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Headlines for Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Judges: Kansas School Funding Law Meets Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A three-judge state court panel has ruled that an education funding law approved by Kansas legislators in April complies with a state Supreme Court mandate on aid to poor school districts. But the panel in Shawnee County District Court on Wednesday also declined to dismiss all claims about the fairness of the school funding formula in a 2010 lawsuit brought by school districts. The judges said they are ready to consider whether the state is spending enough money overall on public schools to meet its duty to provide an adequate education to every child. The Supreme Court ruled in March that past cuts to poor districts created unconstitutional gaps in aid. Legislators responded by passing a law increasing aid to poor districts by $129 million during the next school year.


Report: Effects of Kansas Tax Cuts 'Understated'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A report from the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff is sparking new questions about explanations for recent revenue shortfalls from Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration. The legislative report released Tuesday said the estimates for income tax cuts championed by Brownback in 2012 and 2013 appear to have been understated in the state's official revenue projections. State tax collections in April and May of this year were $310 million short of the projections. The Department of Revenue has blamed disputes in Washington over federal tax policy that caused investors not to claim capital gains in 2013. Secretary Nick Jordan stood by that explanation Tuesday. The Legislative Research Department's monthly report on revenues acknowledged the capital gains issue as a factor in the recent shortfalls but also cited understated estimates for tax cuts.


Report: Winter Wheat Forecast Revised Downward

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot shows the Agriculture Department has revised downward its forecast for the nation's drought-stricken winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated on Wednesday that farmers will bring in 1.38 billion bushels of winter wheat. Their forecast is down 2 percent from a month ago and 10 percent from last year. An even bigger drop was estimated for the nation's hard red winter wheat crop, the type grown primarily to make bread. The government pegged that estimate at 720 million bushels, down 3 percent from a month ago. Kansas has been hit hard by drought and recent rains have come too late to help the wheat. The government now estimates the Kansas crop at 243.6 million bushels, down from 260.4 million bushels forecast a month ago.


Saline County Again Rejects Grant Money for IUDs

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County Commission has refused to reconsider a vote rejecting a federal grant to provide a type of birth control to county residents. Two weeks ago, the commission rejected a $6,064 grant through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for intrauterine devices, after one commissioner said the devices are equal to murder. After being strongly criticized, the commission said it would reconsider that vote. On Tuesday, commissioners heard from citizens and doctors who offered differing views on whether IUDs caused abortions. The Salina Journal reports the three commissioners said they had taken time to listen to people and decided to stay with their original decision.


Valley Center Murder Trial Re-Scheduled

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial has been delayed for a 54-year-old man accused of killing a woman at a Sedgwick County commune more than a decade ago. The trial of Daniel Perez had been scheduled for next week but was continued Wednesday until September 29. The Wichita Eagle reports Perez faces several charges including first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes. He's jailed on $2.1 million bond. Authorities say Perez led a commune in Valley Center, a suburb of Wichita, known as Angel's Landing. Perez is also accused of living off life insurance payments of the commune's dead members. Hughes was initially believed to have drowned while trying to rescue her 2-year-old daughter from the pool. Her life insurance payout was $2 million.


Sedgwick County Jail Will Not Honor ICE Holds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County will no longer honor requests from federal immigration officials to detain without criminal charges people who are in the country illegally. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office said in a news release Wednesday it wants to be proactive and avoid potential civil liability. Shawnee, Johnson and Finney counties have made similar changes. The move comes after recent court decisions in Oregon and Pennsylvania found that such detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are not commands that local jurisdictions have to honor. Courts held that sheriffs could be liable for constitutional violations for holding people past the time they would otherwise be released. Sedgwick County has 18 inmates now with ICE detainers. The jail will no longer accept people booked solely for being in the country illegally.


Wildlife Officials Shock, Remove Carp from Lake

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas wildlife officials are hoping a day spent shocking carp and removing them from a south-central Kansas lake will ease conditions for other fish to thrive. The Newton Kansan reports that four boats staffed by members of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism set out Tuesday to remove 1,000 pounds of carp from East Lake in Harvey County. They used electric shocking devices to stun the fish, which were taken from the lake and buried in a field. Carp grow and reproduce quickly, taking up valuable space and resources that would be used by largemouth bass. Fisheries biologist Jessica Mounts says removing a large number of carp could produce a noticeable improvement in the lake's water clarity and fishable population of both largemouth bass and crappie.


Jury Gets Case in Attack on Kansas Prosecutor

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Jury deliberations are underway in the trial of a Kansas man charged with attempted murder in a courtroom attack on county prosecutor. Michael Sherman jumped on Reno County district attorney Keith Schroeder last July 10, just after a judge had reaffirmed Sherman's life sentence for sodomizing a 4-month-old baby. Prosecutors contend Sherman tried to choke Schroeder with his belly chain. The Hutchinson News reports that the jury began deliberating around 9:30 am Wednesday after being instructed on charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder. The jury later asked if it could consider a lesser charge, such as assault, but the judge replied she could give no further instructions. Sherman testified Tuesday he had thought before the attack about how he could "get at" the prosecutor, but did not intend to kill him.


Missouri Governor Nixon Vetoes Tax Break Bills

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed several bills that he says would have jeopardized the state budget by providing special tax breaks to particular industries. The legislation vetoed Wednesday includes measures providing sales tax breaks for such things as computer data centers, power companies and restaurants. The tax breaks would have applied to certain equipment or electricity used by the businesses. The Democratic governor has said the tax breaks approved by the Legislature on its final day of session could have reduced state revenues by $425 million annually and local revenues by an additional $351 million. Republican legislative leaders have disputed those figures. They have defended some of the tax breaks as mere clarifications of policies that they contend have been incorrectly applied by the Department of Revenue.


Kobach: Some Voters to Get Provisional Ballots for Primary

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The top election official in Kansas says voters who registered using a federal form without providing proof of citizenship will be given provisional ballots when they vote in the August 5 primary elections. Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Associated Press on Tuesday that while the provisional ballots will show all primary races, only votes cast for federal offices will be counted. Kobach says fewer than 100 Kansas voters who used the federal form to register to vote will be affected. A federal appeals court will hear arguments August 25 in a lawsuit attempting to force the federal government to help Kansas and Arizona enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for voters. That hearing will take place after the Kansas primaries. About 18,600 Kansans have their registrations suspended pending documentation of citizenship.


Health Care Workers Set Surgical Safety Protocols

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Health care providers in Wichita have come together to develop surgical protocols for use citywide in operating rooms and ambulatory facilities. The announcement Wednesday in Wichita was designed to coincide with National Time Out Day. The Medical Society of Sedgwick County's Wichita Quality Health Collaborative coordinated the effort to make Wichita the safest place in the country to undergo surgery. Dr. Randall Morgan is chairman of the group's safety committee. He says in a news release that developing a common process and checklist that is consistently used whenever the surgery or procedure is performed will reduce the risk of errors and improve patient safety. Health care providers from across the city have met for a year to research and develop the common procedures.


KS Board of Education Makes 2 Districts "Innovative"

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education has approved creating two "innovative" school districts, which will exempt them from most state laws and regulations governing public schools. The board voted Tuesday to make McPherson and Concordia the state's first innovative districts, with several conditions. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the districts are exempt from state regulations if they have a plan to improve education. The board attached conditions and added rules that will give the state board more control over how the innovative schools system will be operated. The Kansas Department of Education had previously recommended against approving both districts' applications because they sought waivers from federal laws and regulations. The orders approved Tuesday commit the state board to working with the districts to seek federal approval for the waivers.


Kansas Might Withhold Annual School Test Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The agency that administers math and reading tests for Kansas schools says the state should not release some of this year's test scores The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas told the Kansas State Board of Education Tuesday that the test results were compromised by cyberattacks and technical problems this year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the state usually releases test data that show how students performed in each grade and at specific schools and school districts. Marianne Perie, director of the testing center, recommended that state-level scores be released, but school and district-level results should be withheld. This year's tests were a new form, and many schools encountered technical problems that disrupted administering them. Those problems were followed by outside cyberattacks.


Kansas Court Won't Hear Abortion Referrals Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals is forcing the state's medical board to reconsider its decision to revoke the license of a doctor over referrals of young patients to the late Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions. Executive Director Kathleen Selzler Lippert said Tuesday that the Board of Healing Arts will review the case of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus of Nortonville this summer or fall. The board in 2012 revoked Neuhaus's charity care license, saying her mental health exams for 11 young patients in 2003 did not meet accepted standards before she referred them to Tiller in Wichita. In March, a Shawnee County judge overturned the finding and ordered the board to reconsider. The board asked the Court of Appeals to step in, but it refused last week.


Wichita Repeals Local Firearms Ordinances

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has voted to repeal local ordinances on firearms ahead of a new Kansas law nullifying county and city regulations on owning, carrying and transporting guns. KFDI-FM reports  that council members reluctantly took the action Tuesday. The state law takes effect July 1. Among the Wichita ordinances taken off the books are laws requiring private security officers to have gun permits and safety training. A member of the city's legal department said Wichita would still regulate the private security industry, with background checks and basic education requirements. The City Council also repealed ordinances on possession of guns, knives and air rifles. Members were told the state still prohibits people from carrying knives with the intent to harm another person, but the city can't outlaw knives in public buildings.


Kansas Leads Nation in Wheat and Sorghum Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows Kansas leads the nation in the production of wheat and sorghum grain. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that 15 percent of last year's total U.S. wheat crop was grown in Kansas. About 42 percent of the U.S. sorghum grown for grain also came out of Kansas. The agency's rankings show Kansas second in the nation in the total number of acres used to grow farm crops. The 28.5 million cropland acres in Kansas represents 7.3 percent of the land used for farm crops in the nation.n Kansas also had 5.8 million head of cattle and calves, third in the nation behind Texas and Nebraska. The 2.13 million cattle in its feedlots also ranked Kansas third in that category.


University of Kansas Hospital Gets $2M Gift

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital has received a $2 million donation toward construction of a 92-bed building on its campus in Kansas City, Kansas. The grant from the Sunderland Foundation was announced Tuesday by foundation president Kent Sunderland and Charles Sunderland, chairman of Ash Grove Cement. The new facility will be home to the hospital's neurosurgery and surgical oncology services. The hospital said in a news release that services in those areas have grown nearly 40 percent over the past five years. Hospital officials have said they hope to raise $100 million in donations for the project. Gifts announced earlier include $1 million from Deanna and Greg Graves and $2.5 million from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation.


Bombardier to Lay Off 200 in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Bombardier is planning to lay off about 200 workers in Wichita, citing delays in its Learjet 85 program. The Wichita Eagle reports the company said Tuesday the moves will affect about 70 contract and temporary workers, about 100 permanent employees and about 40 who will be reassigned. The cuts will also affect a plant in the Mexican city of Queretaro (kay-RAY'-tah-roh), which makes some components for the new business jet. About 250 workers there will be reassigned or laid off. The Learjet 85 made its first flight in early April. The company had hoped to put it into service this year. Spokeswoman Molly Edwards says the company will try to reassign as many workers as possible, so that they can return to the Learjet 85 program when production ramps up.


Douglas County AIDS Project to Close in July

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After 25 years, the Douglas County AIDS Project plans to close. Executive Director Trenton Garber announced the closing Monday. He said the group's services and programs for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment will transfer July 1 to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and Heartland Community Health Center. Garber says HIV has changed from a generally fatal disease to one that can be managed with the proper medication and treatments. He says the services need to be transferred to more health-based settings. 6News Lawrence reports the AIDS Project is funded largely by two state grants, and those grants will now go to the other organizations. When the AIDS Project closes its doors July 31, the Health Care Access Clinic and Heartland will take over its offices and property.


Cheney Voters OK $15 Million School Bond

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — Cheney residents overwhelmingly approved a $15.4 million school bond issue. The Sedgwick County Election Office says the issue unofficially passed Tuesday by a 550-198 vote, with about 34 percent of registered voters participating. The money will be spent on security enhancements, infrastructure repairs, and upgrades to academic and athletic facilities. Cheney Superintendent David Grover says the projects will include a tornado shelter, enhanced security system, new air conditioning for the high school and repairs at the elementary, middle and high schools. The district also plans a multiple-use baseball complex. The vote will mean a $7 to $8 monthly increase in property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 property. The length of the bond issue hasn't been determined.


Chanute Approves High-Speed Broadband Project

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — The Chanute City Commission has voted to expand the city's ultra-high-speed broadband service to every home and business, if funding is found. The commission voted Monday to proceed with the $13.5 million project in the southeast Kansas town of 9,100 people. Public Works Director Larry Gates says the project depends on finding funding and doing a cash flow analysis of the next 20 years. The Wichita Eagle reports the new system would be 100 times as fast as the national average Internet connection. It would cost $40 a month for city residents and $50 a month for those outside the city limits, with no installation charge. The expansion would make Chanute the first municipality in Kansas to offer publicly run ultra-high-speed broadband service to all homes and businesses.


Cavs Taking Close Look at KU Standout Embiid

CLEVELAND (AP) — Former University of Kansas center Joel Embiid is working out for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are trying to decide what to do with the number 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. The 7-foot Embiid arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday night for his visit, the Cavs confirmed. The team is giving him a thorough medical physical as well as seeing his skills on the court. The team is eager to have its doctors examine Embiid, who missed the tail end of his freshman season with the Jayhawks because of a stress fracture in his lower back. Embiid only began playing basketball three years ago in his native Cameroon. The Cavs won the draft lottery and have the first pick for the second year in a row. They'll likely use the selection on Embiid, Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins or Duke's Jabari Parker.



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