Kansas Budget Plan Slashes University and Medicaid Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a budget bill Wednesday that makes significant cuts to the highway fund, Medicaid and higher education and trims most state agency budgets by 4 percent. Brownback announced cuts to address the more than $290 million shortfall faced this year and in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The plan includes cutting $185 million from the highway fund and over $97 million from most state agencies. State universities and most Medicaid provider rates will be reduced by 4 percent. The cuts leave an ending balance of $21.5 million for this year and $87.5 million in the 2017 fiscal year. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging in an effort to stimulate the economy.
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Kansas Universities Seek Tuition Boost; Requests Could Rise
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's state universities are calling for tuition increases of up to 5 percent, at least for now. The schools submitted their tuition proposals Wednesday to the governing Kansas Board of Regents. But those came before Governor Sam Brownback signed a budget bill Wednesday afternoon that cuts higher education funding by 4 percent — one percent more than the universities had expected. Kansas State University, Wichita State and Fort Hays State each propose a 5 percent increase for the academic year that begins this fall. The University of Kansas and Emporia State seek a 4 percent rise, while Pittsburg State proposes a 3.3 percent boost. The regents will vote on the proposals next month. Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson says Wednesday's proposals are likely to be adjusted given Brownback's budget action.
Federal Judge Rules Against Kansas in Voter Registration Suit; Says State Can't Require Citizenship Proof
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A judge says Kansas can't require people to show proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote for federal elections at motor vehicle offices. Yesterday (TUE), U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit over the state's proof-of-citizenship requirements. She put it on hold until May 31 so the state can appeal. Robinson said that more than 18,000 eligible voters would be disenfranchised in the November federal election under this Kansas law. The judge says the state's requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act requiring only minimal information to determine voter eligibility. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he plans to appeal. The American Civil Liberties Union says the ruling sends a signal to other states that may be considering similar registration requirements.
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Brownback Vetoes Bill Designed to Help with Tax Challenges
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has vetoed a bill that included provisions prompted by a multi-million dollar tax dispute with pizza magnate Gene Bicknell. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the bill that Governor Sam Brownback vetoed on Tuesday was designed to help taxpayers challenge rulings of the Board of Tax Appeals. Under the ruling, taxpayers would be allowed to appeal decisions from the governor-appointed board to district court, where they could present new evidence. Bicknell supported the measure. He once owned the largest number of Pizza Hut franchises in the nation. The bill would not directly affect Bicknell's tax dispute either way because it is currently being reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court. Tens of millions of dollars are at stake.
Kansas Governor Signs Bill to Address Sexting Penalties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill designed to help prosecutors address sexting, the sharing of explicit photos, among teenagers. The bill was among 17 Brownback signed into law Monday and Tuesday. His office announced the signings on Wednesday. The measure creates new misdemeanor crimes of transmitting photos of a child ages 12 through 17 and possessing nude photos of a child ages 12 through 15 if the picture is sent by the subject of the photo. Previously, prosecutors had only felony charges to file against those with nude photos of minors, which was seen as too harsh a punishment for teenagers sharing photos among themselves.
All Kansas Schools Reaccredited as Standards Ready to Change
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education has renewed the accreditation status of all the state's public schools as well as every private school that participates in the program regardless of student performance on statewide tests. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that this is the fourth year in a row that the board has automatically renewed those accreditations. The accreditations were renewed this year because the state is expecting to shift to a new accreditation model that will put less emphasis on annual test scores. Instead, it will focus on a wider range of factors such as students' college performance or their ability to find jobs after graduation. The state board has been working toward the change since 2011, shortly after it adopted new curriculum standards known as the Common Core.
Brownback Rejects Federal Guidance on Transgender Students
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is criticizing the Obama administration's directive on the treatment of transgender students at public schools as "an unprecedented example of executive over-reach." The U.S. departments of justice and education said last week transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity because federal law prohibits discrimination against those students. The administration says schools that refuse to comply could face federal lawsuits and lose federal aid. Brownback said in a statement Wednesday that states, not the federal government, have primary responsibility for education policy. He says local schools, communities and parents are best equipped to respond to situations involving gender identity. The governor's spokeswoman says he doesn't plan any further response to the federal guidance beyond the statement.
Kansas State Board of Education Rebukes Transgender Bathroom Directive but Delays Action
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday criticized the Obama administration's directive that public schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identities, not their sex at birth. Board members called the directive an encroachment on local control, but voted 6-4 Tuesday against issuing a public statement rejecting the federal mandate. Members agreed to discuss the issue again next month after consulting with their attorney and reviewing school districts' policies. State board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, asked that the Legislature and Governor Sam Brownback protect the state from what he called federal overreach. The board needs to take a stance on the issue, he said. Read more about this story here.
Kansas Man Convicted of Killing 4 Gets Death Sentence
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of killing two men, a woman and her 18-month-old daughter on a Kansas farm three years ago has been sentenced to death. Victims' relatives applauded Wednesday when Franklin County District Judge Eric Godderz announced the sentences against 30-year-old Kyle Flack, of Ottawa. Jurors convicted Flack of capital murder in the deaths of 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey and her daughter, Lana, at a farmhouse about 50 miles south of Kansas City. They convicted him of first-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Andrew Stout and second-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Steven White. Investigators believe Flack killed Stout around April 20, 2013, and killed the other three a little more than a week later. Kansas hasn't executed anyone since it reinstated capital punishment in 1994.
Lawsuit Alleges Kansas Prosecutor Made Sexist Comments
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor says claims of sexual discrimination raised in a lawsuit by two former employees are inaccurate and unsubstantiated. The two-term Democrat said Wednesday the lawsuit had nothing to do with his decision, announced earlier this month, not to seek re-election. He says he made it clear when he ran that he would only serve two terms. Recent filings in the 2012 federal lawsuit have made public alleged sexist comments and other issues the two women contend created a hostile work environment. Those details surfaced as Taylor seeks to have the case decided in his favor. The fired employees say Taylor made derogatory comments about women. Taylor says their court filing is nothing more than muckraking, and he looks forward to the judge's summary judgment.
Slain Kansas Detective's Handcuffs to Be Used on Suspect
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Colleagues of a slain Kansas police detective say the late officer's handcuffs will be used on the man charged in the killing when the suspect is released from the hospital. Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Terry Zeigler described the plan in a tweet that says "words cannot express what this means to our department." The Kansas City Star reports that it's not yet clear when 28-year-old Curtis Ayers will be released from the hospital. Ayers is accused of fatally shooting Kansas City, Kansas police Detective Brad Lancaster. Ayers has been hospitalized since being shot by police hours later in Kansas City, Missouri, during his May 9 arrest.
Kansas Basketball Coach Bill Self, Others Avoid Taxes Under Kansas Tax Law
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Bill Self legally isn't paying state taxes on the bulk of his millions of dollars of income as head men's basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Bill Self earns a taxable yearly salary of $230,000. But he receives most of his money -- about $2.75 million a year -- from his limited liability corporation, which is not subject to state income taxes. Bill Self's company is among 334,000 Kansas businesses that don't pay taxes on business income due to tax cuts approved by Kansas lawmakers and the governor in 2012. Read more about this story here.
Kansas Delays Cut Off of Medicaid Funding to Planned Parenthood
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas will not cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood until July 7, the third delay by the state. A state health department attorney suggested the latest delay Tuesday during a hearing in a federal lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the cutoff, and the judge approved it. The state initially said it would cut off funding May 10, then not until May 24 and then June 7.
Lawsuits Against Former VA Physician Assistant Mount
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Another lawsuit accuses a former physician assistant at a Veteran's Administration hospital in Kansas of sexual abuse. The suit filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that Mark Wisner suggested he would withhold pain medication if the patient didn't permit unnecessary and improper genital examinations at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center. Wisner, the hospital and the federal government are named as defendants. At least five other lawsuits have been filed against Wisner. Wisner surrendered his medical license last year after at least seven patients accused him of abuse. Criminal charges that include sexual battery are pending in Leavenworth County. No attorney is listed for Wisner in online court records for the latest lawsuit. The hospital has said it stopped Wisner from seeing patients and began an investigation after the allegations surfaced.
Former Guard Charged for Alleged Sexual Contact with Inmate
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A former officer at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility has been charged with having sexual contact with an inmate in the prison's medium-security unit. The Hutchinson News reports that Amy D. Hapner is charged in Reno County with unlawful sexual relations. She remains free on $2,500 bond. It wasn't immediately known if she has an attorney. She is accused of engaging in consensual fondling May 7 with an inmate who is serving 25 years on two counts of first-degree murder. Prison records show the inmate has been transferred to a higher-security unit at the prison. Prison spokesman Jordan Bell says Hapner resigned May 9.
Kansas Couple from India Accused of Illegally Acquiring Citizenship
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a couple from India and now living in Kansas illegally obtained their U.S. citizenship and committed bank fraud. Sixty-year-old Ajay Dave and 59-year-old Parul Dave of Overland Park are charged with two counts each of bank fraud and making false statements on their U.S. citizenship applications. They also are charged with four counts involving obtaining U.S. citizenship by fraud. Court documents allege the Daves provided false financial information and tax returns to a bank to get a $417,000 mortgage loan on their home. They also allegedly provided false information to obtain a $238,500 loan to refinance a Topeka home. Prosecutors allege the Daves came to the U.S. in 1999 and didn't reveal the alleged bank fraud while applying to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2012 and 2013.
Chelsea Manning Appeals Conviction in WikiLeaks Case
National security leaker Chelsea Manning is appealing her 2013 court-martial conviction for sending classified material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. Manning attorney Vincent Ward says the documents were filed Wednesday with the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Chief Deputy Clerk John Taitt says the document must undergo a review for classified information before it can be publicly released. Ward says he'll wait until the review is complete before commenting. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth. The transgender soldier, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted of espionage and other offenses for sending WikiLeaks more than 700,000 digital files including battlefield logs, diplomatic cables and video clips.
Police: Man Injured in Park Shooting in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has been shot multiple times at a park in Topeka. Topeka police Sergeant Manny Munoz said that the man flagged down a passerby just before 9 p.m. Tuesday. Authorities say the man was taken to a hospital with injuries that are considered to be life-threatening. An investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Lawyer Says Indian Land Purchase Effort Will Need Money
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An attorney for an American Indian group says U.S. officials will need more money from Congress to cover the costs of an initiative to return land on reservations to tribal ownership. John Dossett with the National Congress of American Indians says the U.S. Interior Department program is working well. But he says the $1.9 billion put into it under a 2009 legal settlement won't be enough to get the work done. The program consolidates individual parcels of land with multiple owners and turns the property over to tribes to be put to beneficial use. It expires in 2022. Interior officials on Tuesday added 63 reservations in 16 states to the initiative, bringing the total number involved to 105.
No Federal Charges in Accidental Commencement Shooting in Augusta
AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) - No federal charges will be filed against a concealed weapon permit-holder who wounded himself and a bystander when the gun he stuffed into his sock accidentally discharged at a southern Kansas high school graduation ceremony. The Wichita Eagle reports that there's an exception to the federal gun-free school zones law that allows holders of state-issued concealed-carry permits to carry their weapons in school zones. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman John Ham says that means the man cannot be prosecuted under the law for bringing the gun to the Augusta High School commencement on Sunday. The man was shot in the foot when he adjusted his sock. A woman was struck in the calf. State charges remain possible. Police haven't yet provided the case to county prosecutors.
Dredging Underway at John Redmond Reservoir
BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) - The dredging underway at John Redmond Reservoir in east-central Kansas is being touted as important in ensuring the area's water supply. Among other customers, the reservoir serves Wolf Creek generating station -- the state's only nuclear power plant. Governor Sam Brownback calls the dredging a significant step in preserving the water resource for future generations. Officials say that since 1964, the reservoir has lost an estimated 42 percent of its water storage capacity.
Royals Beat Red Sox, 8-to-4
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Royals beat the hot-hitting Boston Red Sox 8-to-4 last (TUE) night in the opener of their three-game series. The two teams play again today (WED) in a double-header.