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Headlines for Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Here's a look at Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press, as compiled by the KPR News Team.

Kansas House Rejects Constitutional Convention Idea
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has rejected a measure aimed at calling a convention of the states to propose changes in the U.S. constitution.  The vote Monday was 77-47 for a resolution pushed by conservative Republicans unhappy with the federal government's reach. But supporters needed a two-thirds majority of 84 votes in the 125-member chamber.  Supporters said a convention could propose ideas for lessening the federal government's power. The resolution decried the federal debt.  Critics questioned whether a convention's scope could be limited.  The U.S. Constitution says Congress must call a convention if it gets applications from two-thirds of the states, or 34.  Any proposal approved by such a convention must be ratified by legislators in three-quarters of the states, or 38.  Lawmakers in five other states have approved the same resolution.  


Kansas Senate Delays Debate on SCOKAN Impeachment Bill

Some members of the state senate have been looking for ways to make it eaiser to impeach Kansas Supreme Court Justices.  But the Senate has postponed debate on the measure that says justices can be impeached for attempting to usurp the power of the Legislature or the executive branch.  Currently, the state constitution says justices can be impeached and removed for treason, bribery or other "high crimes and misdemeanors.''  This proposal spells out other grounds for impeachment... and it comes after a court ruling against a school funding law.  


Kansas House Rejects Plan to Set Top Speed Limit to 80 MPH 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members are comfortable raising the speed limit on some highways to 70 miles per hour, but they aren't ready to increase it to 80 on interstates. The House approved a bill on a 106-19 vote Tuesday to allow the state's secretary of transportation to increase the speed limits on non-interstate highways another 5 miles per hour, from the current 65. The measure goes next to the Senate. The House's action came after it voted 90-24 against a proposal from Republican Representative John Bradford of Lansing to increase the speed limit on interstates to 80 mph from the current 75. Bradford noted that seven other states have top speed limits of 80 or 85 miles per hour. But opponents cited safety concerns in rejecting his proposal.


Kansas Senate Passes Plan for Adding Highway Patrol Troopers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas would increase its vehicle registration fees to help its Highway Patrol put more troopers on the state's highways under a bill the state Senate approved. The Senate on Tuesday voted 24-14 for a measure that boosts the fee for each vehicle's registration by $3.25. The measure goes next to the House. Of the increase, $2 will go to the patrol and $1.25 to the state's center in Hutchinson for training law enforcement officers. The measure would allow the patrol to hire an additional 75 troopers. Thirty-five of the state's 105 counties have no assigned trooper, and the patrol has about 80 fewer troopers than it did a decade ago. Critics of the bill said the state should use general tax dollars to pay for public safety needs.


Kansas Senators Vote to Overhaul Juvenile Justice System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have voted to overhaul the juvenile justice system by offering community-based programs instead of jail for low-risk juvenile offenders. The measure will close group homes for juvenile offenders in July 2018. Youth who violate probation will be referred to community-based programs that allow them to stay in homes with their families. The Senate voted 38-2 in favor of the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House for further consideration. Republican Senator Greg Smith, of Overland Park, says the $75.6 million in savings over five years will be redirected to community-based programs such as anger management and family therapy. Critics of the bill say they worry there won't be enough state funding to maintain the community-based alternatives to incarceration.


Kansas State Officials Abandon $20 Million Power Plant Deal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration has cancelled a $20 million contract for construction of a utility center to replace units in the Docking State Office Building, located across the street from the Statehouse in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the decision came after bipartisan pressure from state lawmakers who opposed the deal because they viewed it as intentionally designed to avoid legislative oversight. State officials pushed back against the legislators, but relented before the Legislature could produce a bill that would withhold money from the project. The energy center was to cost $16 million, but Bank of America financing would've pushed the total to $20 million. Under the Department of Administration plan, the building would've been imploded and utility infrastructure from the basement would be relocated to a new facility north of the Statehouse.


Kansas Senate Approves Parental Early Release Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would release some prisoners who are parents has received final approval in the Kansas Senate. The vote Tuesday was 40-0, sending the measure to the House. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill allows the Kansas secretary of corrections to transfer low and moderate-risk inmates from prisons to house arrest as part of a community parenting release if they satisfy several requirements. The inmates must have custody of a child, have no convictions for sex offenses or dangerous felonies, must not be eligible for deportation and must have less than a year remaining on their prison sentences. Supporters included the Department of Corrections and the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King says the effort has been successful in Washington state.


Kansas Senate Passes Bill for New Pilot Foster Care Program 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal for a pilot program to have married couples who don't smoke or drink alcohol serve as foster parents for abused and neglected children. The vote Tuesday was 24-15 on a bill from conservative Republican Senator Forrest Knox of Altoona. The measure goes next to the House. Knox's bill sets up a program in which couples in "stable" marriages for at least seven years volunteer to be foster parents. Only one spouse in a so-called CARE foster family could work outside the home. But such couples could be reimbursed by the state for up to $4,000 a year in home or private schooling expenses. Critics predicted the measure would siphon money from public schools and said passing it suggests other families aren't as good.


Kansas House Passes Student Athlete Head Injury Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House of Representative has approved a bill that would enable chiropractors to sign off on student athletes returning to a sport after a head injury. The Kansas City Star reports that the current law allows chiropractors to perform student athletes' physicals before a sports season and to diagnose concussions on the field. However, it requires that a medical doctor evaluate and sign off before a student athlete can return to a sport after a head injury. The bill passed 73-51, but prompted an intense debate about whether chiropractors have sufficient expertise to make those decisions. The Kansas Chiropractors Association backs the bill and the Kansas Medical Society and other physicians' groups oppose it. The House reconsidered the chiropractor measure Tuesday and reapproved it 70-53, sending it to the Senate.


Kansas Senate Approves Reduced Penalties for Juvenile Sexting  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a bill to lessen the penalties for sexting by middle and high school students in hopes that prosecutors will be willing to combat the practice. The vote Tuesday was 40-0. The bill goes next to the House, and its members approved their own version of the legislation earlier this month. Both measures focus on 12- to 18-year-olds accused of transmitting images of a nude child. Under existing state law, prosecutors are restricted to filing a felony charge that carries a prison sentence up to 11 years and four months and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Both chambers' bills make a first offense by someone 18 or younger a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.


Bills to Help Kansas Microbreweries Approved by State Senate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Microbreweries in Kansas could start producing hard cider and would be allowed to brew more beer than they can now under bills approved by the state Senate. Senators approved two measures Tuesday on 40-0 votes, sending them to the House. Both bills are designed to keep the state's microbrewery industry growing. One measure would allow a microbrewery to produce up to 60,000 barrels of beer a year, double the current limit. The other bill would allow a microbrewery to produce hard cider from apples or pears that is less than 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. State law current limits such businesses to producing beer.


Kansas Corrections Worker Charged with Unlawful Sex

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City corrections worker is accused of having sexual contact with an adult offender in an intensive drug treatment program. The Kansas City Star reports that 24-year-old Alyssa Jo Staats, of Olathe, made a first appearance Monday in Johnson County District Court on three felony counts of unlawful sexual relations. She was released on $15,000 bond. Her attorney, Tom Bath, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.The charges allege that the sexual contact occurred last year while Staats was working for the Johnson County Department of Corrections. Department officials said they couldn't comment further because it's a personnel matter. Kansas law bars an employee or volunteer of a corrections facility or jail to have sexual contact with an offender, even if it's consensual.


Anti-"Revenge Porn" Bill Advances to Kansas Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has overwhelmingly approved a bill making it illegal to distribute images or videos of nude adults without their consent.  The legislation is aimed at deterring an online phenomenon known as "revenge porn.'' The bill makes it a felony to illegally disseminate nude images of an adult.  The measure now goes to the Senate.


Federal Government Not Backing Own Official on Voter Ruling 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal Justice Department is refusing to support a U.S. elections official who sided with Kansas, Alabama and Georgia in a fight over whether voters should have to show proof of citizenship. The government contends in a court filing that the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission strayed from federal law when he required citizenship proof for people in those three states who register using a national form. Residents of other states only need to swear that they are citizens, not show proof. The Justice Department is siding with voting rights group in urging a federal judge to temporarily block the proof-of-citizenship requirements for residents in the three states. The election assistance commission's director Brian Newby had granted the states' request to change form's instructions for their residents.


3 Northeast Kansas School Officials Won't Return Next Year 

PERRY, Kan. (AP) — The head of a northeast Kansas school district is among three administrators who won't return next year amid a student drug-testing controversy. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Perry-Lecompton Superintendent Denis Yoder's decision to retire comes after the school board decided not to renew the high school principal and assistant principal's contracts. One issue is a drug-testing policy that took effect at the high school as the new semester began. District officials confirmed at the time that teachers and most school district staff wouldn't undergo drug testing and that the assistant principal was twice convicted for drunken driving. Yoder says publicity surrounding the new policy affected the board's decision not to renew the contracts of the high school officials. But he says it "isn't necessarily" the reason he's leaving.


Board Alleges Negligence by Topeka Birthing Center Doctor 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state medical board has accused the former head of a Topeka birthing center with "gross negligence" in a settlement. Josie Norris was leading the Topeka Birth and Women's Center last February when it was temporarily suspended amid complaints about an unusually high number of medical problems in women and their newborns. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a consent order filed in December says Norris "engaged in conduct likely to harm the public." The settlement adds that she "denies any unprofessional conduct." Norris is required to divest of financial interests with the center under the settlement with the Board of Healing Arts. It also bars her from performing obstetrical or gynecological surgical care and chronic pain management care. But she is still allowed to conduct non-surgical gynecological care.


Kansas Authorities Investigating Reports of School Assaults
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating assault allegations involving members of a Kansas high school swim team. The Saline County Sheriff's Department is investigating a report that a Great Bend High School student was assaulted on a bus as the school's swim team returned from a recent competition. That incident reportedly occurred three days before another incident under investigation by the Ellsworth County Sheriff's Department that reportedly occurred February 6 as the swim team returned from a Manhattan meet. The incidents have sparked protests at school district offices by family members and students who question the district's response to the allegations. Superintendent Brad Reed says the district is investigating the allegations, cooperating with law enforcement and has also revised its practices regarding adult supervision on bus trips.


Kansas Man Guilty of Killing Girlfriend's Unborn Baby

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) _ A northwest Kansas man charged in connection to the killing of his ex-girlfriend's fetus has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.  Thirty-two-year-old Scott Bollig of WaKeeney received a sentence of 117 months Thursday in the January 2014 death of his ex-girlfriend's 8- to 10-week old fetus. He was found guilty in November of conspiracy to commit murder. He was acquitted of murder, aggravated battery and distribution of adulterated food.  Bollig was accused of causing his ex-girlfriend to lose her fetus by lacing her food with the drug mifepristone.


Pratt Man Gets 18+ Years Prison for Death of Infant

PRATT, Kan. (AP) _ A 29-year-old Pratt man has been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison in the death of an infant.  Joseph Sponaugle was sentenced to 220 months Monday. He had pleaded no contest last month to one count each of second-degree murder, abuse of a child and endangering a child.  Sponaugle was accused of causing the death of an infant in January 2014.


Southeast Kansas Judge Guilty of Embezzlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A former judge in southeast Kansas has pleaded guilty to embezzling about $24,000.  Bill W. Lyerla of Galena pleaded guilty to six counts of wire fraud.  He was a judge in southeast Kansas from 1991 until he resigned in 2014.  The prosecutor's office says the judge admitted that he embezzled the money from the Kansas District Magistrate Judges Association while he was that organization's elected treasurer.  


Ten People Injured in Accident on I-70 in Kansas City

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) _ Ten people have been injured after a tractor-trailer sideswiped a tour bus that had pulled to the side of Interstate 70 near Kansas City with a flat tire. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the semitrailer veered out of its lane Monday morning and struck the bus, pushing it down an embankment. One of the bus passengers was hospitalized in critical condition and another was in serious condition.  


Kansas Lawmakers Move to Protect Hunting, Fishing in Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers are considering changing the Kansas Bill of Rights to include the right to hunt, trap and fish. The resolution would add a section to the state constitution preserving hunting and fishing as a preferred way to manage wildlife. Several lawmakers say it would prevent future legislation from infringing on the right to hunt and fish. The measure now goes to the Senate.  


Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius Endorses Hillary Clinton

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Sebelius issued a statement saying Clinton is someone who can build upon progress made by President Barack Obama.  Sebelius backed Obama in 2008 and later served in his administration as Health and Human Services secretary.


Fatal Wichita Shooting Victim Identified as 26-Year-Old Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified a Wichita shooting victim as a 26-year-old man. Wichita police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says JaRon V. Sanders was shot once in the head early Sunday morning as he stood in the street in front of his house. The Wichita Eagle reports that he was pronounced dead at the scene. Ojile says Sanders had hosted a party at his house earlier on Saturday. He was shot after he and a person in the street began arguing. Police believe there were several witnesses to the shooting. Anyone with information is urged to come forward.


KU Football Program Boots Cornerback, Suspends Linebacker After Arrests

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas football team has dismissed cornerback Eric Rivers and suspended linebacker Kendall Duckworth after both were arrested early Monday in connection with an alleged robbery over the weekend. Rivers has also been accused of sexual battery and criminal restraint in a separate incident. Jayhawks coach David Beatty said in a statement that he is still gathering information related to the cases. But he told the Lawrence Journal-World that Rivers is no longer with the team. Duckworth, a 6-foot-1 linebacker from Naples, Florida, made three tackles in seven games during his freshman season. Rivers, a 5-9 cornerback from Arlington, Texas, redshirted last season.


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