Kansas Nature Center Helps Bring Back "Extinct" Ferret
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A ferret species once thought to be extinct is making a modest comeback on the prairie, thanks to the work of staff at a Kansas nature center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Prairie Park Nature Center and volunteers from various institutions across Kansas have surveyed the black-footed ferret recovery site in Logan County annually for the last decade. Park staff members say they feel optimistic after a November trip to the 1,100-acre tract in western Kansas, where crews capture, tag and vaccinate the wild-born ferrets. The World Wildlife Fund reports that there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the U.S. Prairie Park staff say the animal's population decline is linked to the extermination of prairie dogs, the ferrets' main food.
Lansing Prison Plan Faces Lawmakers' Criticism, Distrust
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators' criticism of a plan to build a new prison reflects bipartisan mistrust of the state Department of Corrections. Some lawmakers doubt the department seriously considered a potentially cheaper alternative to leasing the new facility from the company building it. The department plans to have Nashville, Tennessee-based private-prison operator CoreCivic oversee building of the 2,400-bed prison in Lansing to replace the state's oldest and largest prison there. Kansas would pay for the two-year, $170 million project by leasing the new prison for 20 years. In approving the project earlier this year, lawmakers gave the department an alternative for financing the project by authorizing up to $155 million in bonds. Now, lawmakers in both parties disagree with corrections officials that a lease-purchase agreement would be less expensive over time.
Kansas School Funding Committee Set to Meet
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A special Kansas legislative committee on public school funding is having its first meeting Monday to start work on a response to a state Supreme Court order to boost funding. The committee's daylong session at the Statehouse includes a briefing from the attorney general's office. The Supreme Court ruled in October that state aid to public schools remains constitutionally inadequate, even with a new law phasing in a $293 million increase over two years to make it $4.3 billion annually. The court directed lawmakers to enact a new law before July. The committee's chairman is Republican Representative Blaine Finch of Ottawa. He also is the House Judiciary Committee's chairman. The panel's eleven members include the Senate majority and minority leaders and the chairs of the House and Senate budget committees.
Man Killed in Wichita Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has died in an early morning shooting in northeast Wichita. Wichita police say officers responded around 2 a.m. Saturday to a report of a shooting. Arriving officers found a man in his 20s with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died. Police have not released the victim's name, nor have they reported any arrests in the shooting death. Police Sgt. Paul Kimble says homicide detectives are investigating. It is the city's 33rd homicide this year.
Kansas, Missouri at "High-Risk" for Deer Accidents
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Insurance companies have classified Kansas and Missouri as "high-risk" for deer collisions. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says that accidents involving deer are common, but fatalities and injuries are rare. The patrol reported three deaths and just more than 300 injuries from deer collisions in 2015. Auto shop manager Kelly Peterson says he's had 15 people in the past three weeks come in to have their cars repaired after a run-in with deer. Peterson recommends motorists slow down and pay more attention than usual this time of year, especially at night. State Highway Patrol Sgt. John Lueckenhoff advises people to avoid making an erratic action upon seeing deer.
Wichita Teacher, ACLU Challenges Kansas Law Against Boycotting Israel
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to block Kansas from enforcing a new law barring state contractors from participating in boycotts against Israel. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree had a hearing Friday in a free-speech lawsuit challenging the law from the American Civil Liberties Union. It is asking Crabtree to block enforcement of the 5-month-old law while the lawsuit proceeds. More than 20 states have anti-boycott policies. The Kansas law took effect in July. The ACLU sued on behalf of a Wichita educator who was told she couldn't be paid by the state to train teachers because she refused to sign a statement that she wasn't boycotting Israel. She is boycotting Israeli products and services to support Palestinians. The state said the law allows the teacher to seek a waiver.
Kansas November Tax Collections $8.5 Million More Than Expected
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $8.5 million more in taxes than anticipated in November. It was the sixth consecutive month with higher-than-expected revenues. The Department of Revenue reported Friday that the state collected $463.5 million in taxes last month. The official projection was $455 million, and the surplus is 1.9 percent. It was the first monthly report on tax collections since state officials revised revenue projections Nov. 2. The state's new fiscal forecast is more optimistic than the previous one issued in April. Since the budget year began in July, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues, also $8.5 million more than expected. Tax collections this year are 11.7 percent ahead of last year's collections. Lawmakers increased income taxes earlier this year to help balance the budget.
Brownback Advices Successor to 'Pray'
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has one word of advice to give to his successor: "Pray." The Wichita Eagle reported that the Republican governor told supporters at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that leaders need to be people who pray and who seek wisdom from above. Brownback also announced that one of his last acts before leaving office as governor will be to declare a statewide day of prayer and fasting for Kansas. A U.S. Senate committee has approved President Donald Trump's nomination of Brownback as an ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Brownback is expected to resign after confirmation by the Senate and Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer will become governor. Brownback says in his diplomatic post he is going to urge other countries to protect religious minorities.
Trial Delayed in Bomb Plot Targeting Somali Refugees in Garden City
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of three men accused of plotting to bomb a Kansas mosque and an apartment complex housing Somali refugees has been put off until March. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren partially granted on Friday an unopposed defense request for the delay, setting the trial to begin March 19th. The jury trial, which is expected to take about five weeks, had been previously scheduled to start in February. A defense attorney sought more time to prepare his case, citing the government's voluminous evidence. Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein, and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiring to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex in the meatpacking town of Garden City in western Kansas. Wright also faces a separate count for allegedly lying to investigators. They've pleaded not guilty.
KC Star, Wichita Newspaper Sues over Body-Camera Footage
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star allege in a lawsuit that Wichita officials didn't follow the state's open records law in denying access to police body-camera footage in two cases. The suit filed Friday in Sedgwick County District Court says officials were wrong not to release footage of an Iraqi man being handcuffed while trying to deposit a $151,000 check, which later was determined to be legitimate. The man alleges he was racially profiled. Also rejected was a request for footage of a case involving a Wichita police officer, who is alleged to have been involved in an off-duty hit-and-run crash. Eagle editor Steve Coffman says he hopes the lawsuit will bring clarity. City attorney Jennifer Magana didn't immediately return a request for comment from The Associated Press.
KC Father Charged with Murder after Child Finds Mother's Body
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Court documents say a Kansas City man has been charged with killing his wife after the couple's 7-year-old daughter told a school counselor that she had found a body and "didn't want to be next." 45-year-old Benjamin Byers was charged Thursday with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, abandonment of a corpse and child endangerment in the death of Melissa Byers. Bond is set at $500,000. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. The probable cause statement says the girl last saw her mother alive Monday. The statement says she talked to a counselor Wednesday after finding "lots of blood" and a body with a "stab on the back." The girl said her father had been acting "weird" and she didn't tell him what she had seen because she "didn't want to be next."