Cave, consists of a fixed front wall, a floor and two hinged side walls on which 12 LED projectors can display high-resolution images. The side walls allow the system to be positioned on a flat wall. The system was funded by a 2015 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and matching funds from the university. Jeff Fisher, the institute's virtual reality lab manager, says he hopes local businesses and airline manufacturers can use the system for engineering and simulation purposes.
Dad Gets Tattoo to Match Son's Brain Cancer Surgery Scar
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a Kansas boy who was self-conscious about scarring following brain cancer surgery has got a tattoo that resembles his son's scar on the side of his head. Josh Marshall tells ABC News that 8-year-old Gabriel was left with a large horseshoe scar above his right ear after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor. Marshall says Gabriel said he "felt like a monster." Last August, Marshall got a tattoo to match, telling his son, "if people want to stare at you, then they can stare at both of us." A photo of the pair took first place in the St. Baldrick's Foundation's #BestBaldDad competition on Father's Day. Marshall says Gabriel is doing well. He says a small tumor remains but that it hasn't grown.
Former Dallas Cowboys Player Randle Faces New Charge
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has been charged with threatening a deputy while jailed on other charges in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that Randle is charged in Sedgwick County with one count of criminal threat. He said he plans to hire a lawyer to represent him during a first appearance Tuesday via a video link from the jail. Sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant Lin Dehning said in an email that Randle is accused of threatening a deputy who was "enforcing the rules" last month at the jail. No other details were immediately provided. Randle has had a string of run-ins with the law. He's also been charged in Kansas with a casino disturbance and with backing his car into three people. The Cowboys released Randle last year.
Royals Fall to Mets 4-to-3
NEW YORK (AP) — Matt Reynolds snapped a sixth-inning tie with his first major league home run, leading Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets past the Kansas City Royals 4-3 Wednesday for a two-game sweep in their World Series rematch. Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the second straight day and scored with an acrobatic slide to help Syndergaard (8-2) win his sixth consecutive decision. The only bad news for banged-up New York was another injury, this one to Yoenis Cespedes. The star slugger had two hits and a walk, including a double off the center-field wall, but was removed in the sixth because of discomfort in his left wrist. Cheslor Cuthbert homered for the Royals, who had won eight of nine when they arrived at Citi Field — where they clinched their 2015 championship with a late rally in Game 5.