Kansas Legislators Approve School Funding Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have sent Governor Sam Brownback an education funding plan designed to meet a state Supreme Court order to help poor districts and prevent the justices from shutting down public schools in July. The House approved the bill Thursday on a 93-31 vote. The Senate approved the bill hours earlier on a 32-5 vote. The bill redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. Total spending on schools would not increase, but no district would lose any of the aid it was promised for the next school year. The court ruled last month that poor districts weren't getting their fair share of the aid. The justices gave lawmakers until June 30 to fix the problems or face having schools shut down.
Democrat Loses Temper in Kansas Schools Debate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top Democrat in the Kansas House has lost his temper during the chamber's debate on a school funding plan, yelling and pointing at a Republican member who suggested Democrats never offered proposals of their own. House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City's unusually intense outburst came as he was responding Thursday to comments from Republican Representative John Whitmer of Wichita. Burroughs angrily accused Republicans of not supporting schools and said Democrats supported education and schools. Burroughs pointed in Whitmer's direction and denounced the Republican as an "ideologist" and "politician." Republican leaders immediately sprung to their feet to calm Burroughs down as fellow GOP members shouted, "Whoa!" and "No!" They interrupted Burroughs. He apologized for his breach of decorum but insisted, "I will stand for children."
Wildfire Burns Across Thousands of Acres in Kansas, Oklahoma
KIOWA, Kan. (AP) - Hundreds of firefighters are battling a wildfire that authorities estimate has burned 625 square miles in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. The worst damage in Kansas is in Barber and Comanche counties, where the fire continues to burn today (THUR). A Forestry Services official says crews are surveying the fire by aircraft and more concrete numbers will be available once that's complete. Fourteen patients were evacuated from a small hospital in rural southern Kansas because of the wildfire. Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital sent 12 patients to a nursing home Wednesday night and two others to a nearby hospital. Strong winds have complicated the firefight. The National Weather Service reported gusts of 45 to 50 mph on Wednesday. Governor Sam Brownback has declared a state of disaster emergency for some of the affected areas, authorizing state resources to assist.
Crews Fight Another Kansas Wildfire
KIOWA, Kan. (AP) — Another grass fire has started burning in Kansas, several counties northeast of a massive two-state blaze. The Harvey County sheriff's office says on Facebook that multiple homes have been evacuated as crews fight the blaze. A shelter for displaced residents has been established at a high school. The post says several small structures have been damaged but that no injuries have been reported. A sheriff's department official wasn't able to immediately comment on the size of the Harvey County fire. The National Weather Service says wind gusts of up to 50 mph were reported early Thursday in nearby Wichita. Winds had died down to 30 mph around daybreak and were expected to continue losing strength.
Winds Frustrate Wildfire Containment in Oklahoma
KIOWA, Kan. (AP) — Strong winds have thwarted efforts to contain a wildfire that has burned 620 square miles of rural land in Oklahoma and Kansas, and it's now approaching populated areas. Oklahoma Forestry Services spokesman Mark Goeller said Thursday that strong winds shifted the direction of the fire late Wednesday and overwhelmed existing containment lines. Officials are now monitoring a part of the blaze 5 miles away from Alva, Oklahoma, where about 5,000 people live. No mandatory evacuations have been issued in Oklahoma, though Goeller says officials are forming contingency evacuation plans as crews work to slow the fire's spread. Goeller says wind conditions and humidity are expected to improve throughout the day, making progress on containment more likely.
Lawyer Says Kansas Court Will Reject School Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer representing four school districts suing the state over education funding is predicting that the Kansas Supreme Court will reject a school finance plan top Republican lawmakers hope to pass. Newton attorney John Robb said the plan up for debate Thursday in the Senate doesn't really change anything for poor districts. The measure redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts in an effort to comply with a Supreme Court order last month to help poor school districts. But the plan guarantees that no district loses any aid for the next school year and doesn't boost overall state spending. Robb represents the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas school districts. They sued the state in 2010.
Kansas Schools Bill Began as Plan for Memorial
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A school funding bill being debated by the Kansas Legislature began last month as a measure to require a memorial on the Statehouse grounds to the laying of the building's cornerstone in 1866. Republicans used the bill as a vehicle to expedite consideration of the school funding plan Thursday. The memorial bill was introduced and passed the House last month. In the Senate, it sat in the Ways and Means Committee until Wednesday, when its GOP members stripped out the contents and substituted the school funding plan. The committee then approved the substitute bill. The Senate approved the school funding plan Thursday. The House then debated whether to accept the Senate's substitute in an up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed. If the House accepts the Senate plan, the bill goes to the governor.
Kansas Senate Passes Bill Requiring Teacher Union Elections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed legislation that would require teachers to vote every three years in order to maintain their local union. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill passed the chamber with a 22-18 vote after more than two hours of debate Wednesday. The measure would direct the Kansas Department of Labor to hold elections for teachers to weigh in on whether or not to keep their union every three years. Unions would continue to have negotiating power as long as more than 50 percent of employees who vote in the election are in favor of the union. The task would entail more than 300 elections at an estimated $340,000 cost. The state might be able to charge professional organizations for the expense.
Amazon.com Plans New Shipping Center in Edgerton
EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — Amazon.com says it plans to open a 1,000-job fulfillment center in the Kansas City suburb of Edgerton, Kansas. Amazon announced Thursday that the hourly, full-time employees at the planned 800,000-square-foot center will pick, pack and ship large items to customers. Amazon already has operations in nearby Lenexa. Governor Sam Brownback called the project "good news for Kansas." It was not immediately clear how soon the Edgerton center would open.
Kansas Man Guilty of Capital Murder in Quadruple Homicide
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) _ Jurors have convicted an eastern Kansas man in the fatal shootings of three adults and a toddler in 2013. Franklin County court officials say the jury found 30-year-old Kyle Flack guilty of capital murder on Wednesday for the deaths of Kaylie Bailey and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana. That means Flack could face the death penalty when sentenced next week. He also was convicted in the deaths of Bailey's boyfriend, Andrew Stout, and his roommate, Steven White, who lived in a rural farmhouse where Flack sometimes stayed. It's unclear what led to the shootings. The defense called no witnesses during the trial.
Kansas Senate Declines to Discuss Phasing Out Food Sales Tax
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has declined to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would phase out the state sales tax on food over the next three years. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Democratic state Senator Tom Holland proposed the amendment earlier this year. It didn't receive a committee hearing and was in danger of dying as the 2016 session is coming to a close. Holland made a motion on the Senate floor Tuesday to force the bill to the top of the calendar for immediate debate and vote. His motion fell six votes short of the two-thirds majority to pass with a 21-19 vote. If Holland's motion had passed, the amendment would've needed another two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate in order to be placed on the general election ballot for voter approval.
Kansas Senate Approves Bill to Accelerate Property Tax Lid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have passed a bill to accelerate a cap on city and county property tax increases. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Senate approved the bill with a 24-16 vote Tuesday. The bill moves up the implementation of the property tax lid from 2018 to 2017. The lid was placed into law last year and requires voters to approve property tax increases above the rate of inflation. Debate continued for more than four hours as lawmakers went through amendments seeking exemptions to the bill's requirements. The legislation already provided some exemptions that wouldn't trigger the cap, such as construction of new buildings, increases in personal property valuation and property that has changed use. Federal mandates, court judgments and bond and interest payments also wouldn't trigger the lid.
Kansas House Sustains American Royal-Related Veto
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A vote in the Kansas House Wednesday means Governor Sam Brownback's administration can continue to pursue a Wyandotte County project that has caused tension in the legislature. House Representatives voted 24-97 to not override Brownback's veto on a provision in a budget bill that would have stalled all so-called STAR Bond projects in Wyandotte County. Senators voted 30-8 to override his veto last week. Supporters of the measure disagree with the Brownback administration's methods in attempting to lure the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition from Kansas City, Missouri to Wyandotte County, Kansas. Republican Representative Scott Schwab, of Olathe, said the project circumvented approval from the Legislature. Opponents of the proposal say that the project should proceed and that it's unfair to single out Wyandotte County.
Planned Parenthood Now Offering Medicinal Abortion Services in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood has begun offering medication abortions at its Wichita clinic. It is the second facility in the city to provide those services since abortion provider George Tiller was gunned down in 2009. A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman says the clinic has been taking appointments and scheduling the procedure. Medication abortions are commonly known as the abortion pill and are done to terminate pregnancies up to about 9 weeks. The Wichita clinic began offering them on March 17. Three other clinics in Kansas offer abortion services, including a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park. Wichita did not have any abortion clinics for four years after Tiller's clinic was shut down in the wake of his murder. An abortion rights group bought his building and opened an abortion clinic in 2013.
Judge Sides with Nebraska in Funeral Picketing Law Lawsuit
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled in favor of Nebraska state officials in a lawsuit that challenged the state's law requiring picketers to stay at least 500 feet from funerals. U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said in her decision Wednesday that the law does not infringe on the constitutionally-protected free speech rights of Westboro Baptist Church members. Shirley Phelps-Roper, a prominent member of the Topeka-based church, sued in 2009. She argued, among other things, that the Nebraska law is selectively enforced. The church protests at funerals throughout the country using anti-gay chants and signs because it believes God is punishing U.S. military members and others for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.
Report of Shots Fired at Deputy Proves to Be Electrical Transformer Problem
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Reports of shots fired at a Kansas sheriff's deputy brings 30 squad cars to the scene where investigators discover the sound was actually an electrical transformer blowing. The Wichita Eagle reports that dozens of officers responded to a call about a Sedgwick County deputy in trouble in west Wichita on Wednesday afternoon. Police set up a perimeter and closed parts of two streets in their search for a shooting suspect. Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter says the deputy was standing with her back to a transformer at 3:06 p.m. and felt a concussion after hearing what sounded like a shot from a rifle
Kansas City Police ID Victim in Accidental Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri, police have identified the victim of an accidental shooting death as 17-year-old Garrett Turner. The Kansas City Star reports that Turner died March 14 in a home's basement, where police found him on a couch. A witness told police that he heard a loud bang and screaming, then rushed downstairs and saw the victim with a gunshot wound to the head. Police have not released details of what led to the shooting.
Kansas City, Kansas, Man Pleads Guilty in Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has admitted that he fatally shot a man who answered an online sex ad. The Kansas City Star reports that 24-year-old Ladarrious White pleaded guilty Tuesday in Wyandotte County to intentional second-degree murder. Prosecutors say White shot 31-year-old Jose Solis-Robles last October after the victim responded to an ad placed by White's female companion, 25-year-old Kimberly Winn of Kansas City, Kansas. Winn pleaded no contest Tuesday and was found guilty of aggravated battery and promoting the sale of sexual relations. Charges of attempted aggravated robbery and a conspiracy count against White and Winn were dropped Tuesday. Sentencings of White and Winn are scheduled for April 29.
Naismith Sculpture Installed at University of Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A slightly larger-than-life bronze sculpture of late James Naismith has found a home on the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. The sculpture depicting the creator of basketball seated with a basketball on his knee was installed Wednesday outside the DeBruce Center. The center will also house Naismith's original 13 "Basket Ball" rules of 1892. The 57-inch-tall, 322-pound statue was created by Lawrence sculptor and University of Kansas professor emeritus Elden Tefft, who was working on it when he died last year age 95. His son then finished the work. The elder Tefft worked from photographs of Naismith to capture his likeness and wanted a sculpture that people could interact with, sit beside and be photographed with.