Kansas Supreme Court Justice Impeachment Proposal Advances by Narrow Margin
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has barely approved a bill declaring that state Supreme Court justices can be impeached for attempting to usurp the Legislature's power. The vote Tuesday was 21-19 on a measure that outlines specific grounds for impeaching and removing justices. The bill goes next to the House. Supporters said they're further defining what the state constitution means when it allows justices to be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors." The bill's Republican backers in committee added a similar list of grounds for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state. The chamber's GOP supermajority split over the bill. Critics said the measure attacks the court system's independence. The Senate vote came less than six weeks after the justices ordered lawmakers to increase funding for poor school districts.
Kansas Lawmakers Put New School Funding Plan on Fast Track
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are looking at a new school finance plan that would ensure that districts don't lose state aid in an attempt to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court. Identical bills in the House and Senate also would shift control of a fund to help districts facing extraordinary circumstances from lawmakers and the governor to the State Board of Education. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports discussions on the measures are expected Wednesday in both chambers. The bills apply an old formula used to determine capital outlay state aid for districts to local option budget state aid. They would provide additional aid to districts that would lose funds under that formula so their funding levels don't decline. Many districts would not see any increases in funding under the bill, either.
Kansas Governor Signs Bill Protecting Faith Groups on Campus
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation allowing faith-based college groups to restrict membership to like-minded people, likely putting Kansas on a collision course with civil liberties groups. The conservative Republican signed the bill Tuesday. The new law will take effect in July. The Republican-dominated Legislature approved the bill this month, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that universities could require such groups to open their memberships to all. Supporters have said the bill was a victory for religious freedom. Opponents say it was a veiled attempt to legalize discrimination. Kansas already has a religious objections law preventing state or local governments from limiting people's freedom to express their religion. But the law doesn't touch on organizations at universities. Kansas joins Oklahoma in having a campus-specific law.
Bill on Life-Sustaining Care for Children Advances in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill making it harder for medical providers in Kansas to deny life-sustaining care to children has passed the state Senate. The vote Tuesday was 36-4 on a measure that requires health care providers to have written permission from a parent or guardian to withhold life-sustaining care for patients under 18. Health care facilities, nursing homes and doctors also would be required to honor requests from parents or guardians to disclose policies on life-sustaining care and providing care when it is deemed futile. Supporters said the bill is designed to give parents a say in their care of their critically ill children. They said the measure is a response to cases in multiple states in which children did not receive life-sustaining care because medical personnel saw it as futile.
Kansas Senate Votes to Retain Policy on Planned Parenthood
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are moving to make permanent an annual budget policy that prevents the state from providing federal family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood. The Senate approved a bill Tuesday on a 31-9 vote, sending the measure to the House. The legislation deals with federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services. Lawmakers have included a provision in the state's annual budgets since 2011 saying that money must go first to public health departments and then to hospitals. The goal was prevent any of the funds from going to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which also provides abortions. Putting the policy into state law means lawmakers won't have to keep renewing it. A federal appeals court upheld the policy in 2014. Planned Parenthood lost about $370,000 a year.
Kansas Legislators Move to Gain More Control over State Debt
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill to give lawmakers more control over the state's use of debt to finance big building projects. The House's 114-8 vote Monday sends the measure to the Senate. Lawmakers are considering it after the University of Kansas and Governor Sam Brownback's administration pursued projects without prior legislative approval. The bill would require the full Legislature to authorize bonds, borrowing against the state's credit or other debt for projects costing $25 million or more. The governor and legislative leaders would have to approve smaller projects. A nonprofit corporation affiliated with the University of Kansas went to a Wisconsin agency for $327 million in bonds for campus improvements. Brownback's administration pursued but canceled a $20 million plan for a new power plant near the Statehouse.
Kansas House Votes to Free Nurse Midwives from Doctor Oversight
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Nurse midwives wouldn't need a doctor's oversight for routine deliveries under a bill that passed the Kansas House. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill advanced Monday. Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, says nurse midwives would be allowed to prescribe medicines, order diagnostic tests and perform birth procedures such as episiotomies. The Board of Healing Arts would directly regulate them. The bill would open the door to independent practice by about 85 certified nurse midwives statewide. The majority already work in centers where they have collaborative agreements with doctors. Republican Representative Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills, a retired physician, says she usually supports doctor oversight but says it's not necessary in the case of routine births.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Repealing Common Core Standards
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have begun debating a proposal that would repeal Common Core standards for math and reading education. Under the proposal, school districts would be forbidden to use any national curriculum in tests, programs and materials. The standards were developed by a group of states with the goal of making sure students were ready for jobs or higher education after graduation. Common Core is optional for the states, and the Kansas State Board of Education adopted it in 2010. The standards call for a classroom focus on analytical skills instead of rote memorization. Supporters of the bill say Common Core strips local districts of control. Opponents say it encourages rigorous standards.
Kansas Lawmakers Vote to Overhaul Juvenile Justice System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have voted to overhaul the juvenile justice system by allowing more low-risk offenders to participate in community-based programs to traet substance abuse and anger management. Juvenile offenders can currently be placed in juvenile detention centers or group homes for any level offense. Kansas has the sixth-highest rate of juvenile offenders in detention centers nationwide. The measure passed 117-6 in a final-approval House vote Monday, after it passed 38-2 in the Senate last month. Senators will review the changes before it is sent to the governor. The House version of the bill includes a provision to reserve up to 50 beds in group homes for juvenile offenders. The previous measure approved by the Senate says all group homes will close by July 2018.
Kansas Psychiatric Hospital Cuts Spending Amid Budget Woes
LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A psychiatric hospital in west-central Kansas challenged with staffing troubles and leadership turnover has implemented strict financial controls after spending more than 60 percent of its annual budget in six months. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that as of December 31, Larned State Hospital had spent at least $34.2 million of its $57 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. The hospital has cut down on spending, increased auditor review of purchases and prohibited non-urgent expenditures. A January 15 memorandum to the hospital's administrators outlined the restrictions. The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the hospital, says the spending issue had been extensively discussed at a House Social Services Budget Committee hearing.
New Fort Riley Hospital Could Open in July After Long Delays
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Officials say Fort Riley's long-delayed new hospital is one step closer to opening and could do so by the end of July. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials told U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp's office that since Wednesday, the Army has been able to begin using the facility while the remaining construction is completed. The Corps says the following 120 days are allotted for initial outfitting and transition, including finishing touches, such as installing fixtures and equipment. If all goes according to schedule, the building will likely open for patients in mid- to late July. The Corps didn't immediately respond to the Manhattan Mercury's request for comment. The new Irwin Army Community Hospital was most recently set to open in January, but officials held back the date after pre-final inspections revealed a list of deficiencies.
Prosecutors Rest in Trial of Franklin County Man in Quadruple Murder
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors have rested their case in the trial of an eastern Kansas man accused of killing four people, including an 18-month-old baby. The Kansas City Star reports Franklin County prosecutors spent two weeks laying out their case against 30-year-old Kyle Flack. He is facing charges of capital murder in the deaths of 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey and her daughter, Lana Bailey, in 2013. He also is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 30-year-old Andrew Stout and 31-year-old Steven White. Flack did not testify and his attorneys did not call any witnesses. Court officials say closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning in Ottawa.
Man Falls Through Ceiling as Police Search for Burglar
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been arrested after falling through a restaurant ceiling as police responded to a burglary. The Salina Journal reports that the arrest happened early Monday at a Taco John's. Capt. Chris Trocheck says the suspect told police as he was being arrested that a second person was still inside the restaurant. Trocheck says the police department's SWAT officers were called in to clear the building and found no one else inside. Police were summoned after the manager heard a banging sound inside and reported that someone might be trying to break into the safe. A police dog couldn't locate anyone. The suspect fell through the ceiling when officers entered the restaurant. The suspect complained of injuries from the fall and was treated at a hospital.
University of Kansas Seeks Dismissal of Newspaper Cuts Lawsuit
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit that alleges administrators allowed the Student Senate to illegally cut the student newspaper's funding based on its content. The school says the case lacks merit, noting in a court filing that the University Daily Kansan now prints two days a week instead of four. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the filing says the reductions were the reason given for cutting the newspaper's student fee revenues to $45,000 from $90,000. In February, the newspaper's current and former editors-in-chief sued Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and the vice provost for student affairs. The suit cites a number of former Senate members' statements that indicate their decision to cut funding was based on dissatisfaction with the newspaper's coverage of the Senate.
Manhattan Man Sentenced in Death of Unborn Baby
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A Manhattan man has been sentenced to a year in jail for a 2014 crash that killed a woman's unborn child. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Ryan Routson was sentenced Monday in Riley County for causing the crash after he failed to yield at a stop sign. He also could face prison time if he violates his parole terms. As part of a plea agreement, Routson pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and vehicular homicide. He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge for possessing drug paraphernalia. He originally was charged with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and aggravated battery while driving under the influence.
26-Year-Old Man Charged in Fatal Kansas City Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged in the fatal shooting of a man whose body was found in a parked car. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office says 26-year-old Lakeith R. Courtney is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the November 2015 death of Kevin Durham. Court records say that witnesses told police that a man got out of a van and began shooting after the victim pulled up to a park. Courtney was linked to the shooting through surveillance video from a nearby store and digital images taken minutes before the shooting for a public transportation project. Those digital images showed the license plate of a minivan parked in the area. Prosecutors have requested a bond of $500,000. Courtney isn't yet in custody.
80-Year-Old Marijuana Dealer Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
BOSTON (AP) — An 80-year-old man who ran a sprawling marijuana-dealing operation has been sentenced in Boston to 10 years in prison. Marshall Dion pleaded guilty last year to drug and money-laundering charges. Prosecutors say Dion ran a large marijuana enterprise for decades. When police in Junction City, Kansas, stopped him for speeding in 2013, they found about $828,000 in cash in his pickup. A federal investigation led authorities to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they found about $15 million in cash, nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers detailing drug deals going back to 1992. A federal judge this month rejected a plea agreement that called for a five- to seven-year prison sentence for Dion. The judge sentenced him Tuesday to 10 years in prison during a hearing in U.S. District Court.
Kansas Lawmakers Applaud Royals for World Series Victory
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are honoring the Kansas City Royals for winning their first World Series since 1985. Royals Hall of Fame director Curt Nelson held up the silver World Series trophy on Monday to the applause of legislators in both chambers. Both the Senate and House approved resolutions hailing the team's five-game triumph over the New York Mets in November. Republican Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe spoke about reliving the joy he felt as a young boy when he watched Kansas City win the Series in 1985. He praised the Royals for earning their title while playing "the boys' game like grown-up boys." Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, also congratulated the team for its accomplishment and urged his fellow senators to support the resolution in that chamber.
Wilkins, Collins Headline College Hoops Hall of Fame Class
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Georgia standout Dominique Wilkins and Doug Collins of Illinois State headline the eight-member class that will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. Wilkins played three seasons for the Bulldogs before embarking on a standout NBA career, making nine All-Star games while playing for the Hawks, Clippers, Celtics, Spurs and Magic. Collins scored 2,240 points during his three-year career with the Redbirds, and was the No. 1 pick in the 1973 draft. He was a four-time All-Star before beginning a long career as a coach. Joining them in this year's class are DePaul's Mark Aguirre, Kansas State's Bob Boozer, LaSalle's Lionel Simmons and UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes, along with coaches Hugh Durham and Mike Montgomery. The induction ceremony is November 18 in Kansas City.