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Headlines for Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press

Kansas House Member Disciplined by Speaker Says He's Not Resigning 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House member who was stripped of his committee chairmanship has changed his mind about resigning from the Legislature. Republican Representative John Rubin of Shawnee said Wednesday that he had intended to step down as of midnight Tuesday, but says "...cooler heads prevailed." Rubin told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he would resign immediately after House Speaker and Stilwell Republican Ray Merrick removed him as chairman of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. Merrick made the move after Rubin sought to force a House debate on gambling legislation that Merrick said could damage state-owned casinos. Rubin said his wife, the committee's secretary and former lawmakers urged him to remain in the Legislature. He said he intends to continue working on legislation to overhaul the state's juvenile justice system.


Kansas Senator Hopes School Funding Bill Will Pass This Month 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee's chairman says he hopes a school funding bill will clear the Legislature by the end of next week. Republican Senator Ty Masterson of Andover said Wednesday that lawmakers need to respond quickly to a Kansas Supreme Court decision last month. The court said the state was shorting poor school districts on their state aid. The justices ordered a fix by June 30 and threatened to keep schools closed unless lawmakers meet the deadline. Masterson drafted a plan to redistribute $39 million among school districts for the 2016-17 school year to help poorer districts. His committee had a hearing on it Wednesday. House Speaker Ray Merrick was wary of moving as quickly as Masterson hopes and said the work needs to be done correctly.


Kansas Lawmaker Questions Own District over School Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state senator from Wichita says it's troubling that his home public school district isn't testifying in favor of a school funding plan that would increase its state aid during the 2016-17 school year. Republican Senator Michael O'Donnell made the comment as the Senate Ways and Means Committee reviewed a bill from its chairman to redistribute $39 million in state aid during the next school year to help poor school districts. The bill is a response to a Kansas Supreme Court order last month saying the state has shorted poor districts on their aid. It would boost Wichita's state aid by nearly $5.6 million in the next school year. But Wichita schools lobbyist Diane Gjerstad said the district believes the state should boost aid to its schools overall.


Kansas House Panel Hears Only Neutral Views on Funding Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has heard only neutral testimony about a school funding plan drafted by its chairman. The four witnesses Tuesday before the Appropriations Committee endorsed the same goal of complying with a Kansas Supreme Court order last month. The court said the state had shorted poor school districts on state aid. They disagreed over the state's overall spending. The plan from Republican Representative Ron Ryckman Jr. boosts total aid by $39 million as it redistributes funds to poor districts from wealthier ones. But 79 of the state's 286 school districts would lose money. The Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Olathe districts in Johnson County would lose a total of $4.6 million in funding during the 2016-17 school year. Johnson County is the state's most populous county. Two Johnson County districts and the Kansas Association of School Boards urged lawmakers to boost spending even more. But the conservative Kansas Policy Institute argues that the state is already spending enough money on schools.


Kansas Lawmakers Suggest Shift in Power over School Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Republican lawmakers are suggesting that the Kansas Legislature turn the job of determining how state aid to public schools is distributed over to the State Board of Education. Representatives Gene Suellentrop of Wichita and Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park raised the idea during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on a school funding plan from the panel's chairman. The 10-member board would then face the burden of making sure the money is distributed fairly. The plan is designed to bring the state into compliance with a Kansas Supreme Court order last month saying have been unfairly shorted on their state aid. The plan would boost overall state spending on schools by nearly $39 million for the 2016-17 school year while shifting dollars among districts. Seventy-nine would still lose funds.


GOP Lawmaker Suggests Consolidating Kansas School Districts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican state senator is suggesting that Kansas move to consolidate public school districts as it works to make education funding fairer. Senator Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth raised the issue Wednesday during a committee hearing on a bill to redistribute $39 million during the 2016-17 school year to help poor districts. The bill is a response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling last month that the state has been unfairly shorting poor school districts on their aid. A district's wealth has been measured by its average property value per student. If a small district loses a few students, its wealth can appear to rise significantly. Fitzgerald said the situation would be less volatile with fewer large school districts. The state now has 286 districts.


Kansas House Says OK to Campus Faith Groups Seeking to Restrict Membership 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have approved a long-delayed proposal allowing faith-based groups on college campuses to restrict their membership to like-minded people. The Republican-controlled House voted 81-41 on Wednesday to send the bill to Governor Sam Brownback, a strong supporter of religious rights. The conservative Republican hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill. Supporters say it's a victory for the freedom to exercise religious beliefs, but opponents say it's a veiled attempt to legalize discrimination. The bill stems from a handful of on-campus incidents, including a lawsuit filed by a Christian group after Washburn University said the group couldn't require that student members recognize the Bible, not the Book of Mormon, as the word of God. The issue emerged after a Mormon student was forbidden from leading the group's Bible study.


Democrats Seek Resignation of Kansas Governor's Appointee over Her Endorsement of Donald Trump

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Democratic lawmakers are demanding the resignation of the head of a state agency that deals with Hispanic affairs in the wake of her endorsement of Donald Trump for president. State Representative Louis Ruiz on Wednesday called Adrienne Foster's endorsement of Trump "irresponsible, unthinkable, and entirely unacceptable." Foster is the executive director of the Kansas Hispanic Latino American Affairs Commission. She referred any comment to Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman. The governor's spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, says there is freedom of speech in America. She noted Foster made personal comments in support of Trump when responding to a Kansas City Star reporter's Facebook posting. But the lawmakers say in a news release she is out of touch with the community, and is disregarding the interests of the people she claims to represent.


Truck Shifted Track Before Amtrak Accident in Southwest Kansas
CIMARRON, Kan. (AP) _ Federal investigators say a feed truck from a nearby cattle lot hit a railroad track and shifted it before an Amtrak train derailed in southwest Kansas. National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener did not say if the truck accident was the cause of the Amtrak Southwest Chief's derailment Monday. But he says the impact of the truck from the Cimarron Crossing Feeders shifted the train track 12 to 14 inches. The feed company has declined comment. The derailment injured at least 32 people although most were treated and released from local hospitals. Two patients remained hospitalized in Kansas and two were flown to a hospital in Amarillo, Texas.  


Kansas Senate Overrides Veto of Measure on American Royal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has overridden a veto from Governor Sam Brownback in an effort to block his administration's move to lure the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition to Kansas from Kansas City, Missouri. The vote Tuesday was 30-8. The House must also vote to override for the measure to become law. The measure Brownback vetoed was a provision in the state budget that bars the administration from using bonds backed by state sales tax revenue to help finance the American Royal project. The Senate plans to have a debate today (WED) on a bill to tighten up rules in the bonding program. 


Kansas Senate Refuses to Override Veto of Power Plant Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Lawmakers failed by one vote to override Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill dealing with a canceled power plant. The vote Tuesday came after Brownback's warning that an override would jeopardize the state's credit rating. Senators voted 26-13 to override, but critics needed one more vote for a two-thirds majority of 27 in the 40-member chamber. Republican Senator Jeff Melcher of Leawood was absent and couldn't be reached. Bipartisan opposition to the $20 million power plant forced Brownback to cancel it last month. The administration wanted to demolish a government building near the Statehouse and its power plant and built a new plant. 


Topeka Dental Testing Company Fined for Improper File Disposal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a Topeka dental testing business dumped more than 900 files containing its patient's personal information in a trash dumpster. Now, Central Regional Dental Testing Service Inc. has been ordered to pay $140,000 as part of a lawsuit settlement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that officials said the files were found in an unsecured dumpster in back of the company's building in March 2014. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that the files contained personal information, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and health information. Schmidt's office said this morning (WED) that the business will pay a $70,000 fine and $70,000 in costs related to charges that it violated Kansas consumer privacy laws. The business said the improper disposal occurred due to an employee mistake. The files were eventually secured by the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division.


Kansas Man Who Punched Attorney Sentenced for Assault and for Robbery

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka man who slugged his attorney during his trial was sentenced to more than 20 years for that crime and an armed robbery conviction. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Lance L. Franklin was on trial in December 2014 when he punched his attorney, David McDonald, knocking him unconscious. McDonald suffered a concussion, a broken nose, cuts, swollen eyes and chipped teeth. Franklin was sentenced Tuesday for aggravated assault and armed robbery in a plea deal that dropped several of the original charges. After Franklin hit McDonald, a mistrial was declared and Franklin was found in contempt of court and given a 90-day sentence.


Missouri Woman Charged with Embezzling More Than $300,000 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Lee's Summit woman is charged with embezzling more than $300,000 from the company where she worked. Patricia Webb was charged Tuesday with wire fraud after she allegedly embezzled the money from Black & Veatch, an engineering and construction company where she worked as a payroll manager. Webb, of Lee's Summit, made her first court appearance Wednesday and was released on a personal recognizance bond. The Kansas City Star reports an FBI investigation determined that Webb transferred money from a Black & Veatch account to her personal business account six times between July 2015 and February. The company lost $302,183. Prosecutors say Webb spent more than $106,000 at casinos, and also traveled to Thailand, Las Vegas and Miami.


Missouri Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty for 3 Murders

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a Kansas man convicted of killing three relatives in Missouri. The court on Tuesday rejected appeals for Robert Blurton, who sought to have his convictions and sentence overturned. Blurton, of Garnett, Kansas, was sentenced to death in June 2013 for the deaths of his aunt and uncle, Donnie and Sharon Luetjen (LOO'-chen) and the couple's 15-year-old granddaughter, Taron Luetjen. Prosecutors said Blurton killed his victims in June 2009 at the couple's Cole Camp home during a robbery. Blurton's attorneys argued the trial judge made errors in allowing certain testimony and evidence, not instructing the jury on a possible second-degree murder conviction and not declaring a mistrial because some crime scene photographs were inadvertently displayed before the verdict. 


2 Resentenced in 2009 Kansas Double Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Two men have been re-sentenced in a shooting that left two dead in 2009 in Kansas City, Kansas. Wyandotte County prosecutors announced Tuesday that 25-year-old Cedric Warrant and 29-year-old Dominic Moore, of Kansas City, Kansas, were sentenced this month to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. They also must serve another 25 years. They were convicted in 2010 of killing 21-year-old Charles Ford, of Olathe, and 26-year-old Larry Ledoux, of Kansas City, Kansas, and wounding a third man who survived. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned their original life prison sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years. The punishment was imposed under an older version of the state's "Hard 50" law deemed unconstitutional under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013.


Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Spending $100 Million in Kansas in 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company say they will spend $100 million in Kansas this year primarily on maintenance projects - replacing and upgrading rail, rail ties and ballast. The Kansas maintenance project includes about 1,480 miles of track surfacing, replacement of more than 60 miles of rail and more than 200,000 ties. The company will also upgrade signals to comply with new federally-mandated positive train control technology. 


Man Re-sentenced in Kansas City, Kansas Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man has been re-sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison in an October 2010 shooting that killed one man and injured another in Kansas City, Kansas. The Wyandotte County prosecutor's office announced Tuesday that Terran J. Baker also was ordered earlier this month to register as a violent offender upon his release and pay $5,000 in restitution. The new prison term is 10 months shorter than what he was sentenced to in 2012 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Bernard Love and aggravated battery. Baker sought relief under a new rule of criminal history classification, and a three judge panel ruled in December that Baker must be resentenced.


Video Reviewed of Attacker Accused of Shouting 'Trump' During Wichita Scuffle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are reviewing video from a gas station where two college students say they were attacked by a white man shouting racial epithets and the name of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Lieutenant Jeff Gilmore says the video provides a view of the weekend altercation that's being investigated as a potential hate crime. The Wichita Eagle reports that police aren't immediately able to determine the accused attacker's identity. Wichita State University student body vice president Khondoker Usama, who's Muslim, says he was pushed and that a Hispanic friend was punched and kicked. A police report says the friend suffered a bruised lip. Usama says a black customer also was called a racial epithet. Usama says the man left on his motorcycle, after circling and shouting Trump's name


Washburn Graduate Assistant Football Coach Charged with Rape 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Washburn University graduate assistant football coach has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and rape.  Shawnee County court records show that the charges were filed Tuesday against 22-year-old Jesse Robert Bubke. He has been released on bond. No attorney is listed for him in court records. Shawnee County prosecutor's office spokesman Lee McGowan didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.  Topeka police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart told The Topeka Capital-Journal that a woman went to police Sunday and reported she had been kidnapped from a bar, taken to Bubke's home, assaulted and released.  As a graduate assistant, Bubke has coached defensive backs. Washburn spokesman Patrick Early says the university will help authorities. He didn't immediately return a phone message from the AP.


Wichita State Advances in NCAA Tournament After Win In “First Four”

DAYTON, Ohio. -  It’s a long way from the Final Four, but it’s not unprecedented for a team to play in what is called the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, then weave through the NCAA tournament bracket all the way to the Final Four. Kansas Jayhawks fans remember when VCU started in the First Four, then eliminated KU in a regional final. Wichita State played in the First Four last (TUE) night and beat Vanderbilt, 70-50. Tomorrow (THUR) night in Providence, Rhode Island, the Shockers play Arizona. The #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks are preparing for their game tomorrow afternoon versus  #16 seed Austin Peay.


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