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Headlines for Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Governor Signs Kansas Party-Switching Limits Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed legislation pushed by fellow Republicans making it harder for voters to switch parties before primary elections. The bill signed Tuesday bars voters who register with one party from switching their affiliation from June 1 in an election year until after results from August party primaries are certified. June 1 is the candidate filing deadline in Kansas. Current law allows voters to change their registration up to two weeks before a primary. Brownback signed the bill Tuesday. Republicans contend it will protect the integrity of party contests by keeping Democrats or members of other parties from changing their registration solely to influence GOP contests. Democrats have said the bill would restrict the right of voters to participate in elections as they choose.


Committee to Begin Work on Kansas School Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is preparing to take up a proposal from Republican leaders to increase education spending to satisfy a state Supreme Court order. The plan emerged late Monday after meetings among key House leaders, including Speaker Ray Merrick. The plan would increase spending by $129 million to correct deficiencies flagged by the March 7 court ruling. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to begin working on the bill Tuesday morning. It is not clear how long it will take before the bill can be sent to the full House for debate. One key difference between the GOP plan and one offered Thursday is the removal of language that would have expanded the state's charter schools law, something top GOP leaders had not included as part of their negotiations.

House GOP Leaders Offer Kansas School Funding Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Kansas House are proposing a new measure to satisfy a state Supreme Court ruling to increase funding for public schools without policy changes on charter schools. Speaker Ray Merrick said Monday the plan is similar to one he rejected last week. That measure contained provisions that would have expanded state charter school laws. Merrick says the new bill would increase school spending by about $129 million to address two deficiencies deemed unconstitutional by the court in its March 7 ruling. Merrick said the House Appropriations Committee is likely to begin reviewing the proposal on Tuesday. Senate GOP leaders say Monday they hope to finish the framework of a school spending bill soon, but don't have a timeframe yet for introducing a measure.


Governor Pleased with Kansas School Bill Progress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback is optimistic that legislators are getting closer to a school funding solution to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court ruling, though he would like to see more of the new spending directed toward classrooms. A plan emerged Monday night that would increase spending by $129 million in two areas identified as unconstitutional by the court. Brownback said Tuesday that legislators were searching for the money to pay for the increases, and his earlier proposal to spend $16 million to boost the state's share of all-day kindergarten costs is likely to be dropped.


Ruling: Kansas Can Strip Planned Parenthood Funds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An appeals court has overturned a federal judge's order that forced Kansas to keep funding two family planning clinics despite a state law aimed at stripping a Planned Parenthood chapter of federal money. At issue in Tuesday's ruling is money distributed to states under Title X, a federally financed family planning program. A Kansas law requires the state to first allocate the Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood. A lower court had ruled that Kansas couldn't take the money away from Planned Parenthood. But a divided federal appeals court in Denver overturned that ruling, rejecting Planned Parenthood's claims that losing the money amounted to a violation of free-speech rights for associating with abortion providers.


Kansas House Advances Charitable Raffle Amendment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House members have advanced a measure that would ask Kansas voters to amend the state constitution to allow charities to hold raffles to raise funds for their causes. The resolution advanced on a voice vote Tuesday. The Senate has already passed the measure. If it receives at least 84 votes on final action Wednesday, it would be placed on the November general election ballot. If a majority of voters give their approval, nonprofit religious, charitable, fraternal, education and veterans groups could operate raffles. The measure is necessary because the constitution once said all forms of lotteries were "forever prohibited." The term "lottery" has been interpreted broadly enough by the state's courts to include any enterprise that has people paying money to get a random chance to win a prize.


Kansas Lawmakers Pass Bill to Name State Fossils

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill designating a winged dinosaur and an ancient sea creature as the state's official fossils. The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved the measure honoring the flying pteranodon (tuh-RAN-uh-don) and the sea-roaming tylosaurus. They roamed what is now Kansas during the Cretaceous Period, from 145 million to 66 million years ago, when a giant sea covered the area. The House approved the bill last month, so the Senate's action sends the bill to Governor Sam Brownback. His office at the Statehouse is displaying a fossil of a juvenile cousin of the tylosaurus. If Brownback signs the bill, the fossils will join the western meadowlark, ornate box turtle and bison as state symbols. Fossil hunters and natural history museums pushed for the legislation.

Bill Blocking Slots at Kansas Racetrack Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a proposal to block slot machines at a closed dog-racing track outside Wichita. The bill advanced Tuesday on a voice vote over protests from Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. Approval on a second Senate vote would send it to the House. The measure prevents any local votes authorizing slot machines at Wichita Greyhound Park until July 2032. Owner Phil Ruffin has said he still wants to pursue slots and reopen the track, which closed in 2007. Hensley said the measure is aimed at punishing Ruffin for backing unsuccessful moderate Republican candidates in the 2012 GOP primary. Backers said the bill was sought by gambling opponents hoping to settle the issue of slots at the Wichita track for good.


Lawmakers Debate Plan to Bring Casino to SE Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas senator is pushing a bill aimed at luring a state-owned casino to his part of the state nearly a decade after it was authorized. Senate debate was expected Tuesday on Pittsburg Republican Jake LaTurner's proposal to lower the investment required for a southeast Kansas casino from $225 million to $50 million. Under the plan, the state also would drop the fee it charges for a prospective developer to $5.5 million from $25 million. A casino in southeast Kansas was authorized by law in 2005, but area officials say the required investment and the fee are too high to attract interest from developers. The Kansas Lottery owns the rights to the gambling but would have a private developer build and operate the casino.


2 Workers Killed in Collapse of Communications Tower

BLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Kansas say two people have died after a communications tower they were working on collapsed. The Pottawatomie County sheriff's office says four workers were at the site near Blaine when the tower fell around 9:30 am Tuesday. Another communications tower also collapsed. Emergency personnel said one of the towers was recently built and the other was an older structure that was being dismantled by the two workers who died. Both victims were more than 250 feet above the ground when the tower fell. One was pronounced dead at the scene and the other at a hospital. The workers' names and details about the towers were not immediately released. The two workers on the ground were unhurt. Blaine is located about 50 miles northwest of Topeka.


Parents to Work for Stricter Day Care Regulations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita couple whose son died while at day care is using their tragedy to push for stronger regulations of day care providers. Brock and Christina Mosier won a $950,000 judgment against day care provider Karin Patterson last month. Their attorney, Blake Shuart, says the award is only symbolic because Patterson did not have insurance when the Mosier's son, Bryce, died while in her care in 2011. Shuart says the couple plans to lobby the legislature next year to make child care providers' information, such as background, inspection reports and disciplinary actions, available online. They also want all licensed child care providers to be required to carry liability insurance. The Wichita Eagle reports that Patterson no longer holds a day care license.

Woman Pleads No Contest in Wichita Murder Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman pleaded no contest to planning the shooting death of a former Wichita high school football player. Twenty-two-year-old Ebony Nguyen entered the plea Monday to felony first-degree murder. She was scheduled to go on trial this week for premeditated first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the 2013 death of former Wichita South High School student Jordan Turner. Under the plea deal, Nguyen must serve 20 years in prison before she is eligible for parole. The Wichita Eagle reports prosecutors alleged Nguyen talked another man into killing Turner because he used counterfeit money to buy marijuana from her. One co-defendant, Kristopher Wright, is awaiting sentencing for first-degree murder. A third suspect is awaiting trial.

Woman, 2 Children Hospitalized After Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old man is jailed in Wichita after his wife and two children were shot during an argument, police said. The woman and a 5-year-old and 13-year-old son were all expected to survive their injuries from the shooting Monday night in west Wichita, police said. The suspect was arrested a few hours after the shooting with cuts on his wrist from a suicide attempt, Lieutenant Randy Reynolds said. He was treated for the wounds and then booked into the Sedgwick County jail on three counts of attempted first-degree murder. The suspect has been arrested three times since January and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence in Wichita Municipal Court, Reynolds said. A protection from abuse order against him was allowed to expire in February, The Wichita Eagle reported.


Juvenile Charged in Kansas City Zoo Disturbance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A disturbance outside the Kansas City Zoo during a free admission day has resulted in charges against a 16-year-old boy. Jackson County (Missouri) authorities said Tuesday the county juvenile officer charged the youth March 19 with possession of a handgun, misdemeanor disorderly conduct and a probation violation. The boy's name was not released. He remains in custody pending a juvenile court arraignment April 10. The charges were filed one day after the zoo offered free admission to residents of Jackson and Clay counties. The offer attracted several thousand more visitors than on a typical Tuesday. Several fights broke out and shots were fired in the parking as visitors were preparing to leave the zoo. No injuries were reported, and police had not announced an arrest of the gunman as of Tuesday.


Hospital Honored for Aiding Trafficking Victims

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas hospital has been recognized for its work in training health care professionals to identify and help victims of human trafficking. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom presented a special community service award Monday to Via Christi Health in Wichita. The hospital's human trafficking initiative has already trained more than 125 doctors, nurses and other caregivers with a four-step protocol on what to look for and how to help victims. Grissom says human trafficking is a crime that hides in plain sight. He says Via Christi Health is leading the nation by training its health care professions to recognize warning signs and offer victims assistance that could save lives.

County Settles Complaints from 5 Ex-Employees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County, Missouri will pay $1.4 million to five former county employees who complained of harassment and discrimination. The County Legislature approved the settlement Monday. Details of the incidents that prompted the complaints were not released. Attorney John Phillips told the Independence Examiner that the incidents go back to the 1990s but were only recently brought to the attention of senior county executives. All the employees worked in the assessment department. He says the incidents were not physical. None of those involved in the conduct or who did not report it are no longer working for the county. All five employees agreed not to discuss the settlement and not to apply for any county jobs in the future.

Compromise Reached on SW Kansas Highway Project

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — State transportation officials have approved a compromise plan for a highway expansion in southwest Kansas that endangered a historic landmark. Under the new proposal, U.S. 50 will be expanded from two lanes to a four-lane expressway using a 16-foot median as it passes the Point of Rocks formation west of Dodge City. The rest of the highway expansion between Dodge City and Cimarron will include a 60-foot grass median. The Dodge City Daily Globe reported Tuesday that the 16-foot median will cut into the rock formation, and a false rock retaining wall will be installed. The original plan that would have destroyed the rock formation, which was a landmark for wagon trains and cattle drives in the 1800s along the Santa Fe and Great Western trails.

Fort Hays, Dodge Community College Discuss Merger

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City Community College could become part of Fort Hays State University under a proposal that would create the first public four-year degree-granting college in southwest Kansas. The community college's Board of Trustees has been discussing the proposal, which would include developing an Institute of Applied Technology at what could be known as Fort Hays State University at Dodge City. The institute would include a cooperative curriculum program, as well as having Fort Hays teach other four-year programs in Dodge City based on demand. The Dodge City Globe reports that the board of trustees was expected to vote Tuesday to pursue the proposal, which would be only a preliminary step. The plan would have to be approved by the Board of Regents, Legislature and governor.



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