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Headlines for Thursday, March 13, 2014


Budget Issues Complicate Kansas School Funding Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans who control the Kansas Legislature are looking for ways to address a recent court ruling on school funding without busting the state budget. GOP leaders and members of the House and Senate budget committees said Thursday it's unlikely that lawmakers will increase the overall budget by the full $129 million needed to cover deficiencies in aid to poor school districts. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last week that past reductions in such aid created unconstitutional gaps in funding between poor districts and wealthier ones. The court ordered lawmakers to fix the problems by July 1. Several key Republican legislators said they doubt the state can fully tap cash reserves to cover the costs. They said the alternatives include shifting education funds around or cutting other parts of the budget.


Top Kansas Democrat Calls for School Funding Boost

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Democratic Leader Paul Davis says Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the GOP-controlled Legislature should immediately increase aid to poor school districts by $129 million. Davis said Thursday the increase should be the response to a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling that past reductions in such aid created unconstitutional gaps in funding between poor districts and wealthier ones. Key Republican legislators said they're working to comply with the court's order to fix the problems by July 1 without busting the state budget. But Davis said lawmakers should simply add the money to the budget, rather than shifting funds from some other place. He said it's time for lawmakers to set things right. Davis is a Lawrence Democrat who's also hoping to unseat Brownback in this year's governor's race.


KS Board of Education: All KS Public Schools Will Be Accredited This Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Problems with a new online system that administers assessment tests prompted the State Education Board to decide that all Kansas public schools will be accredited next year, without considering test results. Glitches were reported this week when several schools signed on to the system to begin administering math and reading assessment tests. The system, called KITE, was developed by the University of Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports schools reported problems ranging from students not being able to get onto the system, or the system freezing and not allowing students to finish the tests. The system was designed to handle more complex test questions than the traditional true-false or multiple-choice questions. The tests are used to accredit schools and determine qualifications for federal education funding.


Kansas Legislators Mull Live Broadcast Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Various political groups, colleagues and media associations are voicing support for a bill that would allow audio and video from the Kansas Statehouse to go live on the Internet. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony Thursday from nearly a dozen witnesses in favor a two-year pilot program. The committee took no action on the bill, but members said they wanted to learn how nearly 40 other states stream daily events to the public. The proposal calls for installing three cameras in each of four committee rooms that are used frequently by budget, education and tax committees. The public would be able to go online to listen or watch committee action. The project would cost about $178,000 for the two years.


House Panel Advances Opt-In Sex Education Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has advanced a bill requiring parents to give written permission for their children to receive sex education in public schools. The House Education Committee voted Thursday to add the policy to an unrelated bill, sending it to the full House for debate. Kansas now lets each local school board decide if parents must opt their children into or out of sex education. The bill would make it state law that districts must receive parental permission before students would receive materials on sexuality, diseases and related subject matter. Critics argued that schools are the only source for some children to receive proper information on sexuality.


Obama Nominates US Marshal for Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama has nominated Topeka Police Chief Ronald Lee Miller to serve as U.S. Marshal for Kansas. The announcement was made Thursday in a news release from the White House. Obama says Miller has dedicated his career to protecting his fellow citizens. The president says Miller has displayed courage and persistence in the pursuit of justice. Miller has been Topeka's police chief since 2006. He joined the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department in 1972 as a patrol officer and became chief of that department in 2000. Miller has also served as a consultant for the Police Foundation and the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.


Brownback Names Acting Kansas Banking Commissioner

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a former Wichita bank executive to serve as the state's acting bank commissioner. Brownback announced the selection of Deryl Schuster on Wednesday. He succeeds Judi Stork, who has been acting bank commissioner since November and will return to her duties as deputy commissioner. Schuster served most recently as president and CEO of Midwest Community Bank. The commissioner works with the state Banking Board to regulate state-chartered banks and trust companies, savings and loan companies, mortgage businesses and other financial institutions.


KU Unveils 10-Year Master Plan for Lawrence Campus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials say the school's multi-million dollar 10-year master plan would expand academic and research programs and tie the Lawrence campus together. The university previewed the plan Wednesday for the Kansas Board of Regents, which unanimously approved the summary document. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the final plan will be released in the spring. That plan will include proposals and analysis on space, classroom use, land use and coordination with the Lawrence community. One proposal would be a complex that would include housing for upper-level and graduate students and retail space. Another would link Haworth Hall to the west campus. It would connect natural, physical and life sciences with engineering and pharmacy. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said officials are working to find the funding for the plan.

KU Student Senate Votes to Eliminate Athletics Fee

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Student Senate has voted to eliminate a student fee that supports women's and non-revenue sports. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has the authority to reject the Wednesday's vote on the nearly 35-year-old fee. The fee costs students $25 each semester. Students have been paying the fee since the late 1970s to help the university comply with Title IX, which requires universities to support women's sports. The Lawrence Journal-World reports student senate leaders say Kansas Athletics Inc. has enough revenue to support women's sports without a subsidy from students. The fee raised $1.1 million last year, when the athletics department's had a total of $93.7 million in revenue. Gray-Little has refused to comment on whether she would veto or uphold the student senate's vote.


Second Round of Suspicious Fires Hits NW Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas county has been hit with a second round of suspicious fires in less than a week, this one involving 10 fires in less than three hours. The Hays Daily News reports that an investigator from the State Fire Marshal's office was on the scene Thursday, looking at the evidence in Ellis County outside the Hays city limits. Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Richard Klaus said Wednesday evening's fires were being investigated as arson. All 10 were grass fires, although an old granary was also burned. On March 6, five fires broke out in five hours around Hays, burning trees, a horse trailer, a storage shed and a trailer used for storage. Klaus said investigators are also taking another look at a large grass fire on Tuesday.


Kansas Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The owner of a northeast Kansas payroll services company has pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges that cost a client nearly $745,000. The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old John Moore, of Lenexa, entered the pleas Wednesday to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Moore's company, Accent Payroll Services, was hired by Tytan International of Lenexa to pay its employees, file its employment tax returns, and withhold and pay its employment taxes to the IRS. Moore admitted transferring more than $2 million in employment tax withholdings from Tytan to his company's accounts, but paying the IRS only $1.3 million. Prosecutors said he hid the scheme from Tytan International by listing its address to the IRS as a post office box he controlled.

Topeka Groups Seek to Develop Brand for City

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Groups that promote Topeka are trying to develop a brand for the capital city of Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the effort is beginning with a survey of what visitors, residents and former residents think about the city. Visit Topeka spokeswoman Shalyn Murphy said the groups hope to collect at least 1,000 responses. Visit Topeka is working with Downtown Topeka Inc. and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. People can take the survey online. The survey asks nine questions about where people spend their free time, where they take visitors, what makes the city unique, and how people could be persuaded to spend more time and money in Topeka. The survey also asks people to list the city's biggest assets. They also are asked to list negative attributes.


Last of 4 Defendants Pleads in Topeka Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The last of four defendants charged in the death of a 34-year-old Topeka woman has entered a guilty plea. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 21-year-old Benjamin Anaya, of El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty this week in Shawnee County court to conspiracy to commit felony first-degree murder. He was accused with three other people in the October 2012 death Ashley Alcala, who was shot once in the back of the head at her Topeka home. The other defendants have been sentenced in the case, including the victim's estranged husband, Manuel Alcala, who's serving life in prison. According to the plea agreement with Anaya, the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office dismissed a charge of premeditated first-degree murder and agreed to recommend that Anaya receive a 12-year sentence. Sentencing is March 28.


Future of Lawrence Mural Uncertain

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners say there's no feasible way to avoid demolishing a wall bearing a mural that some want to save. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 2007 mural called "Pollinators" is part of a 2007 exhibition sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art that honors seven black artists with Kansas ties. The mural is on the wall of a building at a site where a development group wants to build a new apartment building. A museum official told commissioners she would prefer to keep the existing wall and mural in place during the construction. But the developer says that's not feasible. The commissioners said Tuesday they agreed with the developer's assessment, but urged the development group to talk to experts about how the work could be moved or reproduced.

2 Kansas Inmates Denied Parole

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Prisoner Review Board has denied parole to two men serving prison sentences for murders in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the parole board has denied parole for Jerome Edwards and Ramon Noriega Jr. Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, said Wednesday the board will next consider parole for Edwards in September 2015 and for Noriega in March 2017. Edwards is a Lansing Correctional Facility inmate serving time for crimes linked to the 1996 slaying of Donald Smart who was fatally shot while being robbed. Noriega is an El Dorado Correctional Facility inmate convicted of murder in the 1995 slaying of Sidney Robinson. Barclay says they were denied parole for various reasons, including the serious nature of their crimes.

Student Hit by Truck at Elementary School

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A Haysville kindergartner suffered serious injuries after he was hit by a pickup truck as he arrived for school. Sedgwick County authorities say the boy was hit and pinned by the truck early Thursday as he arrived for classes at Nelson Elementary School. KWCH-TV reports police said the boy was crossing the street with his mother at a crosswalk when he was hit and dragged about 30 yards. He suffered serious injuries to his legs and is hospitalized in Wichita. The mother was not hurt. Police say the driver, who is in his 80s, may not have seen a red light at the intersection because the sun was in his eyes.

Suspect in Stafford County Cattle Rustling Incidents Caught

ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man suspected of stealing 23 cattle also apparently stashed a lot of stolen property in central Kansas. Stafford County Sheriff Jeff Parr says the man was arrested last week in the cattle theft from a county ranch. He says investigators on Monday found items such as a recreational vehicle camper, car trailers, a backhoe and other equipment in a pasture in the county. The suspect's name has not been released. The sheriff says he used to live in Great Bend but now has an Oklahoma address. The Hutchinson News reports the trail to the suspect began when Oklahoma authorities found some of the cattle and a stolen trailer near Cushing, along with other equipment. The man was arrested in Hays on an Oklahoma warrant.

Great Lakes Air to End Service to Great Bend Early

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Great Bend will be without air service at the end of March, after Great Lakes Airlines notified the city this week that it plans to end service a month early. Airport Manager Martin Miller announced the news Thursday. The Cheyenne, Wyoming-based airline had been scheduled to end its service at the end of April. Great Lakes will continue its flights from Hays to Denver. The Great Bend Tribune reports the city is anticipating that SeaPort Airlines of Portland, Oregon will receive a contract to serve Great Bend under the federal Essential Air Service program, though that choice is not yet official.

Death of Man in Trash Pile Apparently Accidental

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say the death of a man whose body was found at a recycling warehouse apparently was accidental. The man was identified as 36-year-old Seth Boyer of Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports Boyer's parents said Wednesday their son was mentally ill and homeless, and he sometimes slept in trash bins. Police believe Boyer was alive when the trash bin he was in was picked up early Tuesday. Workers found his body when the load was taken to the private recycling warehouse. Police say Boyer had some broken bones but his body showed no signs of foul play. Boyer graduated from Maranatha Christian Academy in Shawnee and had a degree in communications from Avila University, and worked as a production assistant at KSHB-TV for two years.

KC Tax Scheme Mastermind Sentenced to 13 Years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who masterminded what prosecutors call the largest federal false claims case ever prosecuted in Missouri has been sentenced to 13 years in federal prison and must repay the government more than $950,000. Gerald Poynter pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by filing fraudulent tax returns and one count of filing a fraudulent tax return. Prosecutors say the 48-year-old, also known as "Brother Jerry Love," admitted that conspirators prepared and filed 284 fraudulent tax returns from July 1, 2008, to September 21, 2011, seeking a total of $96 million in fraudulent refunds. The IRS mistakenly paid out $3.5 million in refunds on those claims but rejected the rest. Ten others also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.


Missouri Man Admits Defrauding Social Security

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man has admitted improperly receiving more than $109,000 in disability benefits while working at a Kansas equine training center. The U.S. Attorney's office says 39-year-old Michael Burt of Archie, Missouri pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing Social Security funds. Burt was approved for Social Security disability payments in 2002 after being deemed medically unable to work because of back disorders. But he admitted that he began working full-time in July 2004 at Two Bit Training in Overland Park, Kansas doing manual labor that included cleaning stalls and looking after the horses. The Social Security Administration was never told of his employment at the business, which trains horses and riders. Burt's plea agreement calls for him to pay full restitution. He also faces a possible prison sentence.


Number 10-Ranked KU Beats Oklahoma State in OT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points, Wayne Selden Jr. had 14 and No. 10 Kansas pulled away in the final seconds of overtime for a 77-70 victory over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Naadir Tharpe made four foul shots in the extra session to seal the victory for the top-seeded Jayhawks (24-8), who will face fourth-seeded Iowa State in Friday night's semifinals. The No. 16 Cyclones, behind a big game from Melvin Ejim, beat No. 5 seed Kansas State 91-85. Phil Forte briefly gave the Cowboys a 70-68 lead with a 3-pointer a minute into overtime, but the Jayhawks scored the final seven points, all but two of them coming at the foul line. Le'Bryan Nash scored 19 points to lead the Cowboys (21-12). Forte added 16 points and Marcus Smart finished with 14, though he missed all three of his shots in the extra session.





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