Kansas Lawmakers Negotiate Final Version of Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislative negotiators have agreed on the details of a plan for balancing the state's next budget. The plan drafted Monday by three senators and three House members would eliminate a deficit of nearly $200 million in the state's $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It would do so mostly by shuffling funds. But the plan does not add extra money for public schools. A Kansas Supreme Court decision last week struck down the Legislature's "Block Grant" funding system for the state's schools. The court said that poor school districts have been shorted by the 2015 law that changed the method Kansas uses to distribute more than $4 billion in annual funding to the state's 286 local districts. Both full chambers must approve the budget agreement for the plan to go to Governor Sam Brownback.
Kansas Senators Seek Chairwoman's Reinstatement
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More 40 Republican legislators are asking Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle to reinstate the former chairwoman of her chamber's health committee. Seventeen of the Senate's 32 Republicans signed a letter Tuesday. The list included Majority Leader Terry Bruce of Nickerson. Twenty-six GOP House members signed a similar letter. The Associated Press obtained copies of each. The lawmakers want Wagle to reinstate Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee as chairwoman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. Wagle declined to comment. The Wichita Republican removed Pilcher-Cook on Friday over an attempt by Pilcher-Cook last week to force a Senate debate on a proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program in line with the federal health overhaul. Pilcher-Cook wanted the proposal to fail. Wagle said the move showed disrespect to the chamber.
Kansas Governor Endorses Marco Rubio for President
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is throwing his support behind Republican Senator Marco Rubio for president. The governor issued a news release Monday endorsing Rubio, of Florida, as a "true conservative" who can unite the party and beat the Democratic nominee in the fall. Brownback also lauded Rubio's "proven track record of protecting life, defending religious liberty and undoing Obamacare." Kansas Republicans will pick presidential candidates in the March 5th caucus.
Kansas Official: Plans Not Firm for American Royal Project
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas Department of Commerce official says plans aren't firm for a development designed to lure the annual American Royal horse and livestock exhibition to Kansas from Kansas City, Missouri. Deputy Secretary Steve Kelly told the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday that plans for the Wyandotte County development have evolved and any discussion of it is speculative. The Associated Press on Monday obtained a department report that said the development "is assumed" to have 15 elements that include a hotel, a children's museum and 5,000-seat hockey arena. Several committee members later said they believe plans for the development were firm. The project's future is uncertain. Some legislators want to block Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration from authorizing bonds backed by state sales tax revenues to help finance it.
Consultants Suggest Taking Money from Schools' Cash Reserves
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A consulting firm being paid $2.6 million by the Kansas Legislature to review the state's budget says taking money from school districts' cash reserves could help pay for future education funding. Alvarez & Marsal released a 292-page final report to lawmakers on Tuesday describing efficiencies the firm says could save the state $2 billion over the next five years. One of the recommendations is to require school districts to have a minimum cash balance of 10 percent of their operating budget, with a maximum of 15 percent. The Wichita Eagle reports any reserves over 15 percent would be deducted from future funding. Alvarez estimates the policy would save $193 million over five years and suggests lawmakers implement it for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.
Kansas Senate Committee Considers Experimental Foster Care Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Senate committee is considering legislation that would establish an experimental foster care program in Kansas open exclusively to adults in stable marriages of at least seven years and with a minimum of one stay-at-home spouse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill would grant foster parents in the statewide pilot program an exemption from standard licensing applicable to child care facilities. Republican state Senator Forrest Knox's proposal to the Senate Judiciary Committee would require foster parents in the trial program to be high school graduates and pass a background check. Participants would also have to enforce a household ban on drinking alcohol and smoking. The bill would also give foster parents sole discretion to determine schooling for the children in their care as well as limit the program to those active in their communities.
Lawmakers Consider Increasing Kansas Speed Limit to 80 MPH
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislative committees are considering bills that would allow the Kansas Department of Transportation to raise the state's highest speed limit on separated, multiple-lane highways from 75 to 80 miles per hour. The Wichita Eagle reports that lawmakers could decide next week if one of the bills will go to the full Kansas House of Representatives. The new limit would bring the state in line with several other sparsely populated, largely rural Western states. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have a maximum speed limit of 80 miles per hour. Republican state Representative John Bradford says the change would help regulations match reality, since many travelers drive faster in open country. The transportation department opposes the bill, and it's unclear whether it would raise the speed limit if the law changes.
Bill Would Allow Kansas Police Officers to Cross State Lines
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas police officers would be permitted to help officers across state lines during emergency situations under a bill approved by a House committee. Most law enforcement officers in Kansas now are allowed to only help other departments in the state, though officers in border counties are also able to provide assistance across state lines during drug investigations or terrorist activities. The bill passed in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday would allow all Kansas law enforcement agencies to request help from police departments outside of the state. Officers working in other areas would receive workers' compensation and protection from their own departments. A Kansas City area police association introduced a similar bill in the House committee last year but it was never passed.
Appeals Court: Prison Properly Punished Roeder for Threat
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Court of Appeals says Lansing Correctional Facility officials acted properly when they punished Scott Roeder for making a threat against a woman who reopened a Wichita abortion clinic. Roeder is serving a life sentence for killing abortion provider George Tiller in May, 2009. Roeder suggested during an interview in April 2013 with an anti-abortion activist that Julie Burkhart had a "target on her back" for reopening Tiller's clinic. The Wichita Eagle reports Roeder was given 45 days in solitary confinement, 60 days of restricted privileges and a $20 fine after the interview was aired on YouTube. Prison records show Roeder has been disciplined 22 times by prison officials since 2011 for a variety of offenses
University of Kansas Confirms Case of Tuberculosis
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Health officials say about 50 University of Kansas students have been screened for tuberculosis after one case was confirmed. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the student with the confirmed case has started therapy and will remain quarantined until he tests free of the disease. Watkins Health Services director Douglas Dechairo says the student contracted the disease in his home country, outside of the United States. The student lives alone off campus. Dechairo says none of the students who potentially were exposed have developed symptoms. Those students will be screened again in eight weeks. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that attacks the lungs and can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics.
Kansas Department of Corrections to Sell More Prison Goods
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Corrections would be able to sell prison-made goods to more entities under legislation before a House committee. The measures would allow the department to sell products to any company or organization in Kansas. One bill would allow the establishment of a vocational building program to manufacture pre-fabricated housing units for sale or donation. Corrections Secretary Johnnie Goddard told the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Monday that the program could considerably reduce the recidivism rate in the state's prisons. Proponents also say the program would address the shortage in rural housing. The Department of Corrections would pay inmates about $1.05 a day.
Lawmakers Tie Kansas Hospital Problems to Privatization Push
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Two Kansas legislators from different parties are suggesting that the state has intentionally mismanaged its two mental hospitals to justify turning over operation of the facilities to private companies. Democratic Representative Jim Ward of Wichita and Republican Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe suggested the hospitals may have been deliberately mismanaged. But Secretary Tim Keck said the Department for Aging and Disability Services told the House committee Monday that there's nothing to the allegation. Keck says he sees privatization to as a possible option for Osawatomie State Hospital, the state's largest mental facility, but not for Larned State Hospital in western Kansas. Dozens of positions are open at each hospital. The federal government decertified Osawatomie Hospital in December due to staffing, security and safety concerns..
Kansas Missing Persons Reports to Be Filed in 2 Hours
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas law enforcement would be required to file a missing person report within two hours of receiving a minimum amount of information under a bill approved by a Senate committee. The measure that passed Monday in the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee sets a specific time period in which the report must be provided to the National Crime Information Center and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Under current law, reports simply need to be entered "as soon as practical." Overland Park Republican Representative Greg Smith is chairman of the committee and wrote the current law, which went into effect in 2013. His daughter was abducted and killed in 2007. The committee on Tuesday will debate changes on a bill that would overhaul the juvenile justice system.
Award-Winning Kansas News Photographer Bill Snead Dies
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Bill Snead, an award-winning news photographer from Kansas whose career included covering wars and national political conventions, has died. He was 78. Snead's wife, Dona (DOH'-nuh) Snead, said Monday that Snead died at his Lawrence home Sunday after struggling for several months with advanced lung cancer. Snead spent 21 years as a staff photographer and editor with The Washington Post. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Snead also served as picture editor for National Geographic and bureau manager for United Press International in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Snead was later a senior editor at The Lawrence Journal-World until 2007. He won the newspaper photographer of the year award from the White House News Photographers Association in the early 1990s.
Kansas Senate Committee Approves Shipman's Nomination
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved the nomination of the acting secretary Sarah Shipman of the Department of Administration to become secretary of the department. But first, lawmakers had some pointed questions for Shipman about a $20-million lease-purchase deal for a new power plant for state office buildings in Topeka. The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony Monday from Shipman, who signed the lease agreement. The agreement has drawn criticism from legislators concerned about its cost and about perceived attempts to sidestep a legislative committee that usually approves all state construction projects. The power plant project is on hold. Shipman acknowledged miscommunication and promised to improve relations with the Legislature. The committee approved Shipman's appointment, sending her nomination to the full Senate.
Animal-Rights Group Sues to Block Import of Zoo Elephants
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An animal rights group has filed a federal lawsuit to stop zoos in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas from bringing in new elephants from Africa. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Friends of Animals filed the lawsuit last week against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Last month, the agency issued permits allowing the importation of 18 African elephants from Swaziland. The elephants would be divided among the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas and zoos in Dallas, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska. The three zoos agreed to spend $450,000 on black rhino conservation programs. The environmental group's lawsuit argues the wildlife service did not take into account how the transfer would negatively impact the well-being of the elephants.
K-State Administrator Among Finalists for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Job
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Four finalists have been selected after a national search for a new chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced Tuesday that the four will visit Lincoln over a two-week period, beginning Monday. The four are Sabah Randhawa, who is provost and executive vice president at Oregon State University; April Mason, who is provost and senior vice president at Kansas State University; Daniel Reed, who is vice president for research and economic development at the University of Iowa; and Ronnie Green, who is vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the University of Nebraska system. Bounds will choose one of the four to replace Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who plans to leave the office on June 30 and return to the law school.
Teen to Distribute Shoes After Getting Celebrity Help
ANDOVER, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas teenager is donating shoes to the needy after getting some help collecting them from Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West. The Wichita Eagle reports that 17-year-old Amelia Flores is handing out 300 pairs of Adidas shoes Friday to Wichita middle school students. Amelia originally hoped to collect 2,000 pairs from donation sites she set up around nearby Andover, where she attends high school. But the effort exploded in December when the reality star tweeted that she and West would donate 1,000 pairs of shoes to Amelia's shoe drive for the nonprofit Soles4Souls. Those shoes were divided for distribution in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Wichita. Because of the Kardashian-level attention, Amelia bumped her shoe-collection goal to 25,000 pairs. She also received a flood of interview requests.
Oklahoma Regulators Issue New Guidelines in Response to Earthquake
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma oil-and-gas regulators are making their most far-reaching directive yet in response to the spike in earthquakes in the state by asking the operators of nearly 250 injection wells to reduce the amount of wastewater they inject underground. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission released a plan Tuesday that covers more than 5,200 square miles in northwest Oklahoma. It calls for a reduction of more than 500,000 barrels of wastewater daily, or about 40 percent less than previous levels. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or greater has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 900 last year. Scientists have linked the quakes to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil-and-gas production. A 5.1-magnitude quake hit the area Saturday. That quake was the third-largest in state history.
Kansas Mom Dies After Giving Birth to Triplets
CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas mother has died just more than a week after delivering triplets. KWCH-TV reports that Casi Rott of Clay Center delivered the babies January 29 at a Wichita hospital. She had spent the proceeding three months in Wichita away from her husband and 6- and 2-year-old daughters. She was treated for a blood clot in her lungs before returning home. Her husband, Joey Rott, says that upon her return, she snuggled with her two older daughters for about five minutes before she began having health issues. She died on February 8. Joey Rott says that he had never "met a soul as kind as she was." Friend Kelsey Wuthrich says she "loved her kids more than anything." An online fundraising effort is underway to help the family.
Police: 25-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has died after being shot in what Topeka police believe to be a drive-by shooting. Topeka police Lieutenant Bryan Wheeles said that 25-year-old Deljuan Patton was shot early Sunday morning and transported to a hospital by a private vehicle. Police responded to the hospital, where Patton later died. According to Wheeles, preliminary information indicates that Patton was struck during a drive-by shooting as he was seated in a vehicle. An investigation is ongoing.
Police: Man, 38, Found Dead in Kansas City House
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 38-year-old man has been found dead in a home. According to authorities, police were called to a house around 5:50 pm Saturday and found the body of Durron L. Campbell. The cause of Campbell's death has not been released, but Kansas City police say that homicide detectives are investigating the incident.
No. 2 Kansas Beats Oklahoma State, 94-67
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Wayne Selden Jr. scored 18 points and Landen Lucas added 14 points and 10 rebounds as second-ranked Kansas rolled to a 94-67 victory over Oklahoma State on Monday night. Perry Ellis finished with 15 points, and Frank Mason III had 14 for the Jayhawks (22-4, 10-3 Big 12), who lost to the OSU Cowboys last month. Oklahoma State (12-13, 3-10) led much of the first half but fell behind by 18 early in the second. OSU trimmed their deficit to 62-56 with about 11 minutes to go but the Jayhawks had a strong finish, pulling away for a lopsided victory over the Cowboys. Jeff Newberry scored 19 points and Jeffrey Carroll had 13 for OSU.