Kansas Lawmaker: STAR Bonds Legislation Needs Hard Look
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker says the economic development incentive tool that could finance a proposed outdoor activity center at a Lawrence lake will be examined during the upcoming legislative session. Republican Senator Julia Lynn of Olathe leads the Senate Commerce Committee, which is expected to conduct hearings on whether STAR bond authority should be allowed to continue. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that she has raised questions about whether the aggressive form of public incentives will be an option for the recreation center project at Clinton Lake or other future development in Kansas. She says the "program needs a lot of work and attention." Governor Sam Brownback and other state officials have backed the STAR bond authority. The special taxing district allows projects to keep large amounts of state and local sales taxes generated at the development.
Kansas Senator: Congressional Budget Patch Averts National Farm Loan Crisis
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An unusual budget provision passed earlier this month by Congress means no one who qualifies for a government farm loan will be denied in the next four months. That's according to Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran, who chairs an agricultural appropriations panel. He says the budget patch gives the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency authority to meet the spike in loan demand by using future funding. There is no limit to how much the USDA can lend through April 28. The move is seen as a victory for farm groups, who pressed Washington to avert a looming loan crisis. There's been a widespread downturn in the agricultural economy. Farmers in Georgia, the Carolinas and Alabama have seen drought and flooding, and Midwestern states are reeling from a glut in global grain markets that's slashed crop prices
Kansas Attorney General Seeks Harsher Penalties for Sex Buyers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants to fight human trafficking with stronger penalties. Schmidt says it's not possible to destroy the "market for illicit trafficking" without dealing with "the demand piece." Schmidt also says there are some gaps where Kansas law is softer than federal law, usually when the victim is between age 14 and 18. Schmidt's coming push to crack down on demand echoes the goals of the Topeka Shawnee County Human Trafficking Coalition. The coalition is examining ways to put more teeth into penalties. One idea is to strip convicted buyers of their driver's licenses. Schmidt says he is planning to pursue legislation in the coming session.
6-Year-Old Boy Dies in Northeast Kansas House Fire
WELLSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 6-year-old boy has died in a northeast Kansas house fire. Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office spokesman Kevin Doel says the victim of Tuesday night's fire in Wellsville has been identified as Brax Morris. Doel says a working smoke detector outside his mother's bedroom alerted her to the fire. She was able to escape with her 3-year-old daughter. One sheriff's deputy suffered a cut hand breaking out a window. Investigators have determined that the fire started in the living room. The cause is under investigation but no foul play is suspected.
Teen Killed, 2 Hurt After Car Hits Dead Deer and Rolls
ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a teenager is dead and two others are hurt after they collided with a dead deer while driving in central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Monday night in Stafford County. The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victim as 18-year-old Alexandra Wheeler, of Haysville, who was driving. Two of her passengers were taken to a hospital with injuries. The patrol says the deer previously had been hit by another vehicle and was in the roadway. After striking the deer, Wheeler lost control, and the car entered the ditch before rolling several times.
Sheriff's Deputy Arrested on Suspicion of Child Sex Crimes
BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested an eastern Kansas sheriff's deputy after an investigation into child sex crimes. The 28-year-old deputy was arrested Tuesday at the Coffey County Sheriff's Office on suspicion of two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count each of electronic solicitation and sexual exploitation of a child. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that its agents began to investigate last week at the request of the sheriff's office. The release says the deputy has been terminated. He had worked for the sheriff's office since March 2014. The KBI says its investigation is ongoing.
KU Libraries Offer Students Pronoun Pins
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas students are being offered buttons through the school's library system that are meant to make their preferred gender pronouns clear. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that various University of Kansas Libraries employees also are wearing the buttons. Library leaders say it's part of the library system's "You Belong Here" marketing effort targeted at luring undergraduates and ensuring they feel welcome, including transgender students. Gender-identity buttons have cropped up elsewhere in the interest of inclusion. They were doled out at the start of this semester at Vermont's Champlain College, home to a new Women and Gender Center. Students and teachers at the University of Vermont also have worn name tags and made business cards with their preferred pronouns.
Shooting Leaves 1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Liberal
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a southwest Kansas shooting has left one man dead and another wounded. KSNW-TV reports that the 24-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene of Tuesday night's shooting in Liberal. A 29-year-old man who survived the shooting was taken to a hospital in serious condition. Police say a 19-year-old has been taken into custody after officers received a tip that he was involved. No names were immediately released. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the inquiry.
Death of Man Found in Trash Bin Resulted from Natural Causes
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man whose body was found in a trash bin on Christmas Day died of natural causes. KAKE-TV reports that Officer Paul Cruz said Wednesday there were no signs of trauma or suspicious circumstances. The coroner's office reports that the death was the result of natural causes. Police say the body was found while people were looking for food in a trash bin outside a bakery in the southwest part of the city. Investigators believe the man died in the trash bin. His name wasn't immediately released.
19-Year-Old Arrested for Deadly East Wichita Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 19-year-old man has been arrested in a deadly Wichita shooting. KAKE-TV reports that the suspect was booked into jail Wednesday morning on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Charles Hawkins. Police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says Hawkins was killed Friday when he pulled out a gun and attempted to rob the suspect during a drug deal. Ojile says the suspect also was armed and shot Hawkins. Prosecutors plan to present the case to prosecutors later this week. Hawkins' death is Wichita's 33rd homicide of 2016.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by Kansas Mother over Medical Pot Use
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a western Kansas woman against the state and several agencies after her son was removed from her home in 2015. The boy disclosed in a classroom discussion about marijuana that his mother used cannabis oil to treat a chronic medical condition. Shona Banda, of Garden City, alleged in the lawsuit filed in March that the state denied her civil rights by refusing to allow her to use medical marijuana to treat her Crohn's disease, interfered with her parenting and questioned her son without her permission. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday, saying that Banda had no right to use marijuana and the state agencies had immunity because medical marijuana is not legal in Kansas. Banda says she intends to pursue an appeal after she recovers from a recent surgery.
Kansas High School Students to Receive ACT Score Projections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas high school students will now receive ACT college-entrance exam score projections with their state test results. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation studied the correlation between 10th grade assessments and ACT scores, and the state Board of Education evaluated the results of the analysis this month. Ten school districts participated in the study, including five of the state's six largest districts. Education commissioner Randy Watson says students who take 10th grade assessments in the future will now receive ACT projection information with their test scores. Education officials say they hope this information will be useful for parents and students to make decisions such as which courses to take in high school.
Kansas City Area Gun Store, Site of Deadly Gunfight, to Close
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) - A suburban Kansas City gun store that changed locations after a fatal gunfight is closing. Jon Bieker was killed in January 2015 while defending his wife, Becky Bieker, from four Missouri men who were attempting to rob their Shawnee, Kansas gun store. Three of the robbers were wounded in the shootout. All four are charged with attempted robbery and first-degree murder. After the gunfight, the store moved to a new location less than 2 miles away, but legal bills and increased labor expenses have taken a toll. Becky Bieker told WDAF-TV that the closure "feels like losing Jon a second time." The store is conducting a liquidation sale and will close Saturday afternoon.
South Lawrence Trafficway May Cut into Turnpike Revenue
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with the Kansas Turnpike Authority are watching to see if the new South Lawrence Trafficway draws traffic and revenue away from the toll-based Turnpike. KTA spokeswoman Jeri Biehler told The Lawrence Journal-World that KTA has noticed traffic changes at toll plazas in the area. But she says, the KTA is waiting to see if traffic shifts from the 232-mile Turnpike to the Trafficway over a longer term. With completion of the SLT, drivers from west Lawrence to Overland Park, outside Kansas City, can shave several miles off the trip and pay no toll.
Light Therapy Offered at Lawrence Library
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence Public Library is offering light therapy for patrons who may want to try it to combat seasonal depression. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the special lights in the library auditorium effectively replicate effects of sunshine and could work to ease symptoms of seasonal depression — or Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are also comfortable chairs there and plenty of reading material. Kate Gramlich, a readers services assistant at the library, first approached administrators with the idea earlier this year. Gramlich says she recognized a need for a welcoming outlet for people who may be struggling with negative feelings that can accompany the shorter, darker days of winter.
Missouri Man Enters Plea After Granddaughter Dies While Driving
TROY, Kan. (AP) - A man whose 8-year-old granddaughter died in a northeast Kansas crash after he let her drive him home from church is awaiting sentencing. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Dennis Meers, of St. Joseph, is set to be sentenced February 6 after pleading no contest to aggravated child endangerment. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Meers' granddaughter, Cadence Orcutt, was killed in November 2015 when she lost control of the car. The vehicle plunged down an embankment and overturned in rural Doniphan County. Meers also was injured. Meers previously was sentenced to two years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for felony driving while his license was revoked. In 1996 and 2001, Meers was convicted in Missouri on charges of being a persistent offender for driving while intoxicated.
Shooting Kills 1, Wounds 2 in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police are investigating a shooting that killed one person and wounded two others in Kansas City. KMBC-TV reports that the shooting happened late Tuesday on the city's east side. Police say a wounded man in his 20s who was found lying in a street died shortly after police arrived. A second shooting victim was found a block away and taken to a hospital in critical condition. The third victim suffered a gunshot wound to her leg. Detectives say a stray bullet went through her car and struck her as she was driving through the area.
Kansas State Faces Texas A&M in Texas Bowl
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas A&M is entering the Texas Bowl as the favorite, yet the Kansas State Wildcats are looking to improve their winning streak to four games in the matchup of former Big 12 rivals. The Aggies, meanwhile, are also looking to cap the season on a positive note after losing four of their last six games following a 6-0 start. Kansas State is in its seventh straight bowl game and the Aggies are appearing in a bowl for a school-record eighth straight season. The key matchup pits Aggies star defensive end Myles Garrett against the Wildcats' offensive line. This will likely be the final college game for Garrett, the junior All-American who some predict will be the top overall pick in 2017 draft. Garrett struggled with injuries this season but still managed to pile up 8 and a half sacks and 15 tackles for losses. For Kansas State, defensive end Jordan Willis is considered key. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year led the conference in sacks with 11 and a half, which tied a school record.