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Headlines for Tuesday, March 18, 2014


KS Attorney General Outlines School Finance Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the level of additional judicial scrutiny of public school funding depends largely on how legislators respond to the recent court ruling. The Republican attorney general offered his views on the March 7 Kansas Supreme Court ruling to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Committee members are trying to come up with a financial solution to satisfy the court's orders. The court ruled that past cuts in state aid to poor school districts created unconstitutional gaps in funding between them and wealthier districts. The court ordered lawmakers to fix the problem by July 1. Schmidt reiterated that legislators have options for complying with the decision, ranging from full compliance as ordered to spending a lesser amount and modifying the school funding formula.


KS Unemployment Dropped Slightly in January

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency says the state's jobless rate dipped to 4.8 percent in January and more people held jobs than at the beginning of 2013. The state Department of Labor said January's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from the 4.9 percent recorded for December 2013. The rate was 5.6 percent in January 2013. Monday's report also said total nonfarm, private-sector employment in January topped 1.12 million, showing a gain of 20,500 jobs from January 2013. Private-sector employment growth over the year was 1.9 percent. The state saw its most robust growth in construction, where 61,000 people held jobs in January, compared with 55,100 in January 2013, a 10.7 percent rise. Professional, business, educational and health services also saw employment increases over the year, while manufacturing and government employment dropped slightly.

Legal Groups Fight Changes in KS Evidence Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bar Association and a trial lawyers' group say proposed changes in evidence rules are a bad trade-off for higher limits on some damages in personal injury lawsuits. The House commerce committee had a hearing Monday on a Senate-approved bill that includes both concepts. Medical groups and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce support the legislation. The bill is a response to a 2012 Kansas Supreme Court decision upholding the state's $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits. The court said the cap might not remain constitutional because of inflation. The legislation would raise the cap to $350,000 by 2022. But the legal groups said the changes in evidence rules would hurt plaintiffs in personal injury cases.


Group Launches TV Ad Praising Kansas Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group backing Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has launched a TV ad noting the state's relatively low unemployment rate and saying the Republican incumbent has a plan for investing in education. Road Map Solutions began the 30-second spot Tuesday on broadcast and cable stations in Topeka and Wichita. The group is a nonprofit set up by Brownback's allies, with former Brownback chief of staff David Kensinger as its president. Kensinger said the group plans to run the TV spots for at least 10 days and spend at least $82,000. Brownback is proposing to phase in full state funding for all-day kindergarten. Brownback is running for re-election. His Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, has criticized Brownback over education funding. Spokesman Chris Pumpelly said Davis is focused on helping Kansas families.


Topeka Veterinary Clinic Warns of Dog Poisonings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka veterinary clinic is warning customers about rat poisoning incidents involving someone in a white van who has been seen throwing white bags into people's yards. A second clinic has confirmed that it has seen at least three poisoning cases, including one death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a sign at Potwin Pet Clinic says 15 dogs have died from ingesting the poison and urges customers not to leave their dogs outside at night. Staff members said they were made aware of the incidents from other veterinarians and clinics, and that one pet owner had reported seeing a van in the neighborhood throwing food items into yards. Topeka's animal control manager says she received an email that one clinic had reported 21 cases, but she learned it was only three.


Shots Fired Outside Kansas City Zoo Amid Fights

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say several people have been arrested but no injuries were reported after shots were fired outside the Kansas City Zoo. Officers heard the gunfire in the parking lot shortly before 4 pm Tuesday as the zoo was preparing to close for the day. Admission was free Tuesday for residents of Missouri's Jackson and Clay counties, and warm weather helped attract an especially large number of visitors. Police and witnesses said the arrests were made amid several fights in the parking lot. Officers did not immediately find the person who fired the shots.


Billionaire Philanthropist Jim Stowers Dead at 90

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jim Stowers Jr., the billionaire founder of one of the nation's leading investment management firms who gave away most of his fortune to fight disease, has died. He was 90. A joint release from the Kansas City, Missouri research firm that bears his name says Stowers died Monday after a period of declining health. Stowers was a struggling mutual fund salesman in 1958 when he founded Twentieth Century Investors Inc. in Kansas City with only two mutual funds and $107,000 in assets. It later became American Century Investments, one of the nation's leading investment firms that now manages about $141 billion. Stowers and his wife both successfully fought cancer. In 2000, they promised more than $1 billion to create the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City.

Lawrence Educators Ready to Run Virtual School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence School District officials hope using its own employees to teach students of a virtual school will boost a graduation rate so low that the district took over the program. Lawrence Virtual High School was run by a private company, K12 Inc., until the school posted a 26.3 percent graduation rate last semester and was taken over by the Lawrence district. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the move comes as district officials begin to question the effectiveness of virtual schools generally. The future of the Lawrence program will depend on how much improvement can be made in academic performance. The virtual school has about 15 instructors, all of whom are K12 Inc. employees. Next year the district will use its own teachers but plans to continue using K12 Inc.'s curriculum.

Man Arrested in Ohio for Dodge City Bomb Threats

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Ohio have arrested a former Kansas man in connection with bomb threats made at two Dodge City restaurants. The Hutchinson News reports that the 30-year-old former Dodge City resident was arrested Monday morning in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, on a Ford County warrant for aggravated criminal threat and two counts of criminal threat. Dodge City police say bomb threats were made March 11 at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Presto/Subway within 20 minutes of each other, but no devices were found. Police have not released the man's name.

Man Charged in St. Patrick's Parade Tradition

TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas businessman is facing a criminal damage charge after police arrested him while painting a green stripe along a downtown street ahead of the annual St. Patrick's Parade. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the line has been painted down Fourth Street in Tonganoxie all but one year of the parade, a tradition in honor of parade founder John McCaffrey. Several people have helped paint the line over the years, and police officers have even blocked early morning traffic in the past so the line could be painted. But as Charlie "Tuna" Conrad started painting the line around 5:15 am Saturday, a police officer stopped him and cited him for damaging property. City Administrator Nathan McCommon said the line was a traffic hazard and painting it was a violation.


Wichita to Raise Hotel Tax to Promote Tourism

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The City Council in Wichita has approved a new hotel tax to finance efforts to promote tourism and attract large events. KFDI-FM reports the council voted 7-0 on Tuesday in favor of the 2.75 percent tax for guests at hotels with more than 50 rooms. The levy is expected to generate about $2.5 million to $3 million a year. The City Council voted earlier this month to create a tourism district to help raise money for marketing and promotion. The council on Tuesday approved establishment of a tourism business improvement district as well. Wichita officials have said current promotional funding was growing slowly at the same time the city is facing strong competition from other cities to attract conventions and tourists.


New Airline Chosen for Great Bend

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A new airline has been chosen to provide commercial service from the central Kansas community of Great Bend. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order Monday granting Portland, Oregon-based SeaPort Airlines a two-year contract under the federal Essential Air Service program. The announcement comes less than a week after Great Lakes Airlines notified the city it would stop serving Great Bend Municipal Airport at the end of March. Airport manager Martin Miller says it's not yet known when SeaPort will begin offering service. The contract calls for 18 round-trip flights per week, including two daily flights to Wichita and one to Kansas City on weekdays. Three weekend flights are also planned. SeaPort will offer an introductory fare of $39 one-way for the first 30 days of service on every flight.


Brother of Man Killed in Scooter Crash Files Suit

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The brother of a 93-year-old Salina man who was killed when a car struck his four-wheel mobility scooter last year has filed a wrongful death suit against the driver. The Salina Journal reports Leon E. Olson filed the suit last week, claiming Dennis Campbell was negligent when he crashed into Eugene Olson's scooter September 9. Campbell's car struck the scooter from behind at an intersection. Salina police say that because there were no sidewalks in that block, scooters are permitted to be driven on the street. Eugene Olson died at a local hospital two days after the crash. Campbell has not been charged in the accident, which remains under investigation. The lawsuit in Saline County District Court is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

2 KC City Workers Accused of Dumping Dead Dogs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two longtime Kansas City public works employees are accused of dumping five dog carcasses in a remote area on the city's north side. The Kansas City Star reports that the bodies were stuffed into four garbage bags and left on a dead-end street north of Stroud's Oak Ridge Manor restaurant. City spokesman Chris Hernandez says a special investigator tracked down the owners of two of the dogs and traced them to the two city workers. The city has described the dogs as pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Residents can call 311 and have the city pick up dead animals left in bags at their curbs. A special public works crew takes the carcasses to animal control to be incinerated, but Hernandez says that "apparently did not happen" this time.


Amber Alert Changes Sought Following Missouri Killing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The mid-February kidnapping death of a 10-year-old Springfield girl has led to calls for changes to Missouri's Amber Alert system. Fourth-grader Hailey Owens was walking just a block from her home when she was abducted. Springfield police responded within 10 minutes of the initial 911 call. But the statewide child abduction alert didn't go out for more than two hours. The Kansas City Star reports that a grassroots campaign in southwest Missouri is working to speed up an alert system that requires three-page forms be filled out by hand and then sent by fax. Middle school football coach Craig Michael Wood has been charged in the girl's death after police reported finding her body in Wood's basement.


New Mexico to Study Cost-Sharing for Amtrak Route

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico plans to study whether to help pay part of the cost of keeping Amtrak's Southwest Chief on its current route. A state budget signed by Republican Governor Susana Martinez allocates $50,000 to the Legislative Council Service to study a proposal by Amtrak for New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas to share the costs of maintaining and improving more than 600 miles of track through their states. John Yaeger of the Legislative Council Service said legal issues will be considered as well as the costs and economic benefits of the proposal. Details of the study are still being worked out. Amtrak has suggested the three states share maintenance costs with it and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the track. Each would provide about $4 million annually for a decade.

Eisenhower Museum Exhibit Highlights Smaller WWII Allies

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene is highlighting World War II allies and resistance groups whose contributions to the war are seldom studied in the U.S. A new exhibit called "Be Ye Men of Valour" introduces visitors to the cultures, peoples and histories of 19 countries whose contributions to the Allied cause are lesser known. Objects in the exhibit have been contributed from museums and individuals throughout the U.S. The Polish Mission Museum in Orchard Lake, Michigan, donated objects including a concentration camp inmate jacket and a uniform worn by a Polish resistance fighter during the Warsaw Uprising. Significant artifacts from a museum in Maryland include identification cards belonging to a Latvian refugee and personal effects of Latvia's minister of Defense from 1931-1940.


K-State Hires Women's Hoops Coach Mittie from TCU

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State lured away Jeff Mittie away from Big 12 rival TCU on Tuesday to become its new women's basketball coach, replacing longtime coach Deb Patterson. Mittie agreed to a five-year contract that will pay $375,000 the first year with $25,000 increases each remaining year. He will also receive a $140,000 signing bonus. Kansas State acted swiftly after firing Patterson in reaching out to Mittie, who was raised in the Kansas City area. His wife, Shanna, was born in Junction City, a short drive from the Wildcats' campus in Manhattan. Mittie put together a 303-175 record at TCU. He got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Missouri Western, before spending four seasons at Arkansas State. He takes over a program at Kansas State that finished 11-19 last season.



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