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Headlines for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Legislative Panels Approve School Funding Plans 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative committees have approved school funding plans that would attempt to satisfy a state Supreme Court order without a big increase in state spending. The bills approved Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee are similar but not identical. Both redistribute about $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. No district would see its aid decrease, and 23 districts would see small increases. The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state has shorted poor districts on their fair share of the aid. Each bill goes to its full chamber for debates that could occur Thursday. Senate committee Chairman Ty Masterson said he's hoping the Legislature will give final approval to a plan Thursday.


Kansas Senate Approves Bill to Accelerate Property Tax Lid 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have passed a bill to accelerate a cap on city and county property tax increases. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Senate approved the bill with a 24-16 vote Tuesday. The bill moves up the implementation of the property tax lid from 2018 to 2017. The lid was placed into law last year and requires voters to approve property tax increases above the rate of inflation. Debate continued for more than four hours as lawmakers went through amendments seeking exemptions to the bill's requirements. The legislation already provided some exemptions that wouldn't trigger the cap, such as construction of new buildings, increases in personal property valuation and property that has changed use. Federal mandates, court judgments and bond and interest payments also wouldn't trigger the lid.


Kansas Senate Declines to Discuss Phasing Out Food Sales Tax 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has declined to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would phase out the state sales tax on food over the next three years. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Democratic state Senator Tom Holland proposed the amendment earlier this year. It didn't receive a committee hearing and was in danger of dying as the 2016 session is coming to a close. Holland made a motion on the Senate floor Tuesday to force the bill to the top of the calendar for immediate debate and vote. His motion fell six votes short of the two-thirds majority to pass with a 21-19 vote. If Holland's motion had passed, the amendment would've needed another two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate in order to be placed on the general election ballot for voter approval.


Kansas House Sustains American Royal-Related Veto 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A vote in the Kansas House Wednesday means Governor Sam Brownback's administration can continue to pursue a Wyandotte County project that has caused tension in the GOP-dominated legislature. House Representatives voted 24-97 to not override Brownback's veto on a provision in a budget bill that would have stalled all so-called STAR Bond projects in Wyandotte County. Senators voted 30-8 to override his veto last week. Supporters of the measure disagree with the Brownback administration's methods in attempting to lure the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition from Kansas City, Missouri to Wyandotte County, Kansas. Republican Representative Scott Schwab, of Olathe, said the project circumvented approval from the Legislature. Opponents of the proposal say that the project should proceed and that it's unfair to single out Wyandotte County.


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. 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 Reject Efforts to Repeal Common Core 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have rejected a proposal that would repeal Common Core standards for math and reading education. They voted 44-78 against the measure Tuesday, following a debate of more than three hours. Under the proposal, school districts would have been forbidden to use any national curriculum in tests, programs and materials. The action occurred even though members rejected efforts to return the bill to the House Education Committee or to strip it of committee amendments. Supporters of the bill said Common Core strips local districts of control. Opponents of the measure said Common Core encourages rigorous standards. Common Core is optional for 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.


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 an order from 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.  Discussions on the measures are expected to continue today (WED) in both chambers. The bills apply an old formula used to determine state funding for districts and 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.


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. 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 Governor Signs Bill Protecting Faith Groups on Campuses 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation allowing faith-based college groups to restrict membership to people who share their religious beliefs. The move will likely put the state on a collision course with civil liberties groups. The new law will take effect in July. The 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. 


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.


Planned Parenthood Now Offering Abortion Services in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood has begun offering medication abortions at its Wichita clinic. It is the second facility in the city to provide those services since abortion provider George Tiller was gunned down in 2009. Its spokeswoman, Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, said Wednesday the clinic has been taking appointments and scheduling the procedure. Medication abortions are commonly known as the abortion pill and are done to terminate pregnancies up to about 9 weeks. Its Wichita clinic began doing them on March 17. Three other clinics in Kansas offer abortion services, including a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park. Wichita did not have any abortion clinics for four years after Tiller's clinic was shut down in the wake of his murder. An abortion rights group bought his building and opened an abortion clinic in 2013.


Kansas Man Guilty of Capital Murder in Quadruple Homicide 

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have convicted an eastern Kansas man in the fatal shootings of three adults and a toddler in 2013. Franklin County court officials say the jury found 30-year-old Kyle Flack guilty of capital murder on Wednesday for the deaths of Kaylie Bailey and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana. That means Flack could face the death penalty when sentenced next week. He also was convicted in the deaths of Bailey's boyfriend, Andrew Stout, and his roommate, Steven White, who lived in a rural farmhouse where Flack sometimes stayed. It's unclear what led to the shootings. Investigators say Flack at one point told detectives that two drug dealers may have been involved, but detectives determined those people didn't exist. The defense called no witnesses during the trial. Jurors began deliberating Wednesday morning.


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.


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. 


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 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.


Wildfire Burns Across Thousands of Acres in Kansas, Oklahoma 

KIOWA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a wildfire that started in Oklahoma and spread into Kansas has burned tens of thousands of acres of rural land. The National Weather Service says the fire started Tuesday night near the Kansas border in Woods County, Oklahoma. Wind gusts of up to 30 mph helped spread the blaze into Barber and Comanche counties in western Kansas. Officials say no injuries had been reported Wednesday, and dozens of firetrucks and hundreds of firefighters are helping fight the blaze. In Kansas, Comanche County emergency management coordinator John Lehman says about a dozen homes have been evacuated, though none has been damaged. Forecasters say parts of New Mexico and West Texas are also at risk for wildfires.


Man Pleads Guilty to Killing 2 in Topeka 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A 22-year-old man has pleaded guilty in the shooting deaths of a man and woman at a Topeka apartment. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Nicholas Storm Phillips, of Topeka, admitted Tuesday to two counts of reckless second-degree murder. Prosecutors said he fired multiple shots through an apartment door in December, killing 20-year-old Daquhan S. Jackson and 29-year-old Mary E. Thomas, both of Topeka. Phillips told a detective he was upset because the victims were stealing his clothes, which had been thrown into a grassy area after he fought with a girlfriend. Phillips also pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling. Two alternative counts of felony first-degree murder were dismissed. Phillips will be sentenced May 6.


Man Sentenced in Fatal 2014 Olathe Crash

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A man has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison in connection to a fatal crash at an intersection in Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports 33-year-old Souksavanh Chamnongchith was sentenced Monday to 12 years and 10 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the November 2014 death of 31-year-old Idir Lounes. Prosecutors said that Chamnongchith was driving under the influence when his vehicle collided with a vehicle being driven by Lounes, who was traveling north on U.S. 56 in Olathe. Lounes was taken to a hospital, where he later died. Chamnongchith was not injured in the crash.


Judge Sides with Nebraska in Funeral Picketing Law Lawsuit
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled in favor of Nebraska state officials in a lawsuit that challenged the state's law requiring picketers to stay at least 500 feet from funerals. U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said in her decision Wednesday that the law does not infringe on the constitutionally-protected free speech rights of Westboro Baptist Church members. Shirley Phelps-Roper, a prominent member of the Topeka-based church, sued in 2009. She argued, among other things, that the Nebraska law is selectively enforced. The church protests at funerals throughout the country using anti-gay chants and signs because it believes God is punishing U.S. military members and others for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.


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. Captain 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.


Plane Makes Emergency Landing on Central Kansas Road 

GALVA, Kan. (AP) — A pilot has safely landed his small airplane on a central Kansas road after experiencing engine failure. The Salina Journal reports that 22-year-old Ian Barnhart, of Wichita, and his 23-year-old passenger, Michael Parisi, of Flower Mound, Texas, weren't hurt. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the Beechcraft Bonanza landed Tuesday afternoon about 2 miles north of Galva in McPherson County. The patrol says the plane took off from Eisenhower Airport in Wichita around 12:30 pm for a routine flight check. When the plane got over McPherson County, Barnhart and Parisi started seeing troubling mechanical indicators and decided to attempt an emergency landing. The report says a power line was struck during the descent, causing damage to the landing gear on the right side of the plane.


2 Drivers Killed in Crash on US 59 in Southeast Kansas

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — Two drivers are dead after a head-on crash on U.S. 59 in southeast Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Tuesday afternoon when a sport utility vehicle crossed the center line and slammed into a car about five miles south of the Labette County town of Oswego. The patrol identified the victims as 40-year-old Hugh Scott Story of Vinita, Oklahoma, and 70-year-old Joan Elizabeth Carrell of Oswego. Both of them were pronounced dead at the scene.


Mid-America Nazarene Beats Baker for National Title

INDEPENDENCE, MO._  In an all-Kansas final, Mid-America Nazarene defeated Baker, 49-35, to win the national title in NAIA women's basketball. The second-seeded Pioneers finished with a 32-5 record. Meanwhile, in the NCAA Division II women's basketball tournament, Pittsburg State lost in the national quarterfinals against Grand Valley State, 59-56.  Pittsburg State ended the year with a 29-6 record.


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