Kansas Supreme Court Orders Mediation in School Suit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has stayed a lower court's ruling directing legislators to increase spending on public schools and ordered mediation in an education funding lawsuit. The Supreme Court issued a pair of one-page orders Friday, both signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt had asked the high court to require mediation in the case. The lawsuit was filed in October 2010 by parents of public school students and several school districts. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court ruled in January that the state isn't meeting its obligations under the Kansas Constitution to suitably fund schools. Legislators would have to boost annual spending by at least $440 million. The Supreme Court put the panel's order on hold until it rules in the case.
Kansas to Privatize Child Support Collections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are taking the first steps toward turning child support collections over to private contractors. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Friday it has begun accepting proposals to privatize the system. The agency says contractors may bid to collect support payments in one, several or all of the state's 31 judicial districts. Department Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says contracts are scheduled to be awarded in June and will go into effect in September. Gilmore says her department's Child Support Services division collects more than $200 million each year from noncustodial parents. She says the agency estimates that privatizing the system could increase collections by about $52 million over the first three years.
Kansas House Approves Court of Appeals Selection Change
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved legislation giving the governor and legislators more power over appointments to the state Court of Appeals. The House's 73-50 vote Friday sends the measure to the Senate. The bill provides for Court of Appeals judges to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Under the current system, a nominating commission screens applicants for the court and nominates three finalists. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for legislators. Supporters contend the change will make the selection process more open. Opponents argue it will make the process more political. Senators have already approved a proposed amendment making the same change in the selection process for both Court of Appeals judges and Kansas Supreme Court justices.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Changes to Rape Statute of Limitations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators appear likely to abolish the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape. The House approved a bill on a 123-0 vote Friday, one day after the Senate approved its own legislation. Each chamber's bill went to the other. The content of the two measures are identical. Kansas is among 10 states now requiring a rape to be prosecuted within five years. Both bills would eliminate that limit. Each measure also allows for prosecution of a sexually violent crime within 10 years if the victim is at least 18 years old. For younger victims, prosecution would begin within one year of the date the suspect is identified through DNA testing, or within 10 years of the victim's 18th birthday, whichever is later.
Kansas Senate Approves Expansion of Secy of State's Prosecutorial Authority
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is willing to give Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute election fraud, but it also wants him to abolish his political action committee. The Senate passed a bill Thursday that includes both policies. The 31-9 vote sent the measure to the House. The Republican secretary of state has sought the authority to prosecute election fraud cases since he took office in January 2011. Kobach argues that county prosecutors are often too busy to pursue such cases. But senators voted 23-17 to add an amendment barring the secretary of state from having a PAC that gets involved in partisan campaigns. The secretary of state is Kansas' top elections official. Kobach formed his own PAC last year.
Kansas Lawmakers Reject Pullback on Green Energy Requirements
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators aren't ready to back off a state policy requiring utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind and other renewable resources by 2020. On a 23-17 vote Thursday, the Senate rejected a bill to postpone the deadline for meeting the requirement for four years, until 2024. Meanwhile, the House sent its own measure back to committee on a 63-59 vote. Its bill would have reset the requirement at 15 percent. Supporters of both measures argued the renewable energy standard would raise costs for consumers. Critics of the bills said the standard created a fertile environment for developing wind farms. Republican Governor Sam Brownback didn't weigh in specifically on changing the standards, but his spokeswoman said he's committed to developing wind energy.
Kansas House Passes 'Celebrate Freedom Week' Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have approved a measure that would mandate that schools set aside the week of September 17 each year as "Celebrate Freedom Week" to focus on the founding of the United States and its key documents. The bill, approved Friday on a 95-25 vote, would require the State Board of Education to develop rules and regulations for public schools regarding the teaching of the nation's founding. The rules would emphasize the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Several other states have enacted similar laws.Supporters say the week would be a way to celebrate what it means to be an American and a time for teachers to make history exciting and fun for students. Opponents argue that schools don't need another mandate to teach history and civics.
Salina Police Rule Out Attempted Child Enticement
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Salina say a report of a man trying to entice four young children into his vehicle turned out to be a false alarm. In fact, The Salina Journal reports police have now been told the man was really trying to get the children to stop throwing snowballs near traffic. The incident happened after school Wednesday afternoon. Police Lieutenant Scott Siemsen reports the children said they were approached by a man in an SUV with tinted windows. Siemsen says a credible witness who observed the incident later came forward to clear things up. Police are no longer looking for the man.
Awning Collapse in Overland Park Injures 1
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park fire officials say a man was seriously injured in an awning collapse apparently caused by the heavy weight of snow. The Overland Park Fire Department says in a release that crews were called to a condominium building Thursday night and found the man unconscious under the collapsed awning. The man was taken an area hospital and was reported in serious condition. His name was not released. The department says it believes the collapse occurred because of a heavy load of snow on the awning, and that neighbors reported a similar collapse Wednesday. The Kansas City area has been hit two major snowfalls in less than a week, leaving some snow accumulations up to more than a foot. The Overland Park Building Safety department was called in to investigate.
University of Kansas Student Found Dead in Dorm Room
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas student was found dead in her dormitory room but police say there is no evidence of foul play. The student was identified as Courtney Newman, a senior from Leavenworth. She was majoring in psychology and sociology and was a resident assistant at the dorm. The university did not release any further details. University officials say counselors will be available at Ellsworth Hall.
Moran to Speak at Wichita Event
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran is expected to speak at a WalMart Foundation giving program presentation. The event is at noon today at the WalMart Neighborhood Market at 9831 East Harry Street in Wichita. Moran's office says in a news release that the foundation will award funds to local nonprofits whose efforts focus on hunger relief and work-force development.
Kansas Detectives Investigate Baby's Day Care Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sheriff's detectives and health authorities are investigating the death of a 5-month-old baby at an unlicensed day care operation in southern Topeka. Shawnee County deputies were called to the facility Wednesday afternoon about an unresponsive infant. Deputies and firefighters administered CPR, but the baby was pronounced dead at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center. The baby's name had not been released Thursday. The Shawnee County Health Agency Child Care Licensing Program is looking into the case.
Trust Fund Established for Injured in KC Gas Explosion
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Owners of a Kansas City restaurant have set up a trust fund to oversee donations for injured staff and other people affected by a recent explosion that killed one employee and injured several others. The blast, which demolished JJ's restaurant on February 19, remains under investigation. The blast and fire injured 15 people and killed JJ's employee Megan Cramer. The Kansas City Star reports that the trust fund is set up at the Country Club Bank, and will be used to assist JJ's staff members with medical bills and financial losses, and provide treatment for any psychological or emotional issues. JJ's owner Jimmy Frantze says he hopes the fund's trustees will also consider requests from gas company workers, emergency responders and others injured by the explosion and fire.
Iowa State Students Apologize to KU Coach Self
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self says the Iowa State student government sent him a letter apologizing for a pair of incidents that occurred during the Jayhawks' overtime victory over the Cyclones on Monday night. The sixth-ranked Jayhawks rallied in the closing minutes to force overtime before rolling to a 108-96 victory that left the crowd at Hilton Coliseum stunned. The first incident occurred after Self gave a brief postgame TV interview. When it was over, an Iowa State fan had to be held back by security when he charged at Self. The second incident occurred on Twitter, where at least two fans made racist and threatening comments directed toward the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson, who scored 39 points in the game. Self said he accepted the apology.
TV Hunter Sentenced for Deer Poaching in KS
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Tennessee hunter featured in cable television hunting shows has been sentenced for poaching a deer in Kansas in 2007. William "Spook" Spann, from Dickson, Tennessee was sentenced Thursday under a plea agreement to pay a $10,000 fine, pay $10,000 in restitution and three years of federal supervised release. Spann also lost his U.S. hunting privileges for six months, with another six months in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports Spann also was ordered to forfeit the antlers from the buck he killed while bow hunting in Stafford County. Federal prosecutors say Spann, who is featured on several cable television shows and hunting videos, killed the white-tail deer on land owned by another person. His permit allowed him to hunt only on land that he owned or leased.
Kansas Music Hall of Fame Induction Saturday
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Thirteen bands and individuals will be inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in Lawrence this weekend. The fun will begin Friday evening, with an "UnPlugged Event" musical gathering and jam at Paddy O'Quigley's Pub & Grill in the Lawrence Holiday Inn & Convention Center. The induction ceremony and concert will be Saturday at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, beginning at 7 p.m. This year's inductees include Devastating Dinks of Salina; Exceptions, Topeka; Ray Hildebrand, Prairie Village; Kerry Livgren, Berryton/Topeka; Chuck Mead, Lawrence; Mystic Number National Bank, Kansas City; Playmate Blues Band, Hays; Tempests, Hays; Steve Werner, Kansas City; Wizards from Kansas, Lawrence; Sherman Halsey, Independence (Directors Award); Clyde Bysom and Junkyard Jazz, Lawrence (Directors Award) and Larry Emmett & Sliders, DeSoto (Bob Hapgood Award).
St. Joe Woman Admits Providing Fake IDs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a 62-year-old St. Joseph woman has pleaded guilty to her role in providing false identity documents to illegal immigrants. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Western Missouri said in a release that Isabel Ramirez Mendoza pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to a conspiracy to provide fake identity documents so more than 100 illegal immigrants could fraudulently obtain driver's and non-driver's licenses from the license office in St. Joseph from 2010 to 2012. The prosecutor's office says Mendoza escorted illegal immigrants into the St. Joseph license office under the guise of serving as a translator and referred illegal immigrants to co-conspirators who could help them get fake identification documents. The illegal immigrants were charged up to $950 for the document sets and the Missouri driver's and non-driver's licenses.
Soldier Wanted in Woman's Death is Back in Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ A soldier accused of killing his girlfriend after a Valentine's Day quarrel has been returned to Colorado to face charges. Sergeant Montrell Mayo is scheduled to appear by video at a court hearing in Colorado Springs Friday. He's suspected in the February 14 strangulation death of Corporal Kimberly Walker. Acquaintances of Mayo told police that Walker was visiting Mayo at the time. She was found dead in a Colorado Springs motel. Mayo is from Greenville, South Carolina and is stationed at Fort Carson outside Colorado Springs. Walker was from Cincinnati and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. Mayo surrendered in Greenville on February 17 after a murder warrant was issued. He was returned to Colorado on Thursday. He hasn't been formally charged. It's not known whether he has an attorney.
Kansan Sentenced to Life in Prison for Grandmother's Death
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A south central man was sentenced to life in prison for strangling his grandmother at her home in December 2011. KAKE-TV reports that 20-year-old Jacob Allen Hoyt was sentenced Friday for killing his 69-year-old grandmother, Loyce Cody, in her Augusta home. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years. Prosecutors say Hoyt and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Lyndsey Giovinazzo, killed Cody by while burglarizing her home. They took the preschool teacher's car, debit cards and candy and were arrested a short time later after a chase through Butler and Cowley counties. Giovinazzo pleaded guilty last July to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Both Giovinazzo and Hoyt were 19 years old when they were arrested.
Wichita Man Pleads Guilty in Ex-Girlfriend's Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man about to go to trial for killing his ex-girlfriend has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Thirty-five-year-old Yusef Samad Sr. pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and several other charges in the July 2009 death of Mechelle Reed. His trial on a first-degree murder charge this week. Prosecutors say he stabbed Reed to death at her home while her 12-year-old son was nearby. Reed filed several requests for protection from abuse from Samad before her death. The Wichita Eagle reports that Samad has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He will be sentenced April 11.
Group Working to Bring 2016 GOP Convention to KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City area group has started an effort to bring the 2016 Republican National Convention to the area and says it wants the bid to be a bi-state effort. KMBC-TV reports that local organizer Kathy Nugent says she envisions most of the convention taking place at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. But other activities could be held at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas and the Overland Park Convention Center. The bidding starts in March and a decision on where to hold the convention could be made by the end of the year. The 2016 convention will mark the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Republican National Convention. That gathering took place at Kansas City's Kemper Arena, where President Gerald Ford was nominated over Ronald Reagan.
Survey: More Slow Economic Growth Ahead in Midwest
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic survey index for nine Midwest and Plains states dipped last month, suggesting only slow growth for the region over the next three to six months. The Mid-America Business Conditions index hit 53.1 in February, compared with 53.2 in January and 49.5 in December. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the region's manufacturing sector "continues to restrain overall growth for the region and nation." The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
KU Researchers: Prenatal Fatty Acid Supplement Reduces Preterm Birth
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas researchers are adding to the body of knowledge on the benefits for pregnant women of an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. A report on the first five years of a 10-year study on the subject will be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So far, researchers have found that infants whose mothers were given 600-milligram DHA supplements during pregnancy weighed more at birth than those whose mothers who were given a placebo. Women who took the DHA supplement also were less likely to deliver before 34 weeks gestation. Researchers continue to follow the children to determine whether prenatal DHA nutritional supplementation benefits their intelligence and school readiness.
Rate Hikes Push Profits Higher for Great Plains Energy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The company that owns Kansas City Power & Light saw higher profits in the fourth quarter and all of 2012, thanks to increases in electricity rates. Great Plains Energy reported Thursday its fourth quarter net income was $4.3 million, up from $1.7 million in the same quarter in 2011. The Kansas City Star reports the company's overall 2012 earnings were $198.3 million, nearly $26 million higher than in 2011. The Kansas City-based company says it benefited from a full year of rate increases. Missouri regulators approved an average 5.2 percent increase in electricity rates in 2011, while rates went up 4.5 percent in Kansas that year. Great Plains says increased costs to operate the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant near Burlington, Kansas cut into its profits.